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What’s Next? MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS THESE DAYS IN LOCAL SPORTS

By Howie Lindsey | 790 KRD

What’s next?

THAT’S THE QUESTION MOST EXASPERATED LOUISVILLE FANS HAVE BEEN ASKING OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS. IT’S ALSO A COMMON QUESTION AMONG THE ARDENT BASKETBALL FANS IN INDIANA AND KENTUCKY AS THE CORE OF COLLEGE HOOPS SEEMS TO BE IN QUESTION DUE TO THE ONGOING FBI INVESTIGATION. 

WHILE I DON’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, LET’S ATTEMPT TO BREAK OUT THE CRYSTAL BALL TO DETERMINE WHAT MAY BE NEXT FOR A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND ENTITIES IN OUR SPORTING LANDSCAPE. 

What’s next for Louisville Basketball? 

In the short term, David Padgett and his new trio of assistant coaches — longtime veteran head coach Trent Johnson, eager assistant Greg Paulus and former program assistant R.J. Evans — will man the ship until a head coach can be hired. This year’s team has so much talent and athleticism that it just might surprise people on the national landscape who viewed Louisville as a lost cause after Rick Pitino’s firing.

Fans are going to love the new and improved Deng Adel with his incredible defense and improved jumpshot. Fans will like the smooth confidence of VJ King and the bouncy athleticism of Ray Spalding and more consistent play from Anas Mahmoud. And the freshmen? Darius Perry will be a sparkplug at guard and Malik Williams is a quiet, rebounding machine.

What about long term? 

I recently spoke with Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra who said they were flooded with candidates when looking for assistant coaches. I think it will be the same when the Cardinals go looking for a head coach next spring. Louisville is still a Top 10 program with a Top 3 arena and competitive pay. It’s an elite job and — as Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams once said — many coaches would crawl over broken glass to get to Louisville.

Williams, Xavier’s Chris Mack, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin and Dayton’s Anthony Grant will all be on the short list of candidates.

What’s next for Rick Pitino?

Louisville’s Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino isn’t fighting for his job any more — that part of the fight is over. Now, he is fighting for his reputation.

Pitino and his lawyer, Steve Pence, filed a lawsuit against Adidas over its handling of the recruiting scandal that rocked the University of Louisville and four other universities last month. Pitino told Jay Bilas that Adidas “robbed him of his love of basketball.”

Through lawsuits against Adidas and the University of Louisville, Pitino will attempt to prove he didn’t know any of the alleged activities were going on. And he just might do that.

Regardless if he wins or not, it is difficult to imagine him coaching college basketball again at age 65. So what’s next? TV, of course. Rick Pitino would be a smash hit as a television analyst – breaking down games for ESPN or CBS. It’s a natural fit.

What’s that you say? No way a network hires him with the NCAA issues. Ahem, Lou Holtz left NC State, Minnesota, Arkansas, Notre Dame and South Carolina on NCAA probation. That’s FIVE schools, and the TV networks love him. He’s even in rental car commercials. Pitino will follow that same path.

What’s next for the Yum! Center? 

The specter of a possible NCAA Death Penalty is a worst case scenario for the Yum! Center and the city of Louisville. Without a season of men’s basketball games, the Yum! would have 20 more dates to fill and no real way to make up that kind of income.

The good news? Very few believe the NCAA will ever enact the Death Penalty on a program again. More likely, the NCAA will enact more post-season bans or perhaps the same kind of media blackout that hit Kentucky basketball during the “Kentucky Shame” days of the late 1980s.

The Yum! Center is restructuring debt and is also getting an extra $2.5 million per year from Louisville, it’s primary tenant, as well. Hopefully, that will keep it viable for years to come.

What’s next for Romeo Langford? 

The New Albany superstar guard was once thought to be leaning toward Louisville. Not anymore. After recently visiting Indiana for Hoosier Hysteria, many people think his choices are Kansas, Indiana, Vandy, UCLA, Kentucky and North Carolina. The trouble is — with the FBI still investigating every major program in the nation — committing to ANY college at this point is fairly perilous because of their involvement in possible recruiting violations. Well, except maybe Vandy.

So what’s a recruit to do? At the very least, it’d be best to wait until the spring to make the pick and even then, I wouldn’t advise him to sign a binding National Letter of Intent to any school. Romeo’s good enough that colleges will hold a spot for him if he tells them he’s on his way. [Editor’s Note: This issue of Extol Sports went to press Oct. 25.]

What’s next for college basketball?

While some coaches have issued statements noting their “shock” and “surprise” at the allegations of rampant payments in college basketball, don’t believe them.

While individual coaches can be shocked that their actual assistant coaches were involved (see: Pitino, Rick), the fact that some recruits were getting paid is not news to anyone in the business.

And it’s not just an Adidas issue.

The assistant coaches ensnared in the first wave of the FBI probe worked for schools represented by Nike (Arizona, USC and Oklahoma State), Adidas (Louisville and Miami) and Under Armor (Auburn).

How big will the FBI’s net get? On the day the initial indictments were filed, the FBI told college basketball coaches, “We have your playbook. You will be better off contacting us before we contact you.”

In the weeks since then, some have suggested the initial estimates of 50-80 coaches involved, have been diminished, but others have said this issue is just getting started.

“There are some problems that are baked in that are perhaps a little more prevalent because of the structure of college basketball,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “but you don’t have to have too vivid an imagination to see this showing up in other sports.

“As a result, this is going to be around for a while, and we’re likely to be in the same situation we’re in now We don’t have very much information and we aren’t going to get a heads up before something happens, and as a result it’s a period of discomfort.”

