NCAA suspends Louisville coach Rick Pitino, team on probation after escort investigation
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The NCAA has suspended Louisville’s men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino for five Atlantic Coast Conference games following its sex scandal investigation.
The governing body also Thursday placed the basketball program on four years’ probation, vacated wins in which ineligible players participated and handed down a 10-year show-cause order for former basketball operations director Andre McGee.
It is unclear if the vacated wins will include the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship.
The long-awaited announcement reiterated the NCAA’s original view that Pitino should have known about McGee’s activities with former escort Katina Powell, who alleged in a 2015 book that staff McGee had hired her and other escorts to strip and have sex with Louisville recruits and players.
The NCAA’s release included a statement by the panel on its decision, which said: “Without dispute, NCAA rules do not allow institutional staff members to arrange for stripteases and sex acts for prospects, enrolled student-athletes and/or those who accompany them to campus.”
Penalties prescribed by the panel also include men’s basketball scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions; a fine of $5,000, plus the university must return money received through conference revenue sharing for its appearances in the 2012 to 2015 NCAA men’s basketball championships.
The panel also accepted the university’s self-imposed 2015-16 postseason ban.
Powell alleged that McGee paid her $10,000 for 22 shows at the Cardinals’ dormitory from 2010-14, a period that includes their NCAA title run.
The panel also had harsh comments about McGee’s actions in its decision.
“NCAA members agree that schools must provide a safe, healthy and positive environment for their student-athletes, not only academically, but in all facets of their lives,” said the panel. “The former operations director, the individual entrusted to keep order at Minardi Hall, created an environment that has no place on a college campus and was directly at odds with college athletics and higher education.”
Louisville officials met with the governing body in April and expected to hear about its penalties from the Committee on Infractions. Louisville was alleged to have committed four violations, with Pitino charged with failing to monitor former McGee. The Hall of Fame coach and the school had denied that allegation.
Louisville self-imposed several sanctions last year, including a postseason ban along with reducing scholarships and recruiting visits by assistant coaches.
Powell’s allegations led to several investigations, including one by Louisville’s athletic department in February 2016 that ultimately determined violations did occur. It imposed a postseason ban along with reducing scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches. The school participated in last season’s Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA Tournaments.
McGee did not cooperate with the NCAA investigation. Both Pitino and Louisville again vowed to fight the charge that Pitino failed to monitor McGee when the coach and school officials met with the Committee on Infractions earlier this spring.
Pitino declined to discuss the specifics of the hearing with the NCAA in April, which he said was “one of the most difficult days, and I don’t want to relive any of those hours.”
Pitino has said he had no knowledge of the activities described in Powell’s book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.” Besides reiterating its allegation that the Hall of Famer failed to monitor McGee’s conduct, the NCAA said it in its earlier response to the school that Pitino didn’t seem to want to know what his assistant was doing.