The NCAA is standing by its allegations against the Louisville men’s basketball program and Rick Pitino, saying the coach failed to notice “red flags” in activities by a former staffer who an escort says hired dancers for sex parties with recruits and players.
“If Pitino saw no red flags in connection with (Andre) McGee’s interactions with then prospective and current student-athletes,” the NCAA wrote, “it was because he was not looking for them.”
The next step is a hearing before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, but no date was set in the governing body’s response that was sent to the school last Friday. The NCAA’s response included what it described as aggravating factors that led to its conclusions, along with a detailed picture of its investigation that include an excerpt of an interview with Pitino.
The excerpts included the following question-answer exchange between NCAA associate director of enforcement Nate Leffler and Pitino:
>> LEFFLER: And was there anyone who specifically monitored Andre’s activities with the prospects when they were on campus?
>> PITINO: The assistant coaches did.
>> LEFFLER: Did you have any role in that monitoring?
>> PITINO: Just in terms of any feedback that Andre had with the recruits, anything that — any discussions that he had with them, you know, was it North Carolina, was it Duke, was it us, where do you think he’s lean — where do you think the young man’s leaning.
>> LEFFLER: And how would — what type of information would Andre usually present you after you asked those questions?
>> PITINO: He would tell me that he thinks we’re in great shape, he thinks the kids like — the kid like — the parents like it a lot, the kid likes it a lot — or he feels Duke’s leading, things of that nature.
The NCAA summarized in its response that “by not taking an active role in monitoring McGee, Pitino was unable to show that he satisfied his obligations under Bylaw 126.96.36.199 and unable to rebut the presumption of responsibility for the serious and prolonged violations committed by a member of his staff.”The NCAA has said Louisville committed four Level 1 violations, one of which states that Pitino failed to monitor McGee. Pitino and the university disputed that allegation when responding to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations in January, but acknowledged that violations occurred.
The case is expected to be heard before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions this summer.
Escort Katina Powell alleged in her book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen” that McGee paid her $10,000 to perform 22 shows from 2010-14 at the players’ Billy Minardi Hall dormitory, a period that includes the Cardinals’ 2013 NCAA championship season. Pitino has denied knowledge of the activities described in Powell’s book.
After its own investigation determined that violations did occur, Louisville last spring imposed a postseason ban, reduced scholarships and limited recruiting visits by its staff in an attempt to mitigate any NCAA penalties.
The NCAA acknowledged those steps but reiterated its accusations at Pitino. Among other criticisms of his dealings with McGee, the NCAA stated in its response that he failed to:
>> conduct spot checks to uncover potential compliance problems with McGee’s interactions;
>> demonstrate that he actively looked for red flags or asked pointed questions or even occasionally solicited honest feedback from McGee.
Though the school considered some of the allegations as Level III violations in its January response, the NCAA’s answer states the severity of McGee’s activities add up to a Level I violation. McGee has not cooperated with the NCAA’s investigation, which the governing body also noted throughout its response.