When Louisville Cardinals basketball fans awoke this morning, they were still taking in the fact that their men’s basketball program now holds the coveted distinction of “national champions.” What is probably even more surreal is the fact remains that by the time tonight ends, that fan base could be celebrating two basketball national championships in a 24-hour span.
Tonight, the Louisville women’s basketball team could put an exclamation point on their own magical run, should they be able to take down Geno Auriemma and another one of his powerful UConn Huskies teams. Men’s head coach Rick Pitino will be making the trip down to New Orleans tonight to show his support for the ladies.
The Louisville men’s players, however, will not.
While the school did ask if the players could make the trip to watch their fellow basketball players try and cut down the nets just as they did last night, the NCAA unsurprisingly said no. They, in fact, ruled that the putting the players on a plane and sending them to the Big Easy to take this all in would violate the conference’s improper benefit rules.
Maybe it does, Mark Emmert. But, that still doesn’t make it right.
Regardless of any rules in place, not letting the newly-crowned national champs go and watch the women is simply robbing the world of a display of camaraderie that’s involved in an institution’s athletic department. We live in a world where, seemingly every week nowadays, we’re treated to an example of everything that is wrong with college athletics. This ruling is a missed opportunity to change the bad perception, even if only for one night.
After a rugged run through the 2013 NCAA Tournament, the Louisville men have to be exhausted, physically and emotionally. Between the injury to Kevin Ware and the number of solid teams that Louisville had to go through to be able to raise that trophy last night, no one would blame them if they wanted to just go home and rest.
But, they don’t. They want to be there for the women when they try to reach the same peak that they did 24-hours earlier, and they very well should be allowed to.
Like I said, I’m not the least bit surprised by the ruling, but I’m in no way happy with it. College sports is a lot about creating special moments that stick through time. Potentially watching two basketball programs from the same university celebrating national titles together, won within a day of each other, would be another reminder to us of why we love college sports so much.
Sadly, I also make the mistake of forgetting that our happiness, as well as fairness to hard-working athletes, are the least of Mark Emmert and the NCAA’s concerns.