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'The cloud over our head is gone': Cards fans prepare for fresh start with men's basketball team

"Everybody is just super excited to have it behind us, after five years of never knowing what the outcome was going to be and constantly feeling the wrath."

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — University of Louisville (UofL) basketball fans and students are breathing a sigh of relief following a 5-year investigation into a pay-for-play scandal, which finally came to a resolution Thursday morning.

Most consider the penalties to be very minor, and they don't include a postseason ban of any sort. Fans say they see this as a new beginning, after years of scrutiny, where the program can move forward in a new direction.

"Put it behind us, we're ready for some basketball," said Lindsey Goodman, who's worked at JD Becker Sportswear for seven years. 

Lifelong fans like Goodman say they're crossing their fingers for better days ahead, free of scandal. Hearing the program avoided a postseason ban was music to her ears.

"Everybody is just super excited to have it behind us, after five years of never knowing what the outcome was going to be and constantly feeling the wrath," she said.

It's a similar feeling on and around Louisville's campus, where students like senior Spencer Laws says the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP)  ruling frees the team, and new head coach Kenny Payne, to turn a new leaf.

"The cloud over our head is gone," he said.

Laws, also the sports editor for the student newspaper The Louisville Cardinal, believes the damage of the years-long investigation has already been done. He says while the stigma will still be an obstacle, this at least gives the new staff a fair shot.

"The season's about to start and Kenny Payne's here and this is done -- it's two things coming together," Laws said. "Hopefully [we can] turn over a new page and start the success that Kenny Payne is hopefully going to bring in here, and everyone believes he can."

The IARP placed UofL's men's basketball program on two years of probation and fined the program $5,000. It also restricted Louisville's recruiting visits for this academic year and issued a public reprimand. 

The IARP also declined to penalize former Cardinals coach Rick Pitino, whom the NCAA initially cited for failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance. Chris Mack, Pitino's successor who was fired in January, also was not penalized for additional allegations announced last year by the NCAA.

Former Cardinals assistant coaches Jordan Fair and Kenny Johnson received two-year show-cause orders for Level I violations. The IARP concluded that Fair “was knowingly involved” in arranging a cash payment in exchange for a player enrolling at Louisville.

The IARP, created to examine complex cases, announced the decision Thursday. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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