Louisville ac­cused of vi­o­la­tions over es­corts

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Gary B. Graves

The NCAA ac­cused Louisville of four vi­o­la­tions stem­ming from its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions that a for­mer bas­ket­ball staffer hired es­corts and strip­pers for sex par­ties with re­cruits and play­ers.

LOUISVILLE, KY. >> The NCAA ac­cused Louisville of four vi­o­la­tions stem­ming from its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions that a for­mer bas­ket­ball staffer hired es­corts and strip­pers for sex par­ties with re­cruits and play­ers.

The gov­ern­ing body’s re­port Thurs­day does not men­tion a lack of in­sti­tu­tional con­trol — the most se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion — but says coach Rick Pitino failed to mon­i­tor staffer An­dre McGee.

Pitino dis­putes that find­ing, say­ing his ten­dency is to over-mon­i­tor. If any­thing, the coach said he was guilty of trust­ing some­one to tell him what was go­ing on.

“This man (McGee) made a mis­take and we apol­o­gize for his mis­takes,” he said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence. Pitino has de­nied knowl­edge of the al­leged vi­o­la­tions.

The NCAA’s let­ter is the first step in a process that could ex­tend into next spring. Louisville has 90 days to re­spond.

The let­ter cul­mi­nates an in­quiry that be­gan with the pub­li­ca­tion last Oc­to­ber of Katina Pow­ell’s book, “Break­ing Car­di­nal Rules: Bas­ket­ball and the Es­cort Queen.”

Pow­ell wrote that McGee paid her $10,000 for strip­pers to per­form 22 shows from 2010-14 — a pe­riod that in­cludes Louisville’s NCAA 2012-13 cham­pi­onship sea­son — with many oc­cur­ring in the play­ers’ Billy Mi­nardi Hall dor­mi­tory. The build­ing is named for Pitino’s brother-in-law, who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks in New York.

Com­pli­ance con­sul­tant Chuck Smrt, hired by the school to in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tions, said he did not think va­cat­ing the ti­tle was “ap­pro­pri­ate” based on prece­dent.

The NCAA’s let­ter lists the value of the im­per­mis­si­ble/ex­tra ben­e­fits as at least $5,400 and cites sev­eral in­stances in which McGee hired strip­pers to dance and have sex with re­cruits.

Louisville al­ready has im­posed its own penal­ties. The most se­vere one was an­nounced Feb. 5 — a post­sea­son ban after the school de­ter­mined vi­o­la­tions oc­curred. A month later, the school an­nounced the re­duc­tion of two schol­ar­ships and the num­ber of days staffers could re­cruit.

Neville Pinto, the univer­sity’s act­ing pres­i­dent, and ath­letic di­rec­tor Tom Jurich said the NCAA’s find­ings align with the re­sults of the school’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He said the school would fight the charge against Pitino.

“Im­proper ac­tiv­i­ties took place in a dor­mi­tory that never should have oc­curred,” they said in a 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 a NCAA mem­ber.”

Those self-im­posed penal­ties were taken as a way of pos­si­bly less­en­ing NCAA dis­ci­pline and fol­lows mea­sures used by Syra­cuse and SMU for vi­o­la­tions. NCAA pun­ish­ment went fur­ther in those cases, with nine-game sus­pen­sions each this past sea­son for Hall of Fame coaches Jim Boe­heim and now-re­tired Larry Brown.

It re­mains un­clear if the NCAA will take the same step with Pitino. Jurich made clear the school’s intent to de­fend Pitino and said he could not have known what oc­curred in the dorm be­cause “if he caught a whiff of what was go­ing on, there’s no ques­tion he’d hit the roof.”

The ac­tion by the NCAA has cast a shadow over one of the coun­try’s most prom­i­nent bas­ket­ball schools and led to sev­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions, in­clud­ing ones by the Louisville po­lice de­part­ment and the Com­mon­wealth’s At­tor­ney’s Of­fice. Pitino has said in re­cent in­ter­views he be­lieves Louisville’s self-im­posed penal­ties sug­gested by the com­pli­ance con­sul­tant should be enough to sat­isfy the NCA A.

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