• 55°

NCAA accuses Louisville, Pitino of violations in escort case

By Gary B. Graves

AP Sports Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The NCAA accused Louisville of four serious violations and criticized coach Rick Pitino for failing to monitor a former basketball staffer who hired escorts and strippers for sex parties with recruits and players.

The governing body’s report Thursday didn’t mention a lack of institutional control — considered the most serious violation in some cases.

Pitino disputed the finding that he did not monitor Andree McGee, 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 records was “appropriate” as a penalty but noted there is precedent.

The NCAA’s letter lists the value of the impermissible/extra benefits as at least $5,400 and cites multiple 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. 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 the allegation and show-cause order against 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.”

Jurich went further in the school’s planned defense of the coach, saying “we don’t agree with it and we will dispute it.”

The NCAA’s 20-page letter dated Oct. 17 alleges that McGee provided benefits to at least 17 recruits and players, two “non-scholastic” coaches and one friend of a prospect during that period. Names of the players were redacted in the report.

McGee did not cooperate with NCAA investigators and is subject to a show-cause order for two violations. McGee’s attorney, Scott C. Cox, had no comment.

Smrt said the “vast majority” of the activities occurred with prospects on official or unofficial visits at Louisville. He declined to say how many eventually enrolled at the school, adding “that would be getting into the specifics of the case.”

Former Louisville assistant Brandon Williams, who hadn’t been previously mentioned, is also cited in the letter for failing to provide requested phone records to NCAA enforcement staff.

Lawyer Steve Thompson of Nixon Peabody, the firm hired by the school as outside counsel, said the violation is unrelated to the core allegations. Pitino said Williams had no relationship with McGee.

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 NCAA.

Jurich reiterated the program’s steps to address the allegations from the moment the school became aware of them. He and Pitino also said the program has taken additional measures to improve security and compliance to ensure the violations aren’t repeated.

For now, the school must prepare its defense before waiting to see what the NCAA’s final word will be.

Comments

Education

RSS talks first steps for new federal relief totaling $66 million

China Grove

Gary’s Barbecue staff, customers look back at 50 years

News

Salisbury Lions Club names Person of the Year, Lion of the Year at 78th annual banquet

Education

Student COVID-19 numbers show first decline since plan A

High School

High school golf: Fowler competes in state tournament

News

Amazon announces new distribution center for North Carolina

News

House passes bill to bar Cooper from mandating COVID shot

Coronavirus

Rowan County sees death 302 from COVID-19; Health Department to host final mass vaccine clinic

Ask Us

Ask Us: What happened to work on South Fulton Street home?

Crime

Blotter: Woman says she was shot in hand on Lincolnton Road

Crime

Rowan Sheriff’s Office charges Salisbury man with operating illegal gambling business

Crime

Blotter: Rockwell man arrested on felony drug, breaking and entering charges

Local

Rep. Amber Baker discusses legislative session during Rowan Democrats breakfast meeting

Local

Thousands of locals, out-of-towners gather for a groovy time at annual Hippie Fest

News

N.C. Zoo ready for expansion if lawmakers OK funding

Education

RSS budgeting for tens of millions in federal COVID-19 relief funding

East Spencer

‘Back in full swing’ for the spring: East Spencer community gathers for food, fun and fellowship at Spring Fest

Local

Rowan native Lingle among those honored with NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame induction

Business

Former pro baseball player, Tar Heel standout Russ Adams finds new career with Trident Insured

Education

Profoundly gifted: Salisbury boy finishing high school, associates degree at 12

Local

Cheerwine Festival will stick to Main Street, stay away from new park in September

Lifestyle

Celebrating Rowan County’s early cabinetmakers

Education

Service Above Self announces youth challenge winners

Business

Economic Development Commission creates search tool for people seeking Rowan County jobs