NCAA Suspends Rick Pitino Five Games As Penalty For Escort Scandal
The NCAA announced on Thursday that it would suspend Louisville head coach Rick Pitino for the first five ACC games of the 2017-2018 season due to an alleged sex-for-pay scandal that engulfed the university’s basketball program in recent years.
Rick Pitino Suspended Five Games by NCAA for pay-for-sex scandal
The Division I Committee on Infractions also announced the Cardinal’s basketball program will be placed on four years of probation. The NCAA had initially only charged Pitino, and not Louisville, for the ethics violations.
Per NCAA sanctions, Louisville is also required to “vacate basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible from December 2010 and July 2014.” The Cardinals won the national basketball championship in 2013, and although this title has not been stripped from the school, it could very well be in jeopardy given the associations’ penalties.
The association ruled that Pitino “violated NCAA head coach responsibility rules” by failing to supervise the activities of former assistant Andre McGee, who allegedly hired strippers and prostitutes to amuse players and recruits. The NCAA is requiring Louisville to provide a list of games it needs to vacate due to the sanctions within 45 days.
Louisville stated it intended to appeal the punishment.
“The committee has accepted our self-imposed penalties and levied additional severe penalties that we believe are excessive,” interim Louisville president Greg Postel said in a statement.
“The entire UofL community is saddened by what took place. It never should have happened, and that is why the school acted to severely penalize itself in 2016. Today, however, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions went beyond what we consider to be fair and reasonable. We intend to appeal all aspects of the penalties.”
The ruling from the NCAA Committee on Infractions comes after an investigation that dates back to August 2015, when Louisville was first notified of a book written by escort Katrina Powell that alleged McGee paid for dances and sex from her and other prostitutes. Powell claims McGee paid her $10,000 for 22 shows at the Cardinals’ dormitory from 2010 to 2014.
“I cannot help but wonder if the lack of contrition demonstrated by the university’s athletics staff contributed to the severity of these penalties,” Larry Wilder, Powell’s attorney, told ESPN on Thursday. “It seems that an immediate acceptance of responsibility by the head coach of the program may have softened the blow and possibly sent a signal to the NCAA that there was a true acceptance of responsibility.”
As a result of the probe, the university self-imposed penalties that included a suspension for the 2015-2016 season, and voluntarily cutting two scholarships for the 2016-2017 season.
Louisville will also face scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions, a $5,000 fine and the forfeiture of any money received though conference revenue sharing from the 2012-15 NCAA tournaments.
The NCAA handed McGee a 10-year, show-cause penalty. Former staffer Brandon Williams received a one-year show-cause order for his involvement.
Powell and McGee will not be charged with a crime after a grand jury in Jefferson County, Kentucky.
After Louisville disputed the claims against Pitino, the case was presented to the NCAA Committee on Infractions during a meeting in April in Cincinnati.
The NCAA ultimately ruled that although the head coach maintained he was unaware of the violations, in the end he was responsible for McGee’s actions.
Pitino will miss home games against Virginia, Pittsburgh and Duke and road contests at Notre Dame and Georgia Tech as part of his ban next season.
On Thursday afternoon, Pitino’s lawyer Scott Tompsett released a statement on behalf of the head coach in order to appeal the NCAA’s punishment.
“The decision does not identify a single specific thing that coach Pitino should have done, that he wasn’t already doing, that would have either prevented or detected the illicit activities,” the statement reads.
Pitino previously stated in 2015 that he refused to resign following the scandal.
Here is the full statement from Tompsett:
Statement on behalf of Rick Pitino: pic.twitter.com/1NWIjLxNLN
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) June 15, 2017
Pitino, a former NBA coach who worked with the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, has been in charge of Louisville’s basketball team since 2001. The 64-year-old has a 770-269 (.741) overall coaching record. He is one of only four coaches in NCAA history (along with Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim) to lead his school to the Final Four in four separate decades, one of only three coaches (along with Roy Williams and Jack Gardner) to have taken two different programs to at least two Final Fours each, and one of only two coaches (along with Williams) to have propelled two different programs to at least three Final Fours each.
In 2013, Pitino was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame following the Cardinals’ national title win.
Caption:NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 03: Head Coach Richard Pitino of the Minnesota Golden Gophers celebrates with his father Rick Pitino after defeating the Southern Methodist Mustangs to win the 2014 NIT Championship at Madison Square Garden on April 3, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)