The University of Louisville must vacate its 2013 men's basketball title following an NCAA appeals panel's decision to uphold sanctions against the men's program in a sex scandal case.
The Cardinals will have to vacate 123 victories including the championship, and return millions in conference revenue from the 2012-15 NCAA Tournaments.
The decision announced on Tuesday by the governing body's Infraction Appeals Committee ruled that the Indianapolis-based NCAA has the authority to take away championships for what it considers major rule violations. It also refuted Louisville's position that the NCAA exceeded its boundaries and didn't follow its own precedent established in other cases and said in an eight-page decision that ended, "the penalties are upheld."
"I cannot say this strongly enough: We believe the NCAA is simply wrong," Louisville interim President Dr. Greg Postel said in a written statement. "We disagree with the NCAA ruling for reasons we clearly stated in our appeal. And we made a strong case—based on NCAA precedent—that supported our argument."
Louisville now must forfeit its third NCAA title, victories and income from 2010-14, when the violations occurred. The decision culminates the governing body's investigation that followed allegations in a 2015 book by escort Katina Powell that former Cardinals basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with recruits.
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.
"From Day One, the university has admitted that the actions of the former operations director and any others involved under previous leadership were offensive and inexcusable," Postel said in the statement. "That is why we apologized immediately, cooperated fully with the NCAA, self-imposed penalties that were appropriate to the offenses and made significant changes to ensure incidents like this never happen again.
"Under the NCAA's own rules, this cooperation should have been a factor in the severity of the punishment. Instead, it was ignored."
The school's own investigation into the allegation revealed that violations occurred and resulted in a self-imposed postseason ban nearly two years ago. Louisville later imposed scholarship and recruiting restrictions in an effort to mitigate further NCAA discipline.
While the NCAA accepted Louisville's actions, it went further with harsher sanctions last June that included:
— A five-game suspension of former Cardinals coach Rick Pitino, who was fired in October following Louisville's acknowledgement that it was being investigated in a federal bribery probe of college basketball. That measure included a show-cause penalty for Pitino, whom the NCAA criticized for failing to monitor McGee and ignoring multiple red flags;
— Four years' probation, along with the vacation of those wins and appearances in the 2012 and 2013 Final Fours;
— Show-cause penalties for McGee, who is no longer coaching;
— Postel estimated the return of up to $600,000 in NCAA Tournament revenue.
"This dark cloud has hung over our heads for more than two years, and it has had a negative impact on our athletics program, our fans and the entire university family," Postel said "While we disagree with the NCAA's decision, it is time for the university to close this chapter and move forward with a stronger commitment to excellence on and off the court."
Postel, then-athletic director Tom Jurich and Pitino said last summer they planned to fight the sanctions. Pitino, who repeatedly denied knowing about the activities described in Powell's book, was particularly frustrated with his penalties.
A lot changed at Louisville in the months following the NCAA penalties. Pitino was placed on unpaid administrative leave and Jurich on paid administrative leave on Sept. 27 following the school's involvement in the FBI probe that initially involved the arrests of 10 people.