Cardinals coach Pitino 'heartbroken' over accusations made about basketball program

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - University of Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich confirmed on Friday that the university is investigating claims a staffer got escorts for basketball recruits.

The allegations stemmed from reports that a new book, scheduled to be released as early as Saturday, provides details about a Louisville basketball staffer paid an escort service to have sex with players and recruits from 2010-2014. The book identifies the staffer as former Louisville basketball player Andre McGee, who played for the Cardinals from 2005-2009.

The book titled "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen" is being published by IBJ Book Publishing of Indianapolis. The book is based on hundreds of journal entries and thousands of text messages kept by Louisville stripper and escort Katina Powell, the head of the escort service.

The university issued a statement early Friday afternoon, and then scheduled a 5:45 p.m. news conference. Reporters peppered Jurich and Cardinals Coach Rick Pitino about what they knew of the investigations. Both Jurich and Pitino expressed disappointment and heartache over the allegations, and expressed optimism in the integrity of the program.

"My heart is really broken," Pitino said. He said he was I'm hear broken that something like this "could happen on my watch."

The coach said he initially tried to conduct his own investigation, but he was "shut down by the compliance department."

Before he was shut down, Pitino said he approached Andre about the accusations. He said "Andre denied the allegations. He never admitted it."

Pitino -- and Jurich -- said they had questions about how "anyone could miss this." Both men noted that there are so many people around the players that it seems difficult to believe that this would have never leaked out until now. Still, they said they want the truth. Pitino said he does not condone cheating of any kind. Jurich said this ultimately falls on him.

Shortly after the accusations surfaced, Pitino said the NCAA was called in.

"I was told to stay out of it ... that was the extent of it," Pitino said.

Jurich was out of town with the football team, but took questions from the phone.

He told reporters that news of the allegations "just broke" and they have "very little information about it."

"We're still trying to uncover the facts," Jurich said. "We want to get to the bottom of this just like anyone else."

When asked whether he knew enough about this to say whether there was any validity to the claims, Jurich said: "I do not know enough that I can tell you."

But said, "If we did any wrong, we will ante up."

The NCAA, which is based in Indianapolis, has been told of the internal investigation. Louisville has retained Chuck Smrt, of The Compliance Group, a Kansas-based firm, to help with an internal investigation.

Jurich said it is typical for them to pull Smrt in on these types of issues. He said the university is cooperating fully with the investigation, and several people have already been interviewed.

"We're an open book. Whatever they want, they can have," he said.

News about the book surfaced across the country, and set social media on fire.

Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated picked up the story shortly after the Indianapolis Business Journal announced that its publishing division was set to release the book. Sports Illustrated said the NCAA is "reaching out to multiple recruits who took visits to Louisville in the past few years to ask them about their experiences with women during those visits."

The Indianapolis Business Journal reported that Powell was hired "repeatedly" by McGee to provide strippers and prostitutes. The book, which apparently names names, says they were made available during the "campus visits of highly sought high school basketball players—and in some cases their fathers—as well as then-current Louisville players."

The Indianapolis publishing company says the book contains several photos of Powell and other dancers with McGee and various high school and Louisville players. The Cardinals went to the Final Four in 2012 and won the national championship in 2013.

Powell told the Indianapolis Business Journal that "part of the reason she is doing the book is to make money." The publishing company says she will receive 10 percent of the book’s gross (not net) sales, which "seemed like a fair" arrangement. Hard copies of the book will be $17.95. An electronic version of the book will be sold for $9.95.

Pitino insinuated that this all boiled down to money.

"When you write a book -- and I've written five of them -- you don't do it for the passion of the book, you do it for money," he said. "I'm not saying what's going on right now, what's not going on. I know about as much as you do in most regards."

Pitino said McGee was the person tasked with making sure "nobody got into trouble."

"According to this book, if that's true, that wasn't the case," he said.

McGee is now a men's basketball assistant coach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The school announced Friday night that he has been placed on leave.

In a statement, the school said it was aware of the allegations, and had already started its own review.

McGee's attorney denied the allegations in the book Friday night, saying his client only earned a small stipend while a graduate assistant at Louisville.

"To suggest that he could pay multiple prostitutes to come to Minardi Hall and have sexual relations with athletes is ludicrous," Scott Cox, McGee's attorney, said. "He could have never afforded to do anything like that, nor would he."

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