If Louisville has to forfeit its 2013 national championship as a result of NCAA rules violations, the Cardinals would end up making the wrong kind of history.
No Division I men's basketball title has ever been vacated.
Final Four appearances have been stripped -- 11 in all. John Calipari is the only coach to have led two separate programs ordered to vacate a Final Four appearance: UMass (1996) and Memphis (2008). In quite a twist, Calipari now coaches at Kentucky, the bitter rival of coach Rick Pitino and the Cards.
Until now, perhaps the most famous Final Four that was vacated belongs to the Fab Five at Michigan. Both runner-up finishes in 1992 and 1993 were vacated as a result of a wide-ranging improper-benefits scandal that involved booster Ed Martin, superstar Chris Webber and several others.
For even more context about just how rare it is for teams to be forced to vacate national championships, consider that only one football title at the FBS level has been vacated: the 2004 BCS national championship that belonged to USC. The NCAA handed down myriad punishments after deeming that star Reggie Bush accepted improper benefits. Bush was stripped of his Heisman Trophy, 30 scholarships were docked, the school served a two-year postseason ban and its 2005 BCS national championship game appearance also was vacated.
In that case, USC appealed the harsh NCAA sanctions. The NCAA denied that appeal.
Louisville said Thursday it plans to appeal its own NCAA sanctions, hoping to keep its 2013 championship banner in the rafters. Among the many sanctions handed down, the NCAA wants any game vacated that involved an ineligible student-athlete from December 2010 to July 2014.
Chuck Smrt, who is handling Louisville's defense of the allegations, said 108 regular-season games and 15 NCAA tournament games are in question -- including the 2013 national championship game. Louisville made another Final Four appearance in that span, in 2012, and that could be vacated as well.
The accompanying chart, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, shows nine of the most notable NCAA championships vacated.
Incidentally, the 2007 men’s track and field championship was vacated by Florida State due to NCAA sanctions in 10 FSU sports as part of an academic cheating scandal that involved 61 student-athletes. Football coach Bobby Bowden and the football team were forced to vacate 12 wins, including the 2006 Emerald Bowl victory over UCLA.
Though Florida State has technically made 35 straight bowl appearances, the NCAA doesn’t recognize the game in 2006. Therefore, the NCAA recognizes Virginia Tech as the program with the longest active bowl streak (24). If Florida State’s bowl game had not been vacated, it would be tied with Nebraska for the longest bowl streak in college football history.