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The Daily Tar Heel

I have a confession: Despite singing Hark the Sound, I am not a Tar Heel born, nor a Tar Heel bred. And today, the basketball team I was raised to support comes to town.

A decade ago, Louisville versus UNC would have been considered a primetime battle of blue bloods. Louisville went to the final four in 2012, won the NCAA Championship in 2013 and was ranked fifth in the final poll of 2014.

The team still has a doggedly dedicated fanbase in the basketball-obsessed city of over 600,000 people. It plays in the largest basketball arena in the country (yes, including NBA teams). But the team hasn’t been the same since its epic fall from grace.

In 2015, it was revealed that a member of the staff had hired prostitutes and strippers for players and recruits in on-campus residence halls, and the NCAA later revoked Louisville’s 2013 championship. 

In 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation  found that the team had recruited a player by having Adidas funnel $100,000 to his family, and the head coach and athletic director were ousted. Last year, the team finished an unimaginable 4-28.

When the scandal broke, it suddenly felt morally wrong to support the program I actually had been born and bred to love. We know that college athletics is rife with cheating, corruption and sleaziness of all sorts — UNC’s own athletic programs kept athletes eligible by letting thousands of students take non-existent classes for 18 years. But it’s difficult to convey the cognitive dissonance that Louisville’s shocking scandals had on the city, and on me as an adolescent.

I had cheered my whole life for this team, and felt on an intuitive level that it was righteous and that the archrival University of Kentucky was just the epitome of evil. Occasionally my dad would venture a conscious explanation for why this was, like that Louisville had racially integrated its team before Kentucky.

But really, like with the born-and-bred fans of UNC or any team, we knew that our passion rested not on rational grounds, but a sense of commitment to our city. But suddenly the program looked so sleazy that it was just no longer tenable.

Adolescents often have a formative moment in which a core value their parents raised them with starts to seem untenable. Many of my Gen Z peers found that they didn’t believe in God, or in the Republican Party. I wasn’t raised with either of those. What I lost faith in was Louisville basketball.

But neither the scandals nor the indignities can change the facts of my raising. 

I have too many fond memories of bantering with my friends who rooted for Kentucky, of my grandpa circling and underlining his Louisville Courier Journal to know when to turn the TV on for a game, of going with him and my dad to the 2013 Elite Eight — where one of Louisville’s players split his leg open but the team united to trounce Duke (every sports fan should have a common enemy in the Blue Devils.)

The last nine years have curbed my enthusiasm for the Cards, but I cannot deny how I was really born and bred.

Though I enjoy cheering on Hubert Davis’ team against any other opponent, loyalties like those can’t be erased by three semesters in Chapel Hill. By necessity, I will have dual loyalties on Wednesday. 

@dthopinion opinion@dailytarheel.com

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