In this April 8, 2013, file photo, Louisville players and head coach Rick Pitino celebrate after defeating Michigan 82-76 in the championship of the Final Four in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Atlanta. Louisville must vacate its 2013 men's basketball title following an NCAA appeals panel's decision to uphold sanctions against the men's program for violations committed in a sex scandal. The Cardinals will have to vacate 123 victories including the championship, and return millions in postseason revenue. The decision announced on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, by the governing body's Infraction Appeals Committee ruled that the NCAA has the authority to take away championships for what it considers major rule violations. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)


Before we go into this with a different question, we highly recommend reading TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer's opinion on the NCAA (North Carolina Athletic Association is quite clever) and Louisville here

Yes, Weeds has a bee in his bonnet about the UNC case, and as we've said before every NCAA ruling for the the foreseeable future will be viewed through a Carolina Blue prism.  This is not to defend Louisville, which baked its own sour cookies, but we'd be remiss if we did not share this line from Weeds: "Though some of us have joked about this, one of the NCAA's arguments for not penalizing UNC was that the classes were available to all students, bogus though they were. So if Louisville had used prostitutes and strippers to recruit all its students — whether their talents were related to basketball, music, chemistry or physics — would that have saved it?"

Well-played indeed, Mark. And it's the next layer to the UNC onion, not unlike when the Notre Dame president pointed out after the Irish's appeal was denied earlier this month, the lesson the NCAA is teaching is for programs not to cooperate, not to share information and not to do the right thing. (To be fair, the allegations against Louisville — from cash to strippers to hookers to who knows what else under the leadership of the good-ole Ricky Pitino — are far more salacious and seedy than anything levied against UNC. Here's a pretty good breakdown of the differences from   

Right or wrong, UNC will be mentioned when the NCAA acts or doesn't in the future. But let's ask a bigger question that resonates from the Notre Dame lament and goes back at least as far as Coach Pete Bell in "Blue Chips" and has been whispered as far back as Wooden, who seemed to get a lot of NYC talent to come a long way to Westwood.

Should college programs do the right thing? Would you rather be, say Georgia basketball, coached by Mark Fox, who by all accounts does everything the right way, but the right way has led to 0 NCAA tournament wins in almost a decade at the helm?

And if the Bulldogs run Fox, which is expected, after this winter, his ninth in Athens, should they try to hire Rick Pitino?

Hey, it has worked for Auburn, which hired Bruce Pearl and sat through the final year of his show cause penalty as he rebuilt a foundation for a magical run that could have Auburn as high as a 2 seed in next month's NCAA tournament.

Now, did Pearl cut corners to build that foundation? We don't know that yet, but with a history like his, we certainly can see someone making that assumption, Especially, since we do know his lead assistant Chuck Person has been accused of some very shoddy craftsmanship by the biggest OSHA of them all, the FBI.

But is a winter or three of magic at a place that has been largely absent from the college hoops landscape worth the potential hammer of NCAA violations?

And more over, is winning a title and then having it taken from the rafters — like what happened to Louisville, which now has to vacate 123 wins, 15 NCAA tourney victories and the 2012 national title — worse than being largely forgettable?

(Side note: Yes, Louisville, which had been coached only by Denny Crum and Pitino since 1971, was an elite program and hardly forgettable. If not a true blue blood, the Cards were certainly a top-10 or -15 program over that time. Heck, doing a little research, did you know that interim coach David Padgett is just the sixth coach in program history, and he and Howard Stacey, who coached the final 20 games in the 1970-71 after John Dromo stepped down because of a heart attack. Heck, even with the vacated wins and title, Louisville is in the top 10 in NCAA titles, NCAA tournament wins, NCAA tournament trips, Final Four trips, all-time wins and all-time winning percentage. Strike that, Louisville may wear red, but that's a blue blood program.)

So what say you? As a fan, would you welcome coaches cheating and bending rules to win a title? Would the joy of the moment — joy that will forever be with the fans — be worth the ridicule from rivals and embarrassment and the turmoil down the road?

(And one thing we can all agree on is, if/when the NCAA comes calling, follow the UNC playbook. Heck, maybe Pearl should go ahead and get the number for the UNC legal team.)       

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ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper

Draft dodgers

We are less than a week from the underwear Olympics, aka the NFL Scouting combine, and Mel Kiper has just released his second mock draft. (It's part of the ESPN Insider package, so you know.)

Good times. (We love the draft. You know this.)

Kiper has Josh Allen going No. 1 overall, despite the fact that Allen has completed 56.2 percent of his passes in college. (Kiper compares Allen's skills to Matt Stafford and points out that Stafford only completed 57.1 percent of his throws at Georgia, despite having, as Kiper wrote "better talent around him. Uh, Mel, he also faced way better competition in the SEC than Allen did in the Mountain West Conference. And if we are going to be completely fair, Stafford's completion percentage as a true freshman starter was 52.7, then improved to 55.7 the following year and 61.4 his junior season. As a freshman, Allen was 2-of-4 passing then had completion percentages of 56 and 56.3 the last two years. Also of note, Allen completed 56.3 percent of his throws last year and averaged only 6.7 yards per attempt as a junior. In Stafford's junior year, his 61.4 completion percentage is even more impressive when you realize he was throwing the ball deeper down field and averaged 9.0 yards per attempt.)

We think Allen will be a bust, but hey Kiper is Kiper for a reason, and we know he is much better connected to the decision makers than we are. But the Browns taking Allen would be such a Browns move.

That said, as the pieces start to fall and the projections continue to be bandied about, here is one draft lover's best guess on who lands whom in our favorite soap opera, "As the QB World Turns" (cue the dramatic music):

New York Jets trade with Cleveland to get Sam Darnold.

