Coach Rick Pitino at the June 15 press conference reacting to the NCAA penalties | Screenshot of video by Peter Champelli

The University of Louisville called the NCAA Committee on Infractions penalties handed down in connection with the investigation into the men’s basketball team stemming from an escort scandal “simply unfair.”

In its reply, the university contended that the committee wrongfully imposed severe penalties, including vacation of a national championship, without considering whether they were proportional to the violations.

The reply, dated Oct. 31 and first obtained by The Courier Journal through an open records request, called former men’s basketball staffer Andre McGee’s conduct “abhorrent,” but said that the student-athletes and prospects were “unwillingly ‘subjected to’ McGee’s schemes.”

In June, the infractions committee ruled that former head men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino violated NCAA head coach responsibility rules when he did not monitor McGee.

The committee also ruled that McGee acted unethically when he arranged for women to strip and engage in sex acts with 17 recruits and/or student-athletes, two nonscholastic basketball team coaches and a friend of one prospect, and when he did not cooperate with the investigation.

The university’s reply reads in part:

“It wipes away the collegiate careers of numerous student-athletes because they were unwillingly drawn into McGee’s schemes; ignores the University’s exemplary efforts to investigate and redress McGee’s misconduct; and imposes one of the most severe sanctions possible — the vacation of a Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, two Final Four appearances, and multiple seasons of competition — because of the participation of a handful of student-athletes who did little wrong.”

Among the list of penalties was four years of probation for the team, a five-game suspension for Pitino – who was fired in October, a vacation of records from December 2010 to July 2014, in which ineligible students played, as well as additional scholarship and recruiting restrictions.

The wins in question include the Cardinals’ 2012 Final Four run and the 2013 national championship.

The university also argued that McGee’s misconduct shouldn’t taint the collegiate careers of the student-athletes or force vacation of revenue for the university from those games.

The university said that the infractions committee erred when issuing penalties to UofL because NCAA bylaws state vacation and financial penalties “ ‘may’ be imposed only if ‘a student-athlete’ competed while ineligible.”

However, UofL countered that in this case, the committee admitted that it didn’t blame the student-athletes for McGee’s activities.

UofL referred to the cases of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001 and Georgia Institute of Technology in 2012 as creating a precedent in the infractions committee’s approach to the situation.

In one case, the committee didn’t vacate records because the benefits were easily repaid and didn’t have “unrestorable consequences.”

In the other case, records were vacated because there was no guarantee the student-athlete would be reinstated and the university allowed him to compete while ineligible.

UofL asked that the committee’s vacation and financial penalties should be reversed, and at the minimum, that penalties imposed in connection with the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons be reversed.

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