SAN ANTONIO — No matter what the official record book might say now, or rather the official record PDF that you're welcome to print if you want to burn through all your copy paper, Michigan did not lose the NCAA championship game in 2013 to some school called "Vacated." The Wolverines lost to Louisville and coach Rick Pitino. That's how UM coach John Beilein sees it.
"It was fair and square," he said Sunday. "They didn't have Rick's brother-in-law reffing or something like that. There was nothing going on in that game. We lost the game. They won it. I'm going to leave it like that, and that's the way it should be."
The NCAA determined last spring the result had to be vacated, however, because at least one member of the 2013 Louisville team participated in on-campus parties allegedly featuring exotic dancing and sex acts and thus had received "extra benefits" that never were reconciled. Therefore, the player or players were ineligible to compete in that title game, which Louisville won 82-76.
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A Louisville appeal of that penalty was denied in February.
Now, somewhere amid Carl Lewis' vast collection of Olympic gold medals — nine, to be exact — there is one he was awarded for a race in which he crossed the finish line second. Canada's Ben Johnson ran the 100 meters in 9.79 seconds in Seoul; Lewis ran 9.92; however, Johnson later tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, and his performance was vacated.
Unlike the International Olympic Committee, however, when the NCAA declares a result vacant it does not promote the athlete or team that was next in line. In the case of the 2013 men's basketball championship, the first ever vacated by the NCAA, there is no such action. The championship merely is left vacant.
"We had our chance, and we couldn't quite get it done," Beilein said. "We didn't get breaks in that game. Maybe it all said, ‘Coach, you're not going to get any breaks in this game, but you don't know it, but in five years Jordan Poole is going to hit an incredible shot to give you another opportunity."
When Beilein talks about missed breaks, he likely is referring to a fast-break layup attempt by Louisville point guard Peyton Siva that was swatted down by the Wolverines' Trey Burke with the Cards leading by three points with 5:09 left (the play starts at :29 in this video). Burke was called for a foul; it was a terrible call, and some at Michigan view that as a better reason to vacate the result than anything that might have occurred in Louisville’s athletic dorm.
“That’s probably not how John Beilein would want to win his first national championship, anyway,” Matt Shepherd, Michigan’s play-by-play voice, told Sporting News. “What are you going to do? Go back and have a celebration for a team when some of those guys are already in the pros? It just wouldn’t have the same feel to it: the feel of the confetti flying over your head, and somebody from a national network presenting the trophy, and you showing up from the airport and busing back to Crisler Center and having a throng of people there — it just wouldn’t be the same.”
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So Monday night against Villanova, Michigan will chase its first true title since 1989, and the first under John Beilein. “Vacated” will stand atop the 2013 season.
“It was a great basketball game,” Beilein said. “It was a great event, but we didn’t win it. And we’ll not say we’re national champs.”