NCAA suspends Rick Pitino five games, Louisville’s 2013 title in jeopardy

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The NCAA announced on Thursday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino has been suspended for the first five ACC games of the 2017-18 season.

The suspension stems from the NCAA’s finding that Pitino “violated NCAA head coach responsibility rules when he did not monitor the activities of his former operations director.” Pitino is not allowed to be involved with the team in anyway — practices, team meetings, etc. — during the suspension.

The NCAA did accept Louisville’s self-imposed 2015-16 postseason ban, handing Louisville four years of probation, but they did impose a “a vacation of basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible from December 2010 to July 2014.” Louisville won the 2013 national title, and that would be among the 108 games and 15 NCAA tournament wins that would be vacated, according to Chuck Smrt, a former NCAA enforcement director that Louisville has used during this investigation. Louisville also advanced to the 2012 Final Four.

Louisville, and Pitino, made it very clear that they will appeal the NCAA’s punishments, and they are confident they will win the appeal. “Personally,” Pitino said, “I’ve lost faith in the NCAA.”

That appeals process, according to Smrt, could take three months, and unless Louisville wins that appeal, they will be the first team to have a national title vacated.

According to the findings, 15 prospects and three enrolled student-athletes received “adult entertainment and/or sex acts” as well as one friend of a prospect and two non-scholastic coaches. Between seven and ten of the prospects were under the age of 18 at the time of their visit.

The trouble started for the program in the fall of 2015, when the University was alerted to a book that would be published by a self-proclaimed escort queen named Katina Powell that alleged that a former Louisville staffer named Andre McGee and paid for women to strip for and have sex with players and recruits. McGee was given a 10-year show-case penalty by the NCAA.

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Pitino was charged with failure to monitor an employee, one of the four Level I violations that the NCAA found in their initial investigation. Louisville contested the NCAA’s finding that Pitino had “violated NCAA head coach responsibility legislation”. Plausible deniability is no longer a defense for head coaches in the eyes of the NCAA. In an effort to prevent the punishment for violations from being dumped on low-level staff members, the NCAA changed their rules to state that head coaches were at fault for anything that happened in their program under their watch whether the NCAA can prove they knew about it or not.

“By his own admission, the head coach and his assistants did not interact with prospects from 10 p.m. until the next morning,” the NCAA said in their findings. “The panel noted that the head coach essentially placed a peer of the student-athletes in a position of authority over them and visiting prospects, and assumed that all would behave appropriately in an environment that was, for all practical purposes, a basketball dorm.”

“This arrangement played a role in creating a location where the former operations director’s activities went undetected.”

Louisville fans will still be monitoring whether or not the 2013 title will be vacated. Players that were on that team were involved in the scandal, according to the book. She alleged that as much as $10,000 was paid to the dancers over a four-year period, and that tickets also changed hands.

Louisville self-imposed sanctions on the program during the 2015-16 season, which included a 2016 postseason ban for a team that was ranked in the top 15, following an internal investigation. The other sanctions handed down by the NCAA, including probation and various recruiting restrictions, are considered minor.

The entire list of penalties the NCAA handed down can be found below:

  • Public reprimand and censure for the university.
  • Four years of probation from June 15, 2017, through June 14, 2021.
  • A suspension from the first five ACC games of the 2017-18 season for the head coach. During the suspension, the head coach may not be present in the arena where the games are played and have no contact with the student-athletes or members of his coaching staff. The head coach also may not participate in any activities including, but not limited to, team travel, practice, video study and team meetings.
  • A 10-year show-cause period for the former operations director from June 15, 2017, through June 14, 2027. During that period, any NCAA member school employing the former coach must restrict him from holding any athletically related duties and from having any contact with prospects and their families.
  • A one-year show-cause order for the former program assistant from June 15, 2017, through June 14, 2018. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him can schedule an appearance before a panel of the COI to determine whether he should be subject to show-cause provisions.
  • 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.
  • A reduction in men’s basketball scholarships by two during the 2016-17 year (self-imposed by the university). Additionally, the university must reduce men’s basketball scholarships by four over the probation period. The university may take the reductions during any year of that period.
  • A prohibition of men’s basketball coaching travel during the April 2016 recruiting period, which resulted in a reduction of men’s basketball recruiting opportunities by 30 (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction of recruiting travel during the July 2016 recruiting period by six days (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction in the number of men’s basketball official visits to a total of 10 during the 2015-16 year. Additionally, the university will have no more than a total of 16 visits during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 years (self-imposed by the university).
  • During the probation period, men’s basketball prospects on unofficial visits may not stay overnight in any campus dorms or school-owned property.
  • A disassociation of the former operations director (self-imposed by the university). The public decision describes the details of his disassociation.
  • A $5,000 fine (self-imposed by the university). The university must also return to the NCAA the money received through conference revenue sharing for its appearances in the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championships. Future revenue distributions that are scheduled to be provided to the university from those tournaments also must be withheld by the conference and forfeited to the NCAA.
  • A postseason ban for the men’s basketball team for the 2015-16 season (self-imposed by the university).

