Luke DeCock

Just how dirty are Louisville’s hands in WakeyLeaks scandal? – DeCock

Head coach Bobby Petrino of the Louisville Cardinals watches game action during the game against the Louisville Cardinals on September 9, 2016 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.
Head coach Bobby Petrino of the Louisville Cardinals watches game action during the game against the Louisville Cardinals on September 9, 2016 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Getty Images

As bad as it is for Wake Forest to discover a former player and assistant coach turned traitor within the football program, the so-called WakeyLeaks scandal could be even worse for Louisville.

We may never know why Tommy Elrod betrayed his alma mater and the new coach who didn’t retain him but was generous enough to give him inside access as a broadcaster. But Louisville knew it was going on, willingly accepted Elrod’s espionage and kept its mouth shut about it.

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich released a curious statement Wednesday that acknowledged co-offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway, a former Wake Forest assistant, discussed the Demon Deacons’ game plan with Elrod in November but dismissed it since “none of the special plays were run during the game” and anything else was “nothing our staff had not already seen.”

Missing from that statement: We immediately notified Wake Forest and the ACC that someone was leaking information to opponents.

Also missing: an explanation of how Louisville obtained enough of Wake Forest’s game plan for the Deacons to discover it at the stadium before the game.

This breach of sportsmanship and integrity leaves the ACC under an absolute imperative to investigate. It cannot sit this one out or take half measures. Whether one school is implicated or 14, the ACC needs to check all the boxes and retain the utmost sense of propriety, even if that means hiring outside counsel to undertake an investigation. It cannot merely be content with what Louisville says happened.

In a statement Wednesday, the ACC said “protecting competitive integrity is fundamental” and that the conference would “perform its due diligence.”

An investigation will start with Galloway, but it’s going to end up asking what Bobby Petrino knew and when he knew it. He denied knowing anything in November, so if Petrino was indeed involved or was aware his staff was taking advantage of illicit information, this is going to be a lot worse for his professional life than any two-wheeled peccadilloes or broken promises in his past.

NC State sportswriter Joe Giglio discusses the Demon Deacons firing of radio analyst Tommy Elrod, who attempted to leak football plays to opponents - including Louisville

That’s why it’s so important for the ACC to get to the bottom of this. What Elrod did is ugly but he had co-conspirators, and they need to be identified, unmasked and, if deemed necessary, punished – even if that means vacating Louisville’s win over Wake Forest. Nothing less than the collective integrity of ACC football competition is on the line.

Louisville is clearly not alone. Someone was buying what Elrod was selling, figuratively speaking if not literally as well, on “multiple occasions” according to Wake Forest.

“We have notified everybody that needs to be notified,” Wake Forest spokesman Steve Shutt said. “It’s up to them to take the appropriate action.”

That’s an ominous turn of phrase. While North Carolina and N.C. State said they had not been contacted by Wake Forest, and Duke declined to comment, though there’s no indication the Blue Devils have been contacted either, Elrod also previously worked with coaches who worked on the Indiana and Army staffs when they played Wake Forest.

His chicanery may extend only as far as those old colleagues, and not to any other ACC schools, but Louisville is unquestionably involved, and that’s a big problem for the ACC.

Wake Forest has problems, too, but they’re limited to Wake Forest. Clearly, Dave Clawson’s mistake was trusting Elrod, to borrow a phrase from another ACC football scandal, but it’s a mistake anyone could make, given Elrod’s football background and deep ties to the school. Once the subterfuge was discovered, Wake Forest not only got to the bottom of what happened but offered a full and robust accounting of its side of things, one that wasn’t necessarily flattering but left very little to speculation other than Benedict Elrod’s motives. Yet Wake Forest was (deliberately?) vague about who was on the receiving end of Elrod’s espionage.

It’s up to the ACC to clear that up, and to do it thoroughly and publicly. The ACC has a lot more at stake than Wake Forest, which only had its chances to win a few football games compromised. Louisville’s hands are dirty, and the ACC needs to figure out just how dirty they are.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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