The boys of summer were at it again in June.
University of Louisville baseball was once again a College World Series participant. And they were the lipstick on the pig.
Let me explain.
For the fourth time in school history and third time in five years the Cardinals have made it to the promised land of college baseball — Omaha, Nebraska.
But this time, it’s while the UofL athletics program, and the university as a whole, has been under the most scrutiny they have ever been in.
FIRST, LETS TALK ABOUT THE PIG
It’s been a tough month for the pig. University of Louisville Athletics. I hate to be so broad, but such is the tumult with the program as a whole — not on the field or the court, but off.
Where would you like to begin? The men’s basketball sex scandal is never any fun to talk about for anyone, but with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions levying down their final penalties on the basketball program last month, perhaps that’s a good place to start.
It’s the death penalty, retroactive to 2010 through 2014. Barring a successful appeal (good luck!) by UofL, the 2013 National Championship banner is coming down.
This perhaps begins the tying of a bow on a package that surfaced back in August 2015, when UofL brass first learned of Katina Powell. The now-infamous escort claimed that she and other escorts were paid thousands of dollars by former staff member Andre McGee in exchange for dancing and having sex with Cardinal players and recruits for a span of over four years.
With the NCAA releasing its penalties in June, the wounds of that scandal not only reopened. They became bigger.
Combine that with the University of Louisville Foundation’s forensic audit that was made public on June 9.
Of the 135 pages of financial information, 11 of them have to do directly with athletics. Included in the findings are the President’s Office buying up over $800,000 worth of football and men’s basketball tickets through University of Louisville Foundation funds and selling them off, except no one knows where the money went or to whom the tickets went.
Also among the numerous items the audit discovered, the Foundation also funded the compensation of many names (at least last names) known to many fans in the region. Athletics Director Tom Jurich, along with Jurich’s son, Mark, and former men’s basketball coach Denny Crum have received approximately $4.9 million in compensation from 2010 to 2016.
Tom Jurich, a man whom you cannot tell the story of the successful rise of Cardinal Athletics without, was paid over $5.3 million in total in 2016. That’s astronomical for an A.D., but I’m not even mad at that. Get yours, Tom. Get yours.
The big problem I got with it, and with a lot of what’s going on between the athletics department and the UofL Foundation, is that you’re using Foundation funds to help cover a lot of financial deficits, some of them unnecessary.
Oh, and according to emails revealed in the audit, you’re trying to cover it up. That’s never a good look.
According to the Foundation website, “The Foundation’s vision is to make the University of Louisville a premier metropolitan research university recognized for advancing the intellectual, social and economic development of our community and its citizens while placing the University among the top tier of similar universities in the nation.”
Nowhere on the website could I find anything that says the Foundation’s vision is to compensate people in athletics or to buy tickets and then sell them off to unknown people without any receipt.
It’s all money that could’ve helped research a cure for a disease or (gasp) eliminate the need for the mandatory Student Athletics Fee that the Athletics Association receives from every student.
Fans may not care much about all of these parts of the pig. In fact, I can hear some fans now saying “Who cares about any of this. Just win games.” Those fans care less about the university than they claim. Embarrassment outside of the games be damned, right? Fair enough.
But for the rest of us…
HERE COMES THE LIPSTICK
So, let’s leave it at this: there has been bad news-aplenty on campus.
Meanwhile Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell, on top of giving the Cardinal fans quite the “offseason” bridge between the Kentucky Derby and college football season, is the biggest thing to happen to baseball in this metro area since the Louisville Slugger Factory planted the “World’s Largest Bat” out in front of their place.
Forget the result of the Cardinals’ trip to Omaha.
What matters more is that when you can separate yourself from “College Sports, Inc.” and the money and corruption surrounding college athletics all over the country, you can see someone like McDonnell and his team.
When you go out to Jim Patterson Stadium, you can watch a kid from Pennsylvania (home of the Little League World Series) light up both the scoreboard and his teammate’s catcher’s mitt in Brendan McKay. He was named Collegiate Baseball’s Player of the Year this season, and you wouldn’t even know it. He’s got a humility to him that’s near non-existent to many when they’re showered with those sorts of accolades.
Or you can take in another home run from Jeffersonville’s own Drew Ellis, whose energy reverberates the same as when he was 10 years old lighting up the George Rogers Clark ballparks.
Louisville’s baseball team reminds you that they’re kids that love a game. That reminder is fleeting in college athletics these days.
The Louisville Cardinals baseball team were a glowing representative for a university that desperately needed it. Perfect timing. Kudos on an outstanding year.
I mean this in the most sincere way possible: they were a damn fine lipstick for the pig.
Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ.