Louisville players' last-ditch lawsuit against NCAA appears to be lacking substance

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Luke Hancock is one of a handful of members of Louisville’s 2013 national championship team who filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the NCAA. (Getty Images)
Luke Hancock is one of a handful of members of Louisville’s 2013 national championship team who filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the NCAA. (Getty Images)

The law firm representing a group of Louisville men’s basketball players in their lawsuit against the NCAA did not make a very favorable first impression.

Attorney John Morgan spent far more time theatrically ranting against the evils of the NCAA system of amateurism during a Wednesday afternoon press conference than he did making a coherent argument why the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship should be restored.

He described the NCAA as “a morally bankrupt organization who for years and years and years has taken advantage of economically disadvantaged young people.” He portrayed college athletes as “indentured servants who take a risk to their body, spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting their game and basically get nothing. He called for players to protest the Final Four and urged President Trump and Congress to intervene.

“We are used to fighting Goliath every single day,” Morgan said of his law firm. “In the sports world, I don’t think there is any Goliath that exists like the NCAA.

“The NCAA is the home of broken promises, broken bones, broken dreams and just flat-out lies. I cannot think of a more awful organization in America, and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t agree with me.”

Never mind the absurdity of calling the NCAA the worst organization in America when the KKK still operates within U.S. borders. Or the hyperbole of describing a free college education worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars as “nothing.”

The most disappointing aspect of Morgan’s 20-minute soliloquy to open the press conference was the obvious lack of substance. Never did he make any semblance of a convincing argument why the NCAA was wrong to strip Louisville of its 2013 national title and more than 100 other victories as a result of the school’s stripper and escort scandal.

The suit itself seeks the restoration of those accolades, a declaration from the NCAA that the five plaintiffs are “completely innocent of wrongdoing” and monetary damages. Luke Hancock, Gorgui Dieng, Stephan Van Treese, Tim Henderson and Michael Marra are the five former Louisville players behind the lawsuit.

The strongest argument Morgan and his team of attorneys mustered Wednesday was that the NCAA portrayed members of the 2013 team in false light. Instead of revealing which players attended the sex parties in which strippers and prostitutes danced and performed sex acts for Louisville players and recruits, the NCAA opted not to name who was involved, thereby damaging the reputations of every former Cardinal from that era.

“I have to live with this every day,” said Hancock, the only player present at Wednesday’s press conference. “I can’t tell you the last day someone hasn’t come up to me and asked me about strippers and prostitutes. I’m involved with the right things. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

The lawsuit argues that NCAA’s authority does not extend to criminal acts, but in this case those acts would appear to be within the organization’s jurisdiction since they were part of an ill-fated attempt to sway recruits. The lawsuit also contends that the NCAA’s punishments were unduly harsh to any innocent players, but how’s the NCAA supposed to vacate wins from some players and not from others?

It’s certainly unfair that innocent players were ensnared in this scandal and penalized as a result, but that’s how it goes with team sports. Nobody is arguing that former Louisville staffer Andre McGee didn’t hire strippers and escorts to entertain recruits, and sometimes when a few members of a team make a mistake, the whole team suffers.

The NCAA declared the players and recruits who attended the on-campus sex parties retroactively ineligible McGee provided them extra benefits by paying for the strippers and escorts to attend. Since Louisville’s achieved its victories from that era using ineligible players, the NCAA expunged those wins from its record books.

Rather than blame the NCAA for the harsh punishment, maybe Hancock and his former teammates ought to be angry at those responsible for those misdeeds. Maybe they should sue McGee for his inexcusably poor judgment. Or former Louisville coach Rick Pitino for his negligence. Or even the players who knowingly broke NCAA rules by attending those parties.

It appears they’ll instead file suit in a last-ditch attempt to restore their reputations, the 2013 national title and the other vacated accolades.

“We’re here to get back what was wrongfully taken,” Morgan said. “We’re here today to clear names. We’re here today to reinstate awards. We’re here today to reinstate all those wins.

“Not just some of the wins. All of the wins.”

Here’s hoping Morgan saved a more convincing argument for the courtroom. Otherwise Louisville can expect its 2013 banner to remain folded up in a closet rather than hanging from the KFC Yum Center rafters.

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Jeff Eisenberg is a college basketball writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!