The NCAA has charged Louisville with four Level I infractions and cited men’s basketball Coach Rick Pitino with failure to monitor his program after investigating an escort’s claims that a former Cardinals staffer paid her and other escorts thousands of dollars to have sex with recruits and players in a school dormitory.
Louisville avoided the most dire charges the NCAA can levy — lack of institutional or head coach control — but Pitino still could face serious sanctions even though he claims he was unaware of any improprieties. The school now has 90 days to respond to the NCAA’s notice of allegations, and then the NCAA has 60 days after that to review and reply to that response. After that, both sides will appear at a court-like hearing with lawyers present before the NCAA announces any punishment, sanctions Louisville can appeal. In other words, we likely won’t know the final outcome of this until 2017 is many months old.
In a joint statement, Pitino and Athletic Director Tom Jurich said they will dispute the charges that Pitino failed to keep tabs on Andre McGee, the Cardinals’ former director of basketball operations who is alleged to have paid Katina Powell, the escort. McGee, who is no longer coaching college basketball, refused to cooperate with the NCAA’s investigation, which consisted of interviews with more than 90 people.
“It is important to note what is not being alleged,” the release reads. “The [notice of allegations] does not contain an allegation that Coach Pitino had knowledge of what took place in the dormitory. The NCAA does not allege a ‘lack of institutional control’ at Louisville, a very severe allegation. The NCAA does not allege that there was a ‘failure to monitor’ against the institution, also a severe allegation. The NCAA does not allege that Coach Pitino failed to ‘promote an atmosphere of compliance’, a serious allegation. The NOA does contain a narrower allegation — which we will dispute — that Coach Pitino failed to demonstrate that he monitored Mr. McGee.”
In February, the school announced self-imposed sanctions that included a postseason ban last season, with Louisville’s former president saying it was “reasonable to conclude” that violations occurred. The school also cut two men’s basketball scholarships over the next three years, limited coaches’ travel and reduced the number of on-campus recruiting visits in an attempt to preempt any forthcoming NCAA punishment.
ESPN’s Dana O’Neil notes that two college basketball coaches — Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and SMU’s Larry Brown — each were suspended for nine games after the NCAA found that they failed to monitor their programs. Under recently passed legislation, coaches cannot use ignorance as a defense.
“A head coach is presumed to be responsible for the actions of any and all staff members and can be held accountable for their violations, even if the coach is unaware,” O’Neil writes.