An NCAA appeals committee announced Tuesday that it has rejected the appeal of sanctions against the University of Louisville men’s basketball program and the school must vacate wins during the 2011-12 through 2014-15 seasons, including its 2013 NCAA Tournament title.
The ruling — a product of a sex scandal at U of L — marks the first time in NCAA history that a men’s basketball national championship has been banished from the record books.
“I cannot say this strongly enough. We believe the NCAA is simply wrong to have made this decision,” Louisville interim president Gregory Postel said during a press conference shortly after the ruling was announced.
The university argued in its appeal last year that the punishment prescribed for the admitted infractions was excessive.
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“The Committee on Infractions responded to the appeal by stating the penalties were appropriate due to the serious, intentional and numerous violations orchestrated by a university staff member for nearly four years. It further argued that student-athletes do not have to be culpable for the vacation penalty to be appropriate, and because the serious nature of the violations resulted in the participation of ineligible student-athletes, the vacation of records penalty was appropriate,” the statement from the NCAA said.
The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions last June found that Andre McGee, a Louisville graduate assistant who was later promoted to director of basketball operations, arranged striptease parties and sex acts for recruits and players on campus grounds from 2010 to 2014.
The scandal came to light in October 2015 when Katina Powell, a self-described “escort queen,” released a book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules,” about her arrangement with McGee that alleged she was paid $10,000 over four years to provide women to dance and have sex with Louisville players and recruits at a campus dormitory. Powell ultimately spoke with NCAA investigators. McGee did not cooperate.
In addition to the salacious nature of the allegations, they were deemed an improper benefit and thus the players who were found to have participated were ruled ineligible.
“We felt that the young men who achieved these victories and the thousands of fans who supported them deserved our best effort,” Postel said Tuesday. “The university appeal however was challenging from the beginning. The facts of this case are simply terrible, causing many to find the detail of the appeal not compelling.
“It is important to note that a precedent for such a case does not exist, and the NCAA infractions committee has wide discretion as it determines penalties. The pain this decision has created for our fans and the players who were not involved in the events in question is the most regretful result of this determination.”
Former coach Rick Pitino was found to have failed to properly monitor his program. Pitino was to have served a five-game suspension under the ruling. However, a few months later, Pitino and the Louisville program got swept up in another scandal brought out by an FBI investigation into alleged basketball corruption. Pitino and two of his assistants were alluded to but not specifically named in federal indictments against other parties, including an executive with Louisville’s shoe and apparel sponsor, Adidas. Pitino has not been charged, but he and Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich were fired in the wake of the allegations.
Ineligible players, whose identities have not been released, competed for Louisville from 2011-2012 through the 2014-15 seasons, which included the NCAA Tournament it won in 2013 and its Final Four appearance in 2012. Louisville must vacate all wins during those seasons and remove the banners marking the tournament achievements.
Louisville went 30-10 in 2011-2012, it went 35-5 in 2012-13 and won the Big East regular season and national titles, it went 31-6 in 2013-2014, reaching the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, and it went 27-9 in 2014-15, reaching the NCAA Elite Eight.
Louisville must pay back the conference revenue sharing money earned from its postseason appearances during those years. Postel estimated that to be about $600,000.
Postel said Tuesday that Louisville offered complete cooperation with the NCAA investigation in this matter and that the NCAA’s own rules encourage cooperation with the inference that penalties might be mitigated.
“The university under prior leadership never made excuses for what took place,” he said. “There was an immediate recognition of the facts, the issuance of an apology, serious self-imposed penalties, extraordinary cooperation with the investigation that followed. … Under the NCAA’s own rules, such cooperation should have been a factor in determining the severity of the punishment. Instead, it was ignored.”
North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keatts, an assistant at Louisville at the time of the scandal, could not be reached for comment.