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NCAA suspends Louisville's Pitino after escort investigation

June 15, 2017
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Coach Rick Pitino coached Andre McGee (33) before McGee became a Louisville assistant.

The Indianapolis-based NCAA has suspended University of Louisville's men's basketball coach Rick Pitino for five Atlantic Coast Conference games following its sex scandal investigation.

The governing body for college athletics also on Thursday placed the basketball program on four years' probation, vacated wins in which ineligible players participated and handed down a 10-year show-cause order for former basketball operations director Andre McGee.

The NCAA hasn't yet vacated Louisville's 2013 national title. But that doesn't necessarily mean the Cardinals are out of the woods.

The long-awaited announcement reiterated the NCAA's original view that Pitino should have known about McGee's activities with former escort Katina Powell, who alleged in a 2015 book that staffer McGee had hired her and other escorts to strip and have sex with Louisville recruits and players.

Powell's book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen," 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.

The NCAA's release included statements on its decision, which said: "The types of activities that occurred in this case were repugnant and threaten the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model, regardless."

The NCAA also said, "Without dispute, NCAA rules do not allow institutional staff members to arrange for stripteases and sex acts for prospects, enrolled student-athletes and/or those who accompany them to campus."

Louisville interim president Greg Postel said Thursday that the school plans "to appeal all aspects of the penalties."

Penalties prescribed by the NCAA include men's basketball scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions; a fine of $5,000; plus the university must return money received through conference revenue sharing for its appearances in the 2012 to 2015 NCAA men's basketball championships.

The NCAA penalties against Louisville require the school to vacate records for any games "in which student-athletes competed while ineligible from December 2010 and July 2014."

During a conference call, NCAA officials said they hadn't vacated any specific wins or titles at this point. NCAA officials instead said they want Louisville to provide a report within 45 days detailing which games would be affected.

Compliance consultant Chuck Smrt, hired by Louisville when the allegations surfaced, estimated that 108 regular season games and approximately 15 NCAA wins could be impacted — including the Cardinals' third national championship.

Players deemed ineligible would be those involved in the sex parties that led to this investigation. NCAA officials said those parties are considered impermissible benefits.

The NCAA also accepted the university's self-imposed 2015-16 postseason ban.

Powell alleged that McGee paid her $10,000 for 22 shows at the Cardinals' dormitory from 2010-14, a period that includes their NCAA title run.

The NCAA also had harsh comments about McGee's actions in its decision.

"NCAA members agree that schools must provide a safe, healthy and positive environment for their student-athletes, not only academically, but in all facets of their lives," according to the statement. "The former operations director, the individual entrusted to keep order at Minardi Hall, created an environment that has no place on a college campus and was directly at odds with college athletics and higher education."

Louisville officials met with the governing body in April and expected to hear about its penalties from the Committee on Infractions. Louisville was alleged to have committed four violations, with Pitino charged with failing to monitor former McGee. The Hall of Fame coach and the school had denied that allegation.

The NCAA disagreed.

"For approximately four years, the head coach failed in his responsibility to monitor the activities of the former operations director, who reported to him," the report stated. "He essentially placed a peer of the student-athletes in a position of authority over them and visiting prospects and assumed that all would behave appropriately in an environment that was, for all practical purposes, a basketball dormitory.

"Further, he delegated responsibility for monitoring the former operations director to his assistant coaches, who later stated they were unaware it was their job."

Breaking Cardinal Rules coverThere are references throughout the report to similar cases involving a lack of appropriate coaching oversight at other big-name schools — Miami, Syracuse and Indiana among them. Veteran Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and SMU's Larry Brown were each suspended for nine games in the 2015-16 season for infractions, related to both failing to keep track of how their players were receiving academics help.

Louisville self-imposed several sanctions last year, including a postseason ban along with reducing scholarships and recruiting visits by assistant coaches.

Powell's allegations led to several investigations, including one by Louisville's athletic department in February 2016 that ultimately determined violations did occur. It imposed a postseason ban along with reducing scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches. The school participated in last season's Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA Tournaments.

McGee did not cooperate with the NCAA investigation. Both Pitino and Louisville again vowed at that time to fight the charge that Pitino failed to monitor McGee when the coach and school officials met with the Committee on Infractions earlier this spring.

Pitino declined to discuss the specifics of the hearing with the NCAA in April, which he said was "one of the most difficult days, and I don't want to relive any of those hours."

Pitino has said he had no knowledge of the activities described in Powell's book. Besides reiterating its allegation that the Hall of Famer failed to monitor McGee's conduct, the NCAA said it in its earlier response to the school that Pitino didn't seem to want to know what his assistant was doing.

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