NCAA: U of L committed 4 major violations

Jeff Greer
  • The notice of allegations only lays out what investigators found; there is no suggested punishment.
  • U of L now has 90 days to respond to the NCAA.

The NCAA charged the University of Louisville men's basketball program with four Level I violations - the highest level - including citing coach Rick Pitino for a failure to monitor an employee, the school revealed Thursday with its public release of the NCAA's notice of allegations.

The allegations, which the NCAA sent after its 13-month-long investigation into U of L, did not include any charges for lack of institutional or head coach control of the program, two of the most severe NCAA violations.

The notice only served to outline the NCAA's findings - no potential penalties are proposed - and it detailed what the NCAA's enforcement staff corroborated in its inquiry into self-described escort Katina Powell's book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen." Powell claimed former U of L basketball staffer Andre McGee paid her and other women thousands of dollars and gave them game tickets in exchange for dancing for and having sex with players and recruits.

In a joint statement released by the university, interim president Neville Pinto and athletics director Tom Jurich said the notice of allegations aligned with the findings in U of L's internal investigation, led by compliance consultant Chuck Smrt.

"As parents and university leaders who care about every student who comes to the University of Louisville, we are heartbroken that inappropriate behavior took place here," Pinto and Jurich said in the release.

"It saddens us tremendously. We promised that if something else was done wrong, we would be open about it, acknowledge it, and correct it."

►  FAQ:What do these allegations mean for U of L?

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► READ MORE:  Read the NCAA allegation against U of L basketball

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► READ MORE:  What’s next for U of L in NCAA investigation?

The NCAA alleged that McGee provided impermissible inducements and extra benefits of at least $5,400 to at least 17 prospective or then-current student-athletes at U of L, plus two "nonscholastic" coaches - likely meaning club basketball coaches - and one friend of an athlete. All of those names are redacted from the school's public release of the report.

Jerry R. Parkinson, who served on the NCAA's committee on infractions from 2000-10, said that over those years the panel moved toward a policy of automatically vacating wins in games where an ineligible player competed. He cited the case of Memphis, which had its Final Four appearance in 2008 vacated after the NCAA ruled that star player Derrick Rose's SAT score was invalid.

"There is a presumption of vacating records now,” said Parkinson, former law school dean at the University of Wyoming College of Law.

While Smrt acknowledged that vacating wins, potentially including U of L's 2013 national championship, is within the realm of possible punishment when the infractions committee rules on Louisville's case next year, he also said U of L doesn't believe that penalty would be "appropriate" after the school self-imposed its own sanctions. U of L removed its men's basketball team from last season's ACC and NCAA tournaments and implemented several recruiting restrictions.

Atlanta-based lawyer Stuart Brown sided with Smrt, though he did say the optics of the charges, which involve tawdry details of stripteases and sex acts, don't help U of L. That specific sanction depends on how much, if any, of the extra benefits went to members of Louisville’s 2013 championship team. It is not publicly known whether any of the members from that team were named in the NCAA's report as names were redacted.

Brown, who said the NCAA's findings don't equate to an "earth-shattering, huge dollar value," also said vacating wins might not be ordered if the link between the benefits and the championship is tenuous.

"It’s not like a player was helped on a test to stay eligible, then help the team win the championship," said Brown, who represented former Tennessee and Southern Miss men's basketball head coach Donnie Tyndall in a case in which he was slapped with a 10-year coaching ban.

The NCAA's second allegation said McGee violated ethical conduct policies and twice refused to be interviewed by NCAA investigators, once in February and again in June. In their joint statement, Jurich and Pinto expressed disappointment that McGee did not cooperate with the investigation.

McGee, through his lawyer, Scott C. Cox, had no comment.

The NCAA, in its third allegation, said former program assistant Brandon Williams, who is no longer working for U of L, refused to provide telephone records to the university or the NCAA, which the NCAA defines as a "severe" breach of conduct and worthy of a show-cause order.

Williams, now the head boys basketball coach at Booker T. Washington High in Miami, did not respond to a message on Thursday.

The NCAA's last allegation is the one U of L plans to fight "the whole way through" the case, Jurich said.

The NCAA said Pitino violated "head coach responsibility legislation, as he is presumed responsible for the allegations laid out" against McGee and "did not rebut that presumption." Pitino, the notice said, showed a failure to monitor McGee by failing to "frequently spot-check the program to uncover potential or existing compliance problems."

Pitino is potentially subject to a show-cause order as a result of that finding, the NCAA said.

But both in their joint press conference and statement, Jurich and Pinto defended Pitino, noting "what is not being alleged." Pitino, they said, is not alleged to have known about McGee's wrongdoing.

Pinto said he is "confident in Coach Pitino and I know he is and always has been" compliant with NCAA rules, while Jurich said he and his colleagues "feel very strongly that coach Pitino had nothing to do with this (and) had no knowledge of this."

"I'm not guilty of a failure to monitor my staff. I'm guilty of trusting (McGee)," Pitino said.

"This young man made a very big mistake. We apologize for his mistakes. ... We don't believe in any of this. I wish it would have been leaked to me because it would have been stopped immediately."

The NCAA's investigators interviewed more than 90 individuals in their inquiry, with U of L's own internal investigation team present for the vast majority of those sessions. Both Smrt and the NCAA's enforcement staff began working on the case in early September of last year.

The university now has 90 days to respond to the NCAA's report. Once U of L's response is sent, the NCAA has another 60 days to review and reply.

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The school did not pursue a summary disposition, the expedited process in which the school and NCAA bypass the 150-day work-through stage and directly pass their findings to the infractions committee for review.

In this case, after both sides take the 150-day review period, the NCAA and U of L will set a hearing date with the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, a group of lawyers and college and conference administrators. That hearing, which will likely take place next spring or summer, will play out like a trial in court, with lawyers representing both parties.

Any additional penalties against U of L beyond the school's self-imposed sanctions, if there are any, won't be announced until the end of the hearing, and the school is allowed to appeal any punishments proposed by the infractions committee.

U of L has said several times that it is confident the NCAA will not levy any further punishment because of the sanctions the school self-imposed.

"Improper activities took place in a dormitory that never should have occurred," Jurich and Pinto said in the joint 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 an NCAA member."

Courier-Journal reporters Andrew Wolfson and Tim Sullivan contributed to this report. 

The University of Louisville's campus.  June 17, 2016