Former Penn coach allegedly took bribes from potential recruit’s father

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Former Penn head coach Jerome Allen allegedly took bribes from a Miami businessman who wanted his son to get into the school as a “recruited basketball player” — increasing his chances to gain entry to the Ivy League school.

According to a report from Bloomberg’s Michael Smith, David Voreacos and Eben Novy-Williams, Allen was involved with Miami businessman Philip Esformes, who had a son, Morris, who was allegedly recruited by several Ivy League schools. When Philip Esformes was accused of health-care fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and bribery, the government uncovered more than $74,000 in gifts that Esformes gave to Allen in 2013 and 2014.

Allen is identified strictly as “Coach-2” in the indictment that alleges that he took multiple cash payments, paid trips from Philadelphia to Miami, and a private jet trip that included Allen, Esformes and his son. The benefits are alleged to be $74,558 — including three separate wired payments of $15,000, $20,000 and $18,000 to Allen from Esformes.

These alleged incidents took place in 2013 and 2014, when Allen was still head coach at Penn and Morris Esformes was a high school basketball player trying to make it to the Division I level. Esformes was eventually granted admission to Penn as he was allegedly going to be on the basketball team. But Allen was fired before Esformes enrolled at the school. So Esformes went to school at Penn, but he never played for the basketball team. Esformes is currently still a senior at Penn.

Allen has been an assistant coach under Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics since leaving Penn in 2015. He hasn’t been criminally charged for any of these alleged benefits while the NCAA also hasn’t been involved with anything yet.

But this is yet another black eye on college basketball — and this time coming from a prestigious Ivy League institution. It shows that cheating and using leverage happens at all levels of Division I college basketball. Lately, the schools have been paying to get players. This shows there are instances of wealthy people attempting to gain influence through athletics.

This case at Penn is certainly a rare one. Esformes tried to exploit a loophole that would allow his son entry into a great school under the guise that he was a potential Division I-caliber basketball player. And Morris Esformes did end up at Penn — and seems to be doing well. So, this didn’t end poorly for Morris or Allen.

Since Allen is coaching at the NBA level, this likely won’t alter his coaching career, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NCAA get involved with Penn and Allen going forward.

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

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Nico Mannion, a five-star point guard from Arizona, announced on Friday that he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2019.

Mannion was a top 20 player in 2020 but, according to 247 Sports, he will be ranked No. 11 in 2019. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Mannion was long-rumored to be considering a move up a class because of his age. He’ll turn 18 in March of next year, meaning that he’ll arrive on campus the same age as a typical college freshman.

Mannion cut his list to ten schools in June — Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Utah — but Duke and Arizona appear to be the favorites at this point.

Mannion plays his high school ball for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix and with West Coast Elite on the Under Armour Association circuit. He played for Team USA’s youth ranks, but his mother is Italian and, in June, he was called up to the Italian men’s senior national team, scoring nine points in 29 minutes of a FIBA World Cup Qualifier.

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

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Nebraska’s frontcourt depth took a blow on Thursday as junior big man Jordy Tshimanga informed the program that he will be transferring.

“Jordy called me tonight and asked for his release,” head coach Tim Miles said in a statement that was given to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “The University of Nebraska and our program wish Jordy and his family the best.”

Tshimanga averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 boards in 13 minutes this past season, and a source close to the program told NBC Sports he wasn’t expected to play much more than that this season.

Miles’ has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the hot seat, and this certainly doesn’t make his job easier, but with the talent the Cornhuskers have on their roster, they look like an NCAA tournament team already. They bring back their top four scorers, including former five-star prospect Isaac Copeland and potential first-team all-Big Ten wing James Palmer. With or without Tshimanga, Nebraska has a shot to finish top four in the Big Ten.

North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State part of Las Vegas event

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State and Texas will play in an early season basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Invitational will include games at campus sites, then the final two rounds on Nov. 22-23 in Las Vegas. North Carolina takes on Texas in one semifinal, and Michigan State faces UCLA in the other.

UNC, UCLA and Michigan State are all top 20 teams in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

The championship is Nov. 23, and the semifinal losers also play each other that day.

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA plans to study how the expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and member schools.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will create a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess areas such as officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, and the use of integrity services. NCAA leadership has already called for federal regulation on sports betting. NCAA rules prohibit sports wagering by athletes and athletic department employees.

The Supreme Court opened the door for states to have legal wagering on sporting events when it struck down a federal ban in May. Schools in some states such as West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are already exploring the possibility of collecting integrity fees in anticipation of legal sports books opening in their states.

“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Governors has already suspended the association’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that only affected Nevada.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”