No, a prolonged legal fight for 2013 title is not a good idea for Louisville | Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan
Courier Journal
Former Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino talks to reporters during a news conference in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Pitino held the news conference in the wake of an NCAA decision in a sex scandal case that strips the Cardinals program of 123 victories, a national championship and $600,000 in post-season revenue. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Rick Pitino's point was well-taken. His advice, however, arrives like the rant of a spurned spouse. 

Suggesting the University of Louisville seek an injunction to preserve its 2013 NCAA championship is an idea that has vast appeal and limited likelihood. It was the most newsworthy thing Pitino said during his Wednesday afternoon news conference in New York, but it has roughly zero chance of happening. 

U of L has shown no desire to take the NCAA to court and even less interest in following the recommendations of a coach it fired four months ago. The 2013 championship banner has already been removed from the KFC Yum Center. Having twice lost their case as a member of a voluntary association, U of L officials see prolonging the fight through the courts as expensively futile.

Pitino is absolutely right about this: U of L's 2013 men's basketball title was not won by strippers and prostitutes. The adult entertainment arranged by Andre McGee and provided by Katina Powell had no direct bearing on any college basketball games and, so far as the evidence has shown, negligible impact on Cardinals' recruiting.

"Did a few of (the players) partake in parties they didn't organize? Yes, they did," Pitino said. "But that had nothing to do with an extra benefit. That had nothing to do with helping their eligibility or performance in winning that championship.

"Those parties did not enhance our players' ability to win a national championship or go to a Final Four."

The NCAA penalty upheld on appeal Tuesday, the one that requires the vacating of 123 victories and two trips to the Final Four, is a punishment that fits the crime about as well as spandex fits a sumo. It was, in many ways, unjust. It was also to be expected.

Read more:Rick Pitino hopes Louisville 'will not give up its fight' to keep 2013 title

See also:Rick Pitino releases statement on NCAA upholding penalties

Inasmuch as most infractions cases involve individuals no longer (if ever) subject to NCAA authority, NCAA sanctions invariably involve lots of collateral damage and less authentic justice. This is the inherent flaw of a system designed to keep schools in line but ill-equipped to monitor them in real time.

The object of NCAA enforcement is not finely nuanced fairness, but deterrence; penalties sufficiently stiff to discourage future malfeasance. The result, too often, is that innocent parties are made to suffer for the sins of the guilty. 

But Pitino is not going to be able to fix that, even when people in power were inclined to listen to him. Now, as the man who presided over a basketball program at least technically at risk of the NCAA's "death penalty," Pitino's influence is nearly nonexistent. 

Even if U of L was leaning toward pursuing its grievances through the legal system, the lingering threat posed by an ongoing federal investigation into college basketball corruption should be enough to dissuade them from that confrontational course.

The alleged bribery scheme behind the recruitment of Brian Bowen, documented in an FBI complaint, will surely resurface in the form of NCAA allegations. Since it transpired less than two months after the committee on infractions' ruling on the strippers-in-the-dorm scandal, it places U of L in the unenviable position of a repeat offender.

Though the NCAA has not imposed a one or two-year death penalty since 2005 (a Division III tennis program at MacMurray College in Illinois), bylaw 19.9.3 includes a history of major violations among "circumstances that warrant a higher range of penalties" and cites the severity and the amount of time between violations as an additional consideration. 

Related:How much money have these basketball scandals cost Louisville? Let's add it up

Read more:How the NCAA appeal ruling may — or may not — impact Louisville in the FBI case

Beyond the expense and the long odds against a successful outcome, U of L must weigh whether belaboring the banner issue could mean additional repercussions down the road. Though the membership of the Committee on Infractions is sure to change before any hearings are held on the Bowen case, and NCAA judges should not hold grudges, continuing the fight for the 2013 title could be a tactical error with another battle yet to fight.

Like Rick Pitino, U of L can't expect the benefit of the doubt after so much scandal.  

Tim Sullivan: 502-582-4650;; Twitter: @TimSullivan714. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: