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).