Former Louisville grad assistant fights NCAA charge
The legal counsel for a former Louisville basketball graduate assistant named in the school's NCAA infractions case said there is "no basis" for charging him with a failure to cooperate with investigators and called repeated requests for information from him "fishing expeditions" that threatened his new job, according to documents obtained exclusively by the Courier-Journal and USA TODAY Network.
The NCAA's notice of allegations, released in October, claimed Brandon Williams, who worked at U of L for nearly two years before leaving last spring at the end of his graduate program, "violated the principles of ethical conduct" when he refused to produce information relevant to the NCAA's investigation into claims former U of L director of basketball operations Andre McGee paid women to have sex with and dance for players and recruits.
The NCAA's enforcement staff believes the alleged conduct breach is a Level I violation, the most severe in the organization's penalty structure. Louisville's perceived level of cooperation, including that of Williams, is a factor weighed by the NCAA Committee on Infractions in assessing sanctions.
In a response to the NCAA on Williams' behalf and dated Friday, Peter R. Ginsberg Law, LLC, argues that the NCAA is trying to punish Williams for failing to hand over records "which he had no right or authority to produce." The phone in question, Williams' representation said, was in his mother's name and she did not allow the records to be released. Williams did, however, give the NCAA and U of L his work phone.
Williams, now a high school basketball coach in Miami, also provided the NCAA with bank records from three different accounts, the response said, and participated in two interviews with NCAA investigators.
"No matter what Mr. Williams did, and no matter how responsive he was, the NCAA always asked for more," the response said. "While the subject matter of the investigation, and the ensuing investigation of the University of Louisville, are indisputably legitimate, exposing Mr. Williams to a lifetime of stigma is neither justified nor appropriate. Mr. Williams more than satisfied his obligations to the NCAA."
University of Louisville sports information director Kenny Klein said Saturday he had not viewed the document and had no comment. The NCAA did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The University of Louisville, in its response to the NCAA allegations released in January, also depicted Williams' actions as a refusal to fully cooperate.
"Williams refused to provide all of his requested cellular telephone records," Louisville's response said. "This occurred after he left the University. While the University hoped and expected Williams to cooperate fully in the investigation, it takes no formal position regarding his refusal to cooperate, as he was not an employee of the University at that time, and the University had no responsibility for his actions."
Williams' counsel also took issue with the NCAA's attempts to connect the former Stetson University basketball player to McGee.
The NCAA's enforcement staff, in its official reply made public Thursday, said it had doubts about Williams' credibility and asked him whether he was responsible for collecting and delivering money McGee wired in the summer of 2014, when McGee was working as an assistant coach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, to pay for an alleged meeting between a recruit, his guardian and escort Katina Powell, the author of the book that prompted the NCAA's investigation.
The NCAA said Williams fit Powell's description of the individual who paid her $200 outside the basketball team's on-campus dormitory, Minardi Hall, and cited an entry on a dorm security log that same day that identified Williams as exiting and re-entering through a rear door of the building at 10:05 p.m.
In the response to the NCAA, though, Williams' lawyers say the NCAA enforcement staff showed Powell pictures of three different African-American men, including Williams. Powell, the response said, citing the NCAA's transcript of the interview, denied that any of the three men brought her the cash.
"Then, in a line of questioning which is both inappropriate and astonishingly amateurish, the Enforcement Staff asked her which of the three most resembled the person who brought the money," the Williams response said. "That is the basis of the Enforcement Staff's contention that Mr. Williams fit the description of the person in question. ... In the absence of any evidence implicating Mr. Williams in the relevant events, the Enforcement Staff should have ceased its fishing expeditions for further records, and the allegation against Mr. Williams never should have arisen."
The response goes on to say, "The NCAA Enforcement Staff also failed to disclose in its submission to the Infractions Committee that Mr. Williams is 5’9” and 170 pounds, hardly a physique which prompts the description 'well built,'" a phrase Powell used in her book to describe the man who brought her the money.
Williams' response did not directly address the NCAA's concerns over Williams having deleted contacts and data from one of the phones in question and obtained a new phone less than a month before phone data was extracted by NCAA and U of L investigators. Williams told investigators that he often deletes old text messages and phone numbers after going through old contacts he doesn't use, according to previously released documents.
Williams did question why the NCAA denied access to transcripts of several others who, the response said, "presumably were asked whether Mr. Williams played any role in the actions underlying the investigation."
The document included the unredacted names of 16 people "most important to the investigation" who were interviewed by the NCAA in its inquiry, and it said Williams had interactions with all of them, including McGee.
"It is clear from the Enforcement Staff’s written reply that not a single person identified Mr. Williams as being involved in inculpatory conduct," the response said. "Indeed, otherwise the Enforcement Staff would have confronted Mr. Williams with such evidence in his interviews and identified others' accusations in its submission."
The response ends with a plea as U of L and Pitino await their hearing in front of the NCAA's infractions committee.
"Brandon Williams is accused of an NCAA violation which impugns his integrity and threatens his future," it said. "He fully cooperated with the Enforcement Staff to the best of his ability. To allege that Mr. Williams failed to cooperate, in light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, by failing to produce records which he could not produce, cannot be justified. There is no basis upon which Mr. Williams should have any sanction imposed upon him."