The NCAA infractions committee has dropped heavy penalties on the University of Louisville basketball program, which must vacate an unspecified number of wins from 2010 to 2014, including its national championship victory in 2013.
UofL interim President Greg Postel swiftly responded on Thursday with a statement indicating the university intends to appeal, calling the sanctions “excessive.”
“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,” Postel stated. “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 penalties stem from the scandal involving UofL’s former director of basketball operations Andre McGeee, who hired strippers for players and recruits. Those penalties include:
- “A vacation of basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible from December 2010 and July 2014. The university will provide a written report containing the games impacted to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 45 days of the public decision release.”
- Head Coach Rick Pitino is suspended from the first five ACC games of the 2017-18 season.
- The program received four years of probation from June 15, 2017, through June 14, 2021.
- McGee is banned from being employed within the NCAA for 10 years.
- There will be a reduction in men’s basketball scholarships by two during the 2016-17 year (which already was self-imposed by the university), plus an additional reduction of scholarships by four over the four-year probation period.
According to Chuck Smrt — the NCAA compliance expert hired by UofL to lead their own investigation and response — the number of regular season games in which an ineligible player participated and would have to be vacated was 108, in addition to 15 postseason games. Smrt added that this would include the 2013 championship game, and when asked if UofL would have to take down that championship banner, he indicated that “all trophies of victory would need to be returned” to the NCAA. He said the appeals process could last over three months.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon responding the the NCAA penalties, both athletics director Tom Jurich and Pitino said they were deeply disappointed with the NCAA, with Pitino saying the “over-the-top, excessive” penalties had caused him to lose respect for and trust in the organization. Both said there was no way Pitino could have known about what was happening at the players’ dorm, with Pitino adding “we did not deserve any of this at all and we will fight every single bit to the end” through the appeals process, “because that’s what leaders do.”
The penalties do not include any future postseason bans for the program, as UofL self-imposed its own postseason ban in the 2015-2016 season.
In his statement, Postel indicated he was disappointed that McGee — “who long ago left the university” — has yet to cooperate with investigating officials. In contrast, he said UofL did cooperate, wanted to uncover what happened, and has been open and transparent throughout the process.
“The NCAA knew how seriously the university treated this matter from the beginning. Once we had the facts and recognized what took place, we did the right thing by taking responsibility and imposing severe penalties on ourselves,” Postel said. “We believe the penalties imposed today are unfair to the UofL community and our current and former student-athletes, many of whom have already paid a heavy price for actions that did not involve them. This ruling is also unfair to Coach Pitino, who we believe could not have known about the illicit activities.”
Attorney Scott Tompsett released the following statement of behalf of Pitino:
The finding against Coach Pitino is one of the weakest I’ve ever seen against a head coach.
The original allegation was that Coach Pitino failed to monitor by not actively looking for and evaluating red flags. But throughout the entire investigation and the nearly twelve-hour hearing before the Committee on Infractions, not once did either the enforcement staff or the Committee ever identify a single red flag. And today’s decision does not mention the phrase “red flag” a single time.
Instead, the decision hinges on a vaguely-worded rationale about creating an environment in which the violations eventually occurred, alleged delegating of monitoring to assistant coaches and Coach Pitino’s failure to train Mr. McGee.
But 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 secret and deliberately hidden illicit activities certainly did not occur because Coach Pitino did not properly train Mr. McGee.
Today’s decision breaks with established head coach control precedent and imposes a standard of strict liability.
Coach Pitino intends to exercise his right to appeal the finding and the penalty.
Click here to watch more video of the UofL press conference.