NCAA Suspends Pitino After Escort Investigation - Higher Education
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NCAA Suspends Pitino After Escort Investigation

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by Gary B. Graves, Associated Press


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The NCAA has suspended Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino for five Atlantic Coast Conference games following its sex scandal investigation.

The governing body also 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 has not vacated the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship, saying the school must determine which games ineligible players participated in. Players deemed ineligible would be those involved in the sex parties, which are considered impermissible benefits.

Louisville interim President Greg Postel issued a statement saying the school believes the additional “severe” penalties are excessive and plans to appeal. The university, which has self-imposed several sanctions, has 45 days to respond.

“The entire UofL community is saddened by what took place. It never should have happened, and that is why the school acted to severely penalize itself in 2016,” Postel said. “Today, however, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions went beyond what we consider to be fair and reasonable.

“We intend to appeal all aspects of the penalties.”

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

The NCAA’s release included statements by the panel 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.”

Penalties prescribed by the panel also 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 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 panel 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,” said the panel. “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 McGee. The Hall of Fame coach and the school had denied that allegation.

“This ruling is also unfair to Coach Pitino,” Postel said, “who we believe could not have known about the illicit activities.”

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.”

There 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, something Postel emphasized in his statement.

“The person responsible for these activities, Andre McGee, long ago left the university, and he has yet to cooperate with investigating officials. We are disappointed that he was not cooperative,” Postel said. “In contrast, UofL did cooperate. We wanted the NCAA Enforcement Staff to uncover what happened. We have been open and transparent throughout this process.”

Pitino has said he had no knowledge of the activities described in Powell’s book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.” 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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