NCAA Courtside Memories, No. 6. Louisville Wins It All But Later Asked To Vacate

Chris Dufresne

Sitting in my fall-out shelter the other day, with the lights out, eating a can of SPAM, it occured to me that I belonged to a very small fraternity of humans.

How many people  can say they have covered the only two championships vacated in college football and basketball?

Ah, the asterisk memories.

After the 2004 season, of course, USC football knocked Oklahoma clockwork-crimson at the Orange Bowl.

The score was 55-19 and it marked the apex of Trojan football under Pete Carroll. Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale were a tough trio to defeat.

After that everything collapsed, including the original Orange Bowl Stadium in Miami.

Bush was caught red-handed in a scheme where he  provided stuff like free condos for his parents. His big mistake was keeping receipts which defied the ages-old "cash only" credo practiced by smarter people in smarter Southern conferences.

The NCAA inquiry was a Marx brothers skit with so much corruption and conflict of interest it might as well have been judged in some high court in South America.

In the end, the "BCS" vacated USC's champion at the same time former Sooners Coach Barry Switzer, no stranger to NCAA tribunals, was saying "I still know who won the game and who's the best team. And (Oklahoma coach) Bob knows too. That don't change history."

I wasn't courtside for the 2005 Orange Bowl but rather high in the press box,  where Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville pressed flesh before the game trying to drum up co-championship status for his undefeated Tigers.

I wondered then if Tubberville might one day enter politics. 

I was much closer to the action in 2013 when Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals claimed the NCAA title in Atlanta.

It was particularly poignant considering the gruesome leg fracture Kevin Ware suffered in the regional finals.

Ware sat courtside with his teammates as they ran through the tournament and capped it all with a very exciting, high-paced, 82-76 win over Michigan.

The topper moment came after the confetti settled when they lowered the basket so that Ware could snip a piece of the net.

"You would think we all came out of the same womb," Ware said of the closeness of the unit.

Gulp.

Louisville, though, "lost" its title in 2018 for a series of seedy NCAA violations that included "arranging striptease dances and sex acts for prospects, student-athletes and others..."

Wait...is that wrong?

But like Switzer said, we all know who won the game.

Pitino was fired and professed his innocence until recently, after getting hired at Iona, and now admits he deserved to be canned.

Thanks Rick, tell us something we didn't know. 

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Chris Dufresne

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