NCAA Women's Basketball

NCAA waiver offer too late for Louisville trip

04/09 8:42 PM

An offer by the NCAA for an expedited waiver for the Louisville men's team to travel to watch the women's New Orleans final early Tuesday morning apparently came too late.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The NCAA's move to provide the Louisville men's basketball team an opportunity to watch the Cardinals women's team play in Tuesday night's national title game came a bit too late.

By the letter of the law, it appeared NCAA rules prohibited the men's team from traveling as a group with coach Rick Pitino to watch the women's national title game in New Orleans.

After defeating Michigan 82-76 in the men's title game Monday night in Atlanta, the Cardinals' players made plans to return to campus by 2:15 p.m. ET., while Pitino, his staff and several administrators attended the women's final in the Big Easy.

The Louisville women couldn't make it two titles in two nights as the Cardinals lost 93-60.

The NCAA issued an expedited waiver early Tuesday morning that would have allowed Pitino's team to travel to New Orleans with him, but it apparently came too late.

"We reached out to the university to let it know that, despite current rules around championship travel, accommodations are available if Louisville decides to utilize them," NCAA communications director Stacey Osburn told ESPN.com in an email. "This is consistent with NCAA membership's ongoing efforts toward providing flexibility, particularly in unique circumstances like this one."

Under NCAA rules, neither the school nor Pitino could pay for the players to travel to New Orleans or attend the game.

After Louisville beat Michigan Monday night, Pitino and some players hinted at going straight to New Orleans to support the surprising women's team, who will play UConn in the final.

"It is difficult to contemplate every potential scenario when schools create NCAA rules," Osburn said. "Because of this, the NCAA has a standard process to waive rules, including those around championship travel."

Pitino and his players have frequently attended women's games this season, and both programs have said they feed off each other's success.

For the women's big moment against the Huskies, it will be Pitino looking on from the stands.

"They all wanted to go to the women's game," Pitino said after the game. "We asked the NCAA and they said it's illegal, we were going to take the plane and go see them, which is a shame. I guess it's an extra benefit. ...

"If we could ever win two championships, men's and women's, it would absolutely be awesome."

Back home, city officials were figuring out how to honor the school's success.

The mayor's office said in a statement Tuesday morning that it was working with the university on a community celebration to celebrate both programs' success. The date and time depended on when coaches and players from the teams would be in town at the same time.

In the meantime, the school, the city and even Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear are basking in another milestone for Bluegrass State basketball.

Last year was Kentucky's turn in the spotlight, achieved with a Final Four win over Louisville en route to its eighth championship. This season began with the Cardinals and Wildcats ranked 2-3 behind Indiana but ended with Louisville reigning over the sport.

"It couldn't be a bigger day for the Commonwealth of Kentucky," Beshear said. "For the Cardinals to win it this year, UK won it last year. You talk about the basketball capital of the world, it's right here in Kentucky."

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz, ESPN's Brett McMurphy and The Associated Press was used in this report.


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