U of L book prompts costly investigation

Jeff Greer
Louisville Courier Journal

A book filled with major allegations against the University of Louisville basketball program has prompted what could be an expensive investigation for the school's athletics department, documents say.

In "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen," self-proclaimed escort Katina Powell claims a former U of L basketball staffer paid thousands of dollars and gave her and other escorts, including her teenage daughters, tickets to games in exchange for sex with players and recruits.

The ex-staffer, Andre McGee, who was a player, program assistant and eventually director of basketball operations at U of L, denied Powell's allegations through his lawyer, Scott C. Cox.

Report: NCAA interviews former U of L recruit

On Friday, after the Indianapolis Business Journal published a news release promoting the book, the university called a press conference with athletic director Tom Jurich and head basketball coach Rick Pitino. Speaking to reporters over the phone while he was with the football team in Raleigh, N.C., Jurich said he had hired former NCAA enforcement staffer Chuck Smrt, who runs The Compliance Group, to investigate Powell's claims for U of L.

U of L is paying Smrt $235 an hour for his time, and, if other employees from The Compliance Group are involved, they will receive $200 an hour, according to the university's contract with TCG that was obtained through an open records request by The Courier-Journal. In addition to billable hours, transcript and report preparation and research services will be billed at $95 per hour, the contract says.

"The first response we have is to get a hold of the NCAA and let them know what's going on – and hire Chuck Smrt," Jurich said Friday. "He's probably the No. 1 person in the country that does this kind of thing. We want to know the facts. We are trying to do the due diligence that we can with the limited information we have."

Pitino: 'We believe in our past' and future

The agreement was effective Sept. 1, the day after the book's coauthor, Dick Cady, said he met with U of L officials. It was signed a week later by Kevin Miller, U of L's executive senior associate athletic director for internal operations. Smrt signed the contract on Sept. 11.

The funding for Smrt's investigation will come out of the basketball program's budget, U of L sports information director Kenny Klein said Wednesday. If the costs run over, the athletics program will cover them through contingency funds in its department-wide budget.

U of L also voted on Thursday morning to retain law firm Stites and Harbison for legal services relating to the investigation into the allegations, school spokesman John Karman confirmed, adding that it is common procedure.

Cady said Smrt, who has twice declined to be interviewed by The Courier-Journal citing his ongoing investigation, met with him and the book's publisher, Patricia Keiffner, on Friday afternoon. Smrt was accompanied by U of L's top compliance officer, John Carns, Cady said.

Sullivan | Distant past poses Pitino new problem

"My feeling is that they needed more groundwork before they could really jump into stuff," Cady said Monday. "They need to see the book."

Jurich said the NCAA and its enforcement staff was also working with Smrt, who is based in Kansas. Reports have surfaced since the book's digital release late Friday evening that NCAA investigators have met with two former U of L recruits who are mentioned by Powell.

"We're still trying to uncover the facts," Jurich said. "This will continue to be a fact-finding mission. We want to get to the bottom of this as much as anybody, as much as our fan base does, as much as our university and our community does, and we will."