It won't take long for Louisville to recover from scandal if it hires the right coach

Late last week -- after Louisville's athletic director and coach were placed on administrative leave, after its top freshman was suspended because his family allegedly accepted money in exchange for his enrollment, after an ongoing college basketball scandal rocked one of the sport's biggest programs -- I was asked a simple question: How will the Cardinals ever recover?

My answer: By just hiring the right coach next March or April.

It really is (mostly) that simple.

To be clear, things could get worse before they get better. The FBI will continue to investigate. The NCAA will likely revisit Louisville's campus. More sanctions are possible, if not probable. Recruiting will suffer until a permanent coach is in place. And though this season should be fine because the roster is good, nothing good is guaranteed beyond that. So if you're a depressed Louisville fan, I totally understand. Early last week everything seemed cool. Now it's not. And if you bleed red and black, that stinks.

But it won't stink forever.

And it might not stink for very long or at all.

Obviously, the NCAA using the so-called "death penalty" would be a game-changer. But nobody I know who understands the way the NCAA does things believes that's a likely outcome. And anything short of the "death penalty" can be overcome quickly ... as long as the right coach is hired next March or April.

Don't believe me?

Just look at Penn State's football program.

It was rocked by an even worse scandal in November 2011 when a grand jury indicted former assistant Jerry Sandusky on 52 counts of child molestation -- specifically crimes against young boys. Less than a week later, the school fired legendary coach Joe Paterno for the way he failed to properly report Sandusky years earlier when he was made aware of a sexual act another assistant witnessed between Sandusky and a boy in a shower on campus. So the Penn State brand was suddenly badly stained. And then, in July 2012, the NCAA announced sweeping sanctions that many thought would cripple the program for at least a decade or longer.

But it didn't.

Penn State went 8-4 in 2012, 7-5 in 2013, played in bowl games in both 2014 and 2015, finished ranked seventh in the nation last season and is ranked fourth in the nation right now. In other words, things never really got that bad at Penn State despite the ominous predictions. And things got great again fairly quickly for two reasons:

1. Penn State is built to be good at football.
2. Penn State hired the right football coach -- James Franklin.

Needless to say, Louisville is built to be good at basketball the same way Penn State is built to be good at football -- if not more so. Consider the following as proof: Over the past 10 years, Louisville men's basketball program has reported $356 million in revenue, which is $116 million more than any other men's basketball program, according to Business Insider. So the school has plenty of money -- plus a great conference affiliation, top-shelf facilities, a strong tradition and a passionate fanbase that cares deeply. Which means Louisville has everything necessary to be great at basketball. So as long as the school hires the right coach in March or April, the down years won't last long, and might not ever come, almost regardless of what the NCAA does next. And there's no reason to think Louisville won't be able to hire someone who qualifies as the right coach because it can easily offer, say, a seven-year contract worth $56 million and make someone the highest-paid coach in college basketball just like Rick Pitino was the highest-paid coach in college basketball.

And here's the other thing: It's so much easier to recover from a college basketball scandal than a college football scandal because it's so much easier to be good at college basketball than it is to be good at college football. In college basketball, all it takes is one or two recruiting classes, just five or six players, and you're back in business. And that's why I'm less certain than most that lean seasons are in Louisville's future.

More penalties might be.

A coaching search definitely is.

But as long as the penalties don't include the word "death," and as long as the coaching search results in the hiring of someone who is capable of running a historically great program, Louisville should be fine and flourishing again in no time.

CBS Sports Insider

Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories
    CBS Sports Shop