UofL disputes NCAA's Pitino allegation
The University of Louisville has formally disputed one of the four allegations levied against its men's basketball program and challenged three elements of another charge, according to the school's response to the NCAA released Wednesday.
As expected, U of L contested the NCAA's fourth allegation, which stated that Cards head coach Rick Pitino "violated NCAA head coach responsibility legislation" as a result of infractions committed by former director of basketball operations Andre McGee from 2010-14.
"The university believes that Coach Pitino fostered a culture of NCAA compliance within the basketball program and exercised appropriate supervisory oversight of McGee," said U of L's response to the NCAA. "McGee's furtive conduct was not detectable by reasonable monitoring practices, as McGee purposefully intended to avoid detection."
The NCAA's enforcement staff has 60 days to file its reply to U of L's response, which the school sent on Jan. 17. The NCAA's Committee on Infractions will begin reviewing the case materials after that, and a hearing date is typically set about 30-45 days after the enforcement staff issues its counterarguments.
U of L athletic director Tom Jurich suggested at the U of L Athletic Association meeting last week that the case would go into the summer months.
As for the NCAA's primary allegation detailing McGee's "inducements, offers and/or extra benefits in the form of adult entertainment, sex acts and/or cash" to players and recruits, U of L said in its response that it "agrees that 37 of the alleged 40 instances of impermissible benefits took place and disagrees with the (NCAA) enforcement staff on three of these instances."
U of L contended that the total value of benefits McGee provided over a four-year period were $4,500, while the NCAA enforcement staff believed it to be worth approximately $5,400 (including an $805 cash tip to dancers).
Among the three allegations U of L disputed is that McGee paid women $100 to perform a striptease for a student-athlete, an accusation the university termed a "reach." The university admitted that a recruit was provided a striptease show and $200 in cash and was offered sexual activity, but it disagreed with two additional allegations that McGee provided the recruit with another $200 in cash and a second striptease show worth $125.
In its response, U of L took issue with the NCAA's reliance on self-proclaimed escort Katina Powell, who authored a book detailing the scandal. U of L attacked Powell's credibility, questioning why her interviews were not recorded, criticizing the accuracy of her memory and suggesting Powell had a motive to sensationalize information in order to increase book sales.
U of L cited concerns over whether the university had adequate time to review and assess the validity of Powell's journals, which the university said proved "it was her intent to write a book to hurt the institution — not just to protect herself." The school said Powell's attorney, Larry Wilder, permitted U of L's contracted investigator, Chuck Smrt, and NCAA enforcement staffer Mark Strothkamp to review Powell's journals but only allowed time for the investigators to photograph pages previously tabbed by Powell's coauthor, journalist Dick Cady.
"There was no time for the NCAA or Smrt to read every page of each journal to decide if other pages had information relating to the University of Louisville," the response said.
Powell also presented uncorroborated information when she "identified specific student-athletes as participating in dances or sex, but the student-athletes denied it," U of L said in the response.
U of L cited a January interview with a former player whose name was redacted. Powell claimed the player "watched dances," but the player refuted her allegation.
"When confronted with this information during her second interview (March 7), Powell stated that she thought (the unnamed player) was a tall African-American," the response says. "When she was shown his picture, she realized (the player) was white, and she stated that 'I must have confused him with someone else because that guy was not at any show.'"
In another part of the released documents, U of L notes that Smrt interviewed McGee in September 2015, and McGee said Powell was "a friend of mine."
McGee went on to reply "absolutely not" when Smrt asked twice if he arranged sex for prospects when they visited U of L.
"McGee said Powell would visit the dormitory and 'hang out' and that he also saw her at night clubs in the city," the response said. "He indicated that he talked to her on the telephone about twice a month, and she came to the dorm on less than five occasions a year."
U of L acknowledged five months after that interview that it was "reasonable to conclude" that serious violations had occurred while McGee was an employee at the university, which prompted the school to self-impose a postseason ban and several recruiting sanctions on the men's basketball team.
The school listed its voluntary punitive actions, which also included the implementation of monthly monitoring reports and the hiring of former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe as an independent risk management consultant.
The school said it added to security measures at Minardi Hall, the on-campus dormitory where much of the alleged activity took place.
"The university's voluntary decision to withhold the 2015-16 team from postseason competition was a very significant self-imposed penalty that demonstrates its extraordinary commitment to compliance and its voluntary acknowledgment that violations occurred," the response said.
U of L's released response Wednesday included a 43-page reply on behalf of Pitino disputing the allegation that he failed to monitor McGee.
"The enforcement staff has not identified one single red flag that put Pitino on notice of McGee's illicit activities," read Pitino's reply. "The staff also has willfully refused to inform Pitino and his counsel of specifically what the staff believes Pitino should have done differently. That is because there is nothing that Pitino reasonably could have done to either prevent the violations or to uncover the violations."
The security in the dormitory also comes under fire in Pitino's separate response, filed by his lawyer, Scott Tompsett. That response says security cameras at Minardi Hall didn't consistently work; that McGee disarmed the building's alarm system; that a security guard slept on duty; and that an incident report from 2012 suggests a security guard drank on the job and made "unwanted sexual advances" on a female guest of a student manager who lived in the dorm.
"The NCAA enforcement staff never interviewed anyone about the security guard's alleged misconduct to see what light it might shed on the efficacy of the monitoring system in the dorm during the period of McGee's illicit activities," the response said.
Read U of L's full response below: