NCAA disciplines Louisville, Pitino in escorts case
The University of Louisville will receive four years probation and Coach Rick Pitino faces a suspension regarding a sex scandal that engulfed the men's basketball program.
The NCAA ruled a former Louisville director of basketball operations acted unethically when he committed serious violations by arranging striptease dances and sex acts for prospects, student-athletes and others, and did not cooperate with the investigation, according to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel.
In addition, the NCAA says Pitino violated NCAA head coach responsibility rules when he did not monitor the activities of his former operations director.
Penalties prescribed by the panel include four years of probation for the university; a suspension from the first five Atlantic Coast Conference games of the 2017-18 season for the head coach; a 10-year show-cause order for the former operations director; a one-year show-cause order for a former program assistant; a vacation of basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible from December 2010 and July 2014; men's basketball scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions; a fine of $5,000, plus the university must return money received through conference revenue sharing for its appearances in the 2012 to 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championships.
The panel also accepted the university's self-imposed 2015-16 postseason ban.
The former operations director was integral to on-campus recruiting and regularly interacted with visiting prospects, according to the NCAA. The head coach hired him and placed him in Minardi Hall, a dorm where the basketball team lived, to make sure it was run properly and watch for any potential NCAA violations. By his own admission, the head coach and his assistants did not interact with prospects from 10 p.m. until the next morning.
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.
"Without dispute, NCAA rules do not allow institutional staff members to arrange for stripteases and sex acts for prospects, enrolled student-athletes and/or those who accompany them to campus," said the panel in its decision.
The head coach failed to monitor the former operations director when he created the residential environment in which the violations occurred and trusted the former operations director to follow the rules, and delegated monitoring of the former operations director to his assistant coaches without appropriate oversight. The head coach noted his assistant coaches were responsible for monitoring the former operations director. When asked during the investigation, the assistant coaches were unaware of this responsibility. The panel noted that a head coach does not meet his monitoring responsibility by simply trusting an individual to know NCAA rules and to do the right thing.
The former operations director violated multiple NCAA rules when he arranged the activities, including the violation of ethical conduct rules. The panel noted those rules require all staff members to act with honor and dignity, but he instead created an environment that has no place on a college campus.
"NCAA members agree that schools must provide a safe, healthy and positive environment for their student-athletes, not only academically, but in all facets of their lives," said the panel. "The former operations director, the individual entrusted to keep order at Minardi Hall, created an environment that has no place on a college campus and was directly at odds with college athletics and higher education."
The former operations director also violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he did not cooperate and refused to consent to interviews or provide requested records to the NCAA enforcement staff during the investigation.
A former program assistant also failed to fully cooperate in the investigation when he refused to provide requested phone records to the enforcement staff. The records in question were relevant to the investigation and could have helped determine if the former assistant was involved in an incident after the former operations director took a new job at a different school.
Because the violations occurred both before and after the new infractions process, the panel compared the previous penalty structure to the current structure to determine which is more lenient, as outlined in the rule change. After reviewing, the panel determined the previous structure was more lenient and prescribed the following measures:
• 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).
Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from NCAA membership and members of the public.
In a news conference after the NCAA report was released, Pitino said he has lost a "lot of faith" in the NCAA. He also called the penalties "unjust."