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NCAA dismisses Louisville's response in sex scandal case

March 23, 2017
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Coach Rick Pitino coached Andre McGee (33) before McGee became a Louisville assistant.

The NCAA is standing by its allegations against the University of Louisville men's basketball program and head coach Rick Pitino, saying Pitino failed to notice "red flags" in activities by a former staffer who hired dancers for sex parties with recruits and players.

"If Pitino saw no red flags in connection with (Andre) McGee's interactions with then prospective and current student-athletes," the Indianapolis-based NCAA wrote, "it was because he was not looking for them."

McGee, who played for the Cardinals from 2005-2009, was a Louisville graduate assistant for two years before being promoted to director of basketball operations in 2012.

The next step is a hearing before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, but no date was set in the governing body's response that was sent to the school last Friday. The NCAA's response included what it described as aggravating factors that led to its conclusions, along with a detailed picture of its investigation that include an excerpt of an interview with Pitino.

The excerpts included the following question-answer exchange between NCAA associate director of enforcement Nate Leffler and Pitino:

— LEFFLER: And was there anyone who specifically monitored Andre's activities with the prospects when they were on campus?

— PITINO: The assistant coaches did.

— LEFFLER: Did you have any role in that monitoring?

— PITINO: Just in terms of any feedback that Andre had with the recruits, anything that—any discussions that he had with them, you know, was it North Carolina, was it Duke, was it us, where do you think he's lean ... where do you think the young man's leaning.

— LEFFLER: And how would—what type of information would Andre usually present you after you asked those questions?

— PITINO: He would tell me that he thinks we're in great shape, he thinks the kids like ... the kid like ... the parents like it a lot, the kid likes it a lot ... or he feels Duke's leading, things of that nature.

The NCAA summarized in its response that "by not taking an active role in monitoring McGee, Pitino was unable to show that he satisfied his obligations under Bylaw 11.1.1.1 and unable to rebut the presumption of responsibility for the serious and prolonged violations committed by a member of his staff."

The NCAA has said Louisville committed four Level 1 violations, one of which states that Pitino failed to monitor McGee. Pitino and the university disputed that allegation when responding to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations in January, but acknowledged that violations occurred.

The case is expected to be heard before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions this summer.

Escort Katina Powell alleged in her book "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen" that McGee paid her $10,000 to perform 22 shows from 2010 to 2014 at the players' Billy Minardi Hall dormitory, a period that includes the Cardinals' 2013 NCAA championship season. Pitino has denied knowledge of the activities described in Powell's book.

Powell's book was published by IBJ Book Publishing LLC, a sister company of Indianapolis Business Journal. Investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Dick Cady co-authored the book.

After its own investigation determined that violations did occur, Louisville last spring imposed a postseason ban, reduced scholarships and limited recruiting visits by its staff in an attempt to mitigate any NCAA penalties. University President James Ramsey resigned after 14 years in the job in the wake of the scandal.

The NCAA acknowledged those steps but reiterated its accusations at Pitino. Among other criticisms of his dealings with McGee, the NCAA stated in its response that he failed to:

— conduct spot checks to uncover potential compliance problems with McGee's interactions;

— demonstrate that he actively looked for red flags or asked pointed questions or even occasionally solicited honest feedback from McGee.

Though the school considered some of the allegations as Level III violations in its January response, the NCAA's answer states the severity of McGee's activities add up to a Level I violation. McGee has not cooperated with the NCAA's investigation, which the governing body also noted throughout its response.

As successful as Pitino has been at winning college basketball games, he has also been at the center of some embarrassing episodes of sexual misconduct.

The first occurred in 2010 when Karen Sypher, the ex-wife of former assistant Tim Sypher, was convicted of trying to extort money from Pitino to keep secret their 2003 tryst on a restaurant table. She received a seven-year prison sentence for the crime.

In February 2015, Pitino dismissed senior guard Chris Jones from the team just before his arrest for rape and sodomy of two women in a campus dorm. A grand jury declined to indict Jones and two other men in the incident.

The same year that Sypher was convicted, McGee allegedly had begun hiring Powell to dance for recruits. McGee left the program in 2014 to become an assistant at Missouri-Kansas City, which placed him on paid administrative leave on Oct. 2, 2015.

Louisville issued a statement Thursday, expressing confidence in Pitino.

"We continue to regret that NCAA legislation was violated by a former UofL employee. His behavior was shameful and wrong. This behavior is the reason we self-imposed severe penalties on ourselves," the statement read. "In this latest correspondence, the NCAA Enforcement Staff's Response reiterates its previous position and, in fact, makes clear that the allegation does not state that Coach Pitino should have detected or known about the violations.

"We have faith in the NCAA process and look forward to demonstrating at the hearing that Coach Pitino has properly monitored his staff."

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