What today's Pitino news means for Kentucky

Justin Rowland, Publisher
Cats Illustrated

Wednesday's revelation that Louisville coach Rick Pitino has been placed on administrative leave has ramifications for Kentucky. While this isn't strictly a UK story, its one that involves a former legendary UK coach turned the program's favorite villain and an archrival.

The ramifications are clear.

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The rivalry takes a big hit

Even if you're one who believes Kentucky-Louisville has become college basketball's best rivalry in recent years, the revelations this week and impending ouster (it's all but a formality) of Pitino makes it pretty obvious that UNC-Duke is the sport's premier rivalry again. Louisville has just taken too much of a hit in the public eye, and the hits are likely to keep coming with uncertainty regarding their 2013 national championship and whatever the program will be facing moving forward with, potentially, sanctions on top of sanctions.

Kentucky should dominate Louisville for the foreseeable future

Rick Pitino was only 6-12 against Kentucky as Louisville's head coach and that's basically right in line with what's happened over the whole course of the UK-UofL rivalry.

Louisville still has, on paper, a potentially very good team in 2017-18, but with an uncertain coaching situation one month before the start of the season, their prospects for the season have to take a serious hit. Besides, will everyone stick around? Who else will be hired? What will fan interest be like? How much will the black cloud affect this Cardinals team?

Moving forward, the allegations of $100,000 being funneled for a player are likely to bring on severe sanctions that could cripple the program. The rivalry should be as lopsided as ever for the foreseeable future.

Could Kentucky afford to bring on another tough out of conference foe? Time will tell, and that may depend on just how severe UofL's fall is.

One less recruiting rival

Then again, Kentucky really doesn't have a recruiting rival right now save for Duke and perhaps Kansas. Louisville has occasionally tried to go toe to toe with Kentucky for a recruit in recent years, but those instances haven't worked out well for the Cardinals.

How will UK fans handle the absence of Pitino?

It's never going to be hard for avid Kentucky fans to hate Louisville, but it won't be as easy as it was when Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich were running the athletics department. It will be interesting to see what tone and tenor the rivalry dynamics take if Louisville hires a rather likable character.

Of course, if Louisville were to make Tom Crean its next coach, this becomes a moot point.

Contrast the public relations narrative

It goes without saying at this point but there must be some serious cognitive dissonance for those who have been most adamant about John Calipari's supposed underhanded tactics and what has happened west of Lexington. The worse it's gotten at Louisville, the more it has subtly changed the narrative when it comes to Calipari and Kentucky. Of course, Duke adopting Kentucky's recruiting tactics have played a role in that, too.

Tom Jurich's ouster will make Louisville less competitive across the board

Nobody seriously doubts the role that Tom Jurich has had in building Louisville into a powerhouse of an athletics department. Can the program really sustain that level of competitiveness across football, basketball and so many other sports without him? Who else could build what he built?

That becomes a bigger question when you consider that Louisville is likely to be forced to emphasize academics and "the right way" at the expense of working on the edge of the rules (or outside of them).

Where will this leave Bobby Petrino?

It was Jurich who brought Petrino back from WKU when most other Power Five athletics directors (all?) wouldn't have touched him with a 10-foot pole. With a new athletics director, it will be interesting to see if Petrino is comfortable with the Cardinals longer-term.

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