So how big could this get? What happens next to summer shoe-circuit basketball? My guess would be the Blue Ribbon panel the NCAA convened to talk about the issue will shut down shoe-circuit basketball tournaments and camps in favor of NCAA-led summer efforts. Will that stop the cheating? No, but it should slow it down some.

What’s next for Tom Jurich?

In addition to firing Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville fired Athletic Director Tom Jurich during its cleanse of all things athletics in mid-October. Jurich, who likely stands to land a bundle of money from the university in a lawsuit over how his termination was carried out, could certainly take another athletics director job at another university. He has had many options over the years, offers from many of the top traditional programs in NCAA sports, but he has never left Louisville.

He could certainly say yes to one of those offers now, but my guess would be that he doesn’t.

Instead of finally taking one of the southern California schools up on their consistent offers, my guess would be he creates and chairs a search firm where he can be hired by schools all over the country to help hire coaches in major sports.

We all know he has a knack for hiring effective coaches, and this would allow him the flexibility to work outside the typical athletics framework to land the right candidates with the right jobs. He’d be a smashing success at it.

What’s next for the Louisville Athletics?

Interim President Greg Postel may have struck gold in Vince Tyra. The life-long Louisville fan whose father, Charlie, is one of the greatest players to ever don a Louisville uniform, Vince hit the ground running as acting AD and hasn’t looked back.

Tyra met with every coach on campus in the first two days of his hiring, he met every team on campus in the first three weeks and he seems intent on keeping his focus on exactly the right thing: the student-athletes on campus.

One of Tom Jurich’s most-effective leadership traits was focusing on the student-athlete experience and making sure they had everything they needed to be successful. Tyra seems intent on continuing that tradition, asking the athletes he meets, “What can I do to make you successful?” That’s such a powerful question when executed with the right intent.

Is Tyra the long-term solution? No one is sure, including Tyra.

His pay structure — $100,000 per month of his employment — is set up to be fairly indefinite.

Much like Louisville basketball, Louisville athletics will have no shortage of elite candidates who would crawl to come to campus to run athletics in the future. With the nearly $400 million in facility assets on campus and a primo spot in the ACC, the future of Louisville athletics looks strong as long as athletics isn’t diminished under a future UofL administration.

What’s next for other Louisville coaches? 

One of the most common questions over the last several weeks has been what happens to the other coaches that Tom Jurich brought to campus? Let’s start with this: None of the coaches will leave immediately. They have seasons to coach and have very lucrative contracts in place with compensation to boot. But the long-term success of UofL will depend on the board of trustees finding an athletic director who can continue Louisville’s upward trajectory.

Certainly, Tom Jurich could be a firebrand, but the board would be making a mistake if they overcorrected and brought in a milquetoast, meager manager to replace Jurich.

Someone with a lack of vision could derail the forward progress in many of Louisville’s 23 sports and could cause Louisville’s current set of all-star coaches to start listening to other offers.

What’s next in local sports media? 

UofL is building a new $8 million TV and production studio on campus. The new studio is part of the ACC’s contract requiring every school to have its own production studio up and running by the end of 2018 before the launch of the new network in 2019. So what does this mean for local sports media? Well, with schools and leagues taking over more production and shows, the amount of access granted to local media outlets may diminish. Conversely, the amount of options for fans to learn about their favorite team will be at an all-time high, with much of the slickly produced video content coming from the school directly.

As a side note, the new studios and production team will allow UofL students the ability to leave college with real broadcast experience for the first time in decades. That could be a nice feeder system of young talent for local TV and radio stations.

What’s next for Adidas and Louisville? 

A common question over the last few weeks has been what happens to the 10-year, $160-million deal between Louisville and Adidas. It was, after all, an Adidas employee who was involved in the FBI scandal.

While no one knows for sure what will happen with the deal, my guess is that Tyra and UofL will do everything they can to make sure Louisville gets that money. Even though Interim President Greg Postel said he wanted “no part” of the money “if it’s tainted,” the agreement is so key to Louisville’s Athletic development that it would be prudent for Louisville and Adidas to implement more oversight and continue working together.

On Oct. 24, Tyra said “I’ve been through that thing quite a bit. The contract itself does not raise concerns for me. … We’ll go through that and flush out more details this week as we move along. But today I don’t have a report that there’s anything negative tied to that contract.”

The deal included an innovative Create Space on Louisville’s campus that would allow for product innovation and creation with the aid of athletes and trainers. It also established funding for internships and Sports Administration major opportunities that would give Louisville’s SPAD program a leg up on every University except perhaps Oregon, who has a similar partnership with Nike.

What’s next for local sports? 

This is perhaps the most interesting question. Could Jurich’s firing at Louisville open the door for proponents of professional basketball at the Yum! Center? Possibly, but I still don’t think the city has enough corporate donors to make it happen. Of course, all that could change if Louisville’s bid to become Amazon’s HQ-2 is successful. Now THAT would revolutionize this region.

What’s next for the Louisville and Southern Indiana sports landscape likely includes the new stadium for LouCity FC and continued rise for that fan base and franchise. The location there in Butchertown could be a stellar spot, and the renderings the ownership group have proposed would make the stadium a showpiece on the highly visible I-64 corridor just east of downtown.

On the college level, newly signed deals for long-term rivalry games between Louisville and Indiana will be good for our area, plus the NCAA’s new charity basketball game legislation will allow for Kentucky and IU to arrange a new preseason basketball game in the Yum! Center each year to benefit a charity of John Calipari’s choosing. Won’t that be fun? Well, we can dream, can’t we?

[Editor’s Note: This issue of Extol Sports went to press Oct. 25.] 

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