Fans thought that the worst might soon be over with that June press conference. Sure, the banner might come down, but what is a banner but just a nice, billowy reminder of past success? The stories will remain, where you were when you watched the Cards win the title and who you high-fived, hugged and drank with into the wee hours of that morning.
Yes, we thought this was rock bottom. But now, without warning, the black earth has opened and we plunge into a fresh abyss.
I asked everybody to calm down after the NCAA sanction were announced. I’m not going to do that now. We should be mad.
We should be furious.
Furious at a group of coaches who so willingly and brazenly flaunted the law.
Furious at a head coach who, despite his undeniable talent, either trusted the wrong people to help run his program or simply did not care enough to provide the necessary supervision.
Furious at an athletic director who, while loyal to a fault, left a basketball program if not an entire athletic department in a crippling flux.
Furious at a system that is lucrative enough to pump billions of dollars into the coffers of schools, corporations, coaches and administrators while still being lousy with ineptitude and corruption and screw over the very athletes on whose backs those billions are made.
Perhaps even furious at ourselves, who turned a blind eye to some rather vibrant red flags in the name of success.
We should be mad, y’all. Mad as hell. And sad and ashamed any number of other emotions. But not mad enough to stop going to games and watching our team. We need to turn that rage into full-throated support of the players that remain.
Think of the players, who are mere weeks away from the start of their season and suddenly faced with the prospect of not knowing who their coach is, but playing a season of basketball that may not even count for anything when all investigations are concluded and punishments handed out. They don’t deserve total abandonment, no matter what may have happened behind the scenes.
We might be down one guy (and any number of future guys) but we should still have a damn good team this year. We can still enjoy games even if eventually they might not count.
We’re Louisville, dammit. College basketball is what we do.
It’s going to be rough. Real rough. People (idiots) are already talking about the death penalty and questioning why were even in the ACC to begin with. And the blazing-hot takes will continue. And this is likely going to take a while. Perhaps we have the good fortune in that we were the first domino to fall, the first school to pull the trigger on getting rid of staff. Other programs might go up in flames, maybe with names as big as Louisville’s, and we might be out of the 24/7 news cycle for a time.
But this isn’t over, our uppance has yet to come.
Nevertheless, we must stay the course.
Some sweet day in the future, ages and ages hence, I might not have to write about this crap. A single season of whatever sports might start, play out and end and that would be it. Only dredged up as a memory and not out of the mouths of harlots or in the folds of a federal investigation.
I believe that day is coming, friends. I believe we can rise out of this hell. It will be a struggle. They’ll be wounds. We’ll get dirty. And others will mock and jeer and throw stones. They might as well install some kind of Berlin Wall thing between the two fanbases at Rupp Arena this year. But eventually we can get through this.
Chris Acree joined The Cardinal Connect as a contributing writer in August of 2016.