Pitino makes passionate argument to the NCAA

Gentry Estes
  • Response: The enforcement staff has overreached in this case. Pitino never should have been charged.

Rick Pitino has made his case to the NCAA.

Louisville Rick Pitino instructs his player where he should have been on the last play.     
Nov. 11, 2016

A passionate argument by the Louisville men's basketball coach and his attorney to avoid possible NCAA suspension in the university's ongoing infractions case was spread across 43 pages delivered in addition to U of L's formal response to the NCAA’s notice of allegations that arrived in October.

Among the NCAA’s four allegations against the University of Louisville, stemming from illicit parties thrown for players and recruits by former basketball staffer Andre McGee from 2010-14, was one against Pitino for failing to “frequently spot-check the program to uncover potential or existing compliance problems, including actively looking for and evaluating red flags, asking pointed questions and regularly soliciting honest feedback to determine if monitoring systems were functioning properly regarding McGee’s activities and interactions.”

“The enforcement staff has overreached in this case. Pitino never should have been charged,” read the response on Pitino’s behalf, adding that the coach “vehemently disagrees” with the allegation against him.

That allegation carries with it the possibility of a show-cause order against Pitino. NCAA guidelines can call for a suspension of at least 30-50 percent of a coach’s season for Level I violations without aggravating or mitigating factors, which was the case for Pitino’s allegation.

Perhaps more ominous for Louisville, Pitino’s response to the allegation indicated he could be suspended for an entire season.

“The enforcement staff is asking the COl (NCAA Committee on Infractions) to suspend Coach Pitino for up to a full season for not uncovering secretly concealed violations that the enforcement staff itself struggled to uncover,” read the response.


Read Pitino's full response here

Louisville responds to NCAA allegations

Rick Pitino could face NCAA suspension

 Timeline of Louisville's NCAA investigation

► NCAA: U of L committed four major violations

Pitino’s argument repeatedly stated he had no knowledge of McGee’s actions and “there never were any red flags giving any signs or even a hint of McGee's illicit activities.”

“The (NCAA) enforcement staff and the University conducted an exhaustive investigation lasting over a year,” read the response. “The investigation did not reveal or uncover even a single red flag. Not one.”

In arguing about the difficulty of obtaining such information, Pitino’s response detailed that during the course of the NCAA’s interviews “To persuade some of the young men to tell them about the strip shows, the enforcement staff requested and obtained limited immunity,” protecting the eligibility of an athlete for cooperating.

“The (NCAA enforcement) staff told the Chairperson of the COl that limited immunity was necessary to facilitate obtaining full cooperation and truthful information,” Pitino’s response read. “Thus, trained NCAA investigators, armed with the details from the book, photos and Ms. (Katina) Powell's journal, believed they needed to give the young men limited immunity to get them to tell the truth. …

“Yet those same investigators allege that Pitino could have uncovered the illicit activities if he had only asked ‘pointed questions’ and ‘solicited honest feedback.’”

The response on Pitino’s behalf argued that McGee tried to conceal his actions – “The prospects and student-athletes who were involved in the illicit activities told the NCAA investigators that they deliberately kept McGee's illicit activities from Pitino” -- and that “dozens of witnesses” didn’t know.

“McGee was able to conceal his illicit activities not only from Pitino, but also from the full-time resident assistant, the security guards and several of the residents of the dorm,” read the response. “There never was a single red flag or sign that did alert or should have alerted Pitino to the illicit activities. Under those circumstances, Pitino' s monitoring certainly met the guidelines of the enforcement staff. ... Pitino did more than ‘generally observe the activities’ of his assistant coaches and staff. He asked questions, solicited feedback and looked for red flags, but there never was a single red flag to raise suspicion. He even actively monitored his student-athletes' social networking accounts.”

On Dec. 20, Pitino’s lawyer emailed the NCAA enforcement staff asking for “clarification of the allegation that Coach Pitino failed to monitor Andre McGee” and for specifics on what he should have done.

The NCAA’s response, which was included in Pitino’s response, said: “the staff feels as though the allegation speaks for itself and will leave it up to you and Coach Pitino to respond as you see fit.”

“The staff had over a year to conduct its investigation and it interviewed dozens of witnesses,” Pitino’s response said. “The staff has alleged that Pitino committed a Level I violation - which carries very severe penalties, including a multi-game suspension. … But the staff has not explained in any detail what spot-checks Pitino should have been conducting, what red flags he missed, what pointed questions he should have asked and of whom, and how he should have solicited honest feedback.”

The response goes on to say, “Pitino and his counsel truly are at a loss to understand exactly what the staff believes Pitino should have done differently.”

“I tell the (recruiting) hosts constantly, "Stay away from Fourth Street Live. Stay away from there. Stay out of bars. No underage drinking. Nothing like that. Stay away from trouble,’” Pitino is quoted in the response as telling an NCAA investigator. “I tell them exactly what I want them to stay away from.

“Not in a million years would or could I ever fathom in my wildest nightmare anything like this.”