LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The NCAA accused Louisville of four violations stemming from its investigation into allegations that a former basketball staffer hired escorts and strippers for sex parties with recruits and players.
The governing body’s report Thursday does not mention a lack of institutional control — the most serious violation — but says coach Rick Pitino failed to monitor staffer Andre McGee.
Pitino disputes that finding, saying his tendency is to over-monitor. If anything, the coach said he was guilty of trusting someone to tell him what was going on.
“This man (McGee) made a mistake and we apologize for his mistakes,” he said during a news conference. Pitino has denied knowledge of the alleged violations.
The NCAA’s letter is the first step in a process that could extend into next spring. Louisville has 90 days to respond.
The letter culminates an inquiry that began with the publication last October of Katina Powell’s book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.”
Powell wrote that McGee paid her $10,000 for strippers to perform 22 shows from 2010-14 — a period that includes Louisville’s NCAA 2012-13 championship season — with many occurring in the players’ Billy Minardi Hall dormitory. The building is named for Pitino’s brother-in-law, who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York.
Compliance consultant Chuck Smrt, hired by the school to investigate the allegations, said he did not think vacating the title was “appropriate” based on precedent.
The NCAA’s letter lists the value of the impermissible/extra benefits as at least $5,400 and cites several instances in which McGee hired strippers to dance and have sex with recruits.
Louisville already has imposed its own penalties. The most severe one was announced Feb. 5 — a postseason ban after the school determined violations occurred. A month later, the school announced the reduction of two scholarships and the number of days staffers could recruit.
Neville Pinto, the university’s acting president, and athletic director Tom Jurich said the NCAA’s findings align with the results of the school’s investigation. He said the school would fight the charge against Pitino.
“Improper activities took place in a dormitory that never should have occurred,” they said in a statement. “When the facts were established, we acted. We took appropriate punitive and corrective actions. The penalties we imposed were among the most severe penalties ever self-imposed by a NCAA member.”
Those self-imposed penalties were taken as a way of possibly lessening NCAA discipline and follows measures used by Syracuse and SMU for violations. NCAA punishment went further in those cases, with nine-game suspensions each this past season for Hall of Fame coaches Jim Boeheim and now-retired Larry Brown.
It remains unclear if the NCAA will take the same step with Pitino. Jurich made clear the school’s intent to defend Pitino and said he could not have known what occurred in the dorm because “if he caught a whiff of what was going on, there’s no question he’d hit the roof.”
The action by the NCAA has cast a shadow over one of the country’s most prominent basketball schools and led to several investigations, including ones by the Louisville police department and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Pitino has said in recent interviews he believes Louisville’s self-imposed penalties suggested by the compliance consultant should be enough to satisfy the NCAA.