Giants take Josh Rosen

Cleveland drafts Baker Mayfield.

Denver signs Kirk Cousins.

Arizona signs A.J. McCarron.

Vikings will franchise tag Case Keenum.

That leaves a handful of teams potentially looking to move up to land Allen, who if he's on the board at 12, Cincinatti may roll the dice on. Or looking to Philadelphia to see how much Nick Foles will cost.

We love the draft.

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FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2016 file photo, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, left, and safety Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won't be forcing their players to stand during the national anthem, safety Eric Reid said Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Reid, the first player to join Colin Kaepernick in protest last season, said he had a conversation recently with 49(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Patriot Games

So maybe it's not Colin Kaepernick's fault completely?

Much was made this past football season of the NFL's sagging TV numbers about the protests during the National Anthem.

It hit a chord in middle-America, and there certainly were ripple effects. Heck, my dad did not watch a second of the NFL last year — including the Super Bowl — because of the protest.

"It was the final straw," he called it, and whether you agree with him or not, we all have the right to decide what we consume and why we consume it.

And it's undeniable that the NFL numbers are down the last couple of seasons, and the shock of that has caused several folks to try to find reasons why. Well, the patriotism-angle of this is certainly not a negative factor when it comes to the Winter Olympics. We can all agree on that, right?

In fact, wouldn't patriotism — watching fellow Americans compete for our country against the rest of the world — be a driving factor for viewing?

That said, the numbers midway through the PyeongChang Games for NBC are down. Significantly.

And worse yet, the expectations were low going into the event.

"If you look at the total media landscape, if you are down roughly 5 percent over a four-year period, no one is doing as well as that in television. We are doing very well," NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus told reporters on a conference call last week. 

As doomsday as Lazarus' outlook seems, the numbers were actually worse.

Compared to 2014, the opening ceremonies were down (27.8 million in 2018; 31.69 million in 2014). The first Sunday was down, 22.68 million to 26.32 million.

The averages across all prime-time comparisons through last Friday are down 6.6 percent in viewers (19.8 million from 23.57 million) and 7.5 in ratings share (12.3 to 13.3). And those numbers this year are combined from all NBC stations and the streaming online option. The 2014 numbers were just on NBC's main channel.

But the reason Lazarus sounds upbeat to the down turn is the numbers are nowhere close to as bad as the Summer Games two years ago. The Rio Olympics were down 21 percent in viewers and 15 percent in ratings share compared to the 2012 Games. 

This and that

— Speaking of ratings, the numbers are in for the Daytona 500, and here's betting the France family is not going to put it on a pamphlet for potential sponsors. Sunday's Great American Race was the lowest-rated Daytona 500 since live start-to-finish coverage started in 1979. The 5.3 rating was lower than the 5.6 the race got in 2014, and to make matters worse, the four lowest-rated Daytona 500s have come in the last five years. From 2001-2008 Daytona had at least a 10.0 rating shared and 17 million viewers every year except 2003. Just 10 years ago, it drew a 10.2 and 17.8 million viewers. Sunday, the final numbers were 5.3 rating and 9.29. million viewers, numbers that were down 20 and 22 percent in respective categories compared to last year.    

— Ryan Shazier spoke publicly for the first time since his injury. He said he has every intention to return to the field — and said he fells like he is the best linebacker of all time — after undergoing spinal stabilization surgery last year. Wow.

— Celebrities such as Oprah and Steven Spielberg matched George Clooney's $500,000 donation to the victims of the Parkland, Fla., shooting. The donation went to "March for Our Lives" and of the names mentioned here that's a cool $2 million. The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High are planning to march on Washington D.C. on March 24 to call for stricter gun laws.

— On the other side of that wealthy beyond imagination coin, here's Jay-Z taking some buddies out for an $11,000 dinner and then going out afterward and buying $80,000-plus in champagne. Man, you are dropping stacks of cash when the tip — the bleepin' TIP — on your bar bill is $11,100. 

— Wow, unless Tiger wins a major, this is our front-runner for unlikely golf story of the year. Meet Paul Shadle of Minnesota, who paid $5 to enter a putting contest at the Minnesota Golf Show recently. Step one, make a 100-foot putt. Check. Step two, make a 50-foot putt. Check. That gives the person the chance at one putt from 120 feet for $25,000 and a $75,000 boat. No one in the 28-year history of the boat show had made the 120-footer. Shadle drained it. Here's the video

— Speaking of the NFL, this is pretty interesting. (And amazingly it's not about the draft. We love the draft. You know this.) Kansas City offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has made a unique request to the NFL. He's set to graduate from medical school in May, and he has asked to put "Duvernay-Tardif M.D." on the back of his jersey. 

— This is the reason so many of us have sat through so many episodes of Antiques Roadshow on PBS. One lady bought a Buddha statue for $100 at a garage sale. Experts at a recent Roadshow in St. Louis told her it was worth between $100,000-$125,000 at least. That's a good day.       

— God's speed Billy Graham. 

Today's question

We are curious with your thoughts on the metaphysical nature of the Cards' conundrum: Would you be OK with program cheating to win it all if five years later it cripples the program and the title gets stripped?

As for today, Feb. 21, Sophie Turner, of Games of Thrones fame, is 22 today. Ellen Page (aka Juno) is 31 today. Jennifer Love Hewitt is 39. Kelsey Grammar is 63.

The first telephone book was issued on this day in 1878.

Also, Alan Rickman would have been 72 today. 

In honor of Louisville getting the middle finger from the NCAA, let's do a Rushmore of NCAA scandals. Go.