The University of Louisville announced a self-imposed postseason ban on its men’s basketball team on Friday, citing the investigation into allegations that the school’s former director of basketball operations provided prostitutes for players and recruits.
U of L President James Ramsey made the announcement at a press conference flanked by Athletic Director Tom Jurich and Coach Rick Pitino. Noting that he is the chair of the university’s investigative committee looking into the allegations, he said that after receiving the latest update on Thursday he consulted with Jurich and made the decision to impose the sanction.
“Based upon the available information gathered by the NCAA Enforcement Staff and the University of Louisville, I determined that it was reasonable to conclude violations had occurred in the men’s basketball program in the past,” said Ramsey. “After consulting with Director of Athletics Tom Jurich, we made the decision to withhold the men’s basketball program from all conference and NCAA postseason competition following the 2015-16 men’s basketball season. I recognize that this is a significant penalty for our program and will be a disappointment to our student athletes and to many in the U of L family — our students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and our fans.”
The allegations stem from the book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen” by Katina Powell and Indianapolis journalist Dick Cady, which was released online last fall. In the book, Powell alleges she provided escorts to dance for and have sex with U of L basketball players and recruits from 2010 to 2014, with program staffer Andre McGee paying her for those services. At the time the book was released, university officials said they were investigating the claims, which — if proven true — would constitute serious NCAA violations.
“While this was a difficult decision, it was made in the best interest of our university community,” said Ramsey. “We will be able to provide additional information surrounding the inquiry and this decision at its conclusion. Given the ongoing inquiry, and in accordance with NCAA bylaws, we cannot comment further at this time.”
Ramsey concluded by stating “I continue to support Tom Jurich, Coach Pitino and the outstanding student-athletes in our men’s basketball program.”
Jurich said it was a sad day for the current players, “but we want to do what’s right by the university and the NCAA. We support these actions. They’re going to be very painful, as we all know, but we will move forward.”
Pitino said he had just met with the players to tell them the shocking and painful news, expressing regret that the special players who had no involvement in the scandal would be robbed of a potential run deep into this year’s NCAA Tournament.
“This penalty is quite substantial,” said Pitino. “It comes with complete shock to me, because I’ve been kept in the dark with all the things that Dr. Ramsey has gone through with his committee, and coaches are supposed to be kept in the dark. It wasn’t anything on purpose, the coaches are supposed to be totally oblivious to anything that’s going on when it comes to the investigation.”
Pitino noted his history of leading the University of Kentucky basketball team back to prominence after it was put on probation in 1989, saying the fans kept supporting the team in trying times, and said that he hoped U of L’s fans do the same for the rest of this season, which will now end prematurely.
Taking questions from the media, Ramsey said he hopes this self-imposed penalty will be enough to convince the NCAA to not impose further penalties. While repeating that he could not provide any specifics from the findings of their investigation, Ramsey added that “we know that we have committed violations, and so we are taking this action.”
Pitino again repeated he was blindsided by the self-imposed penalty when Jurich informed him of it on Thursday.
“A week ago after speaking with Tom, I didn’t think there was any possibility of that happening,” said Pitino. “But like I said, Tom and I have been in the dark on this from day one… If we made any mistakes it was keeping him in the dark, not me in the dark. But I respect him, believe in him.”
“I’m a soldier in this army and I do what the generals say. And I believe in the generals here… It’s tough to say we have all this integrity, it’s tough to say we do all the things the right way when this is going on. But I believe from the bottom of my heart that we stand for great integrity, we stand for academic excellence, we stand for the student athletes doing the right things. And if I catch anybody doing the wrong thing, there’s always huge consequences to pay. And I’ve done that for over 41 years. So unfortunately we’re going to have to go through this, and this team that’s totally innocent will have to go through it. I’ll get them through it. I got those Kentucky guys through it, I’ll get this group through it.”