The smoke is still clearing on what was a dark, dark day for the University of Louisville, which received its public infractions report from the NCAA
regarding the sex scandal in the men's basketball program. This morning, I doubted any of us expected the NCAA to hammer UofL like they did; while Rick Pitino escaped with only a five-game ACC suspension, the program will have to vacate games from December 2010 through July 2014. That means, barring a miracle, UofL's 2013 National Championship and 2012 Final Four will be struck from the record.
A LOT happened today, and while we absolutely suggest you scroll through the site to catch up (if only to check out some masterpieces by Drew Franklin), I spent the afternoon breaking it down into ten crazy moments.
The NCAA is going after that banner
Among the NCAA's punishments are "a vacation of basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible from December 2010 and July 2014." UofL will have 45 days to submit a written report to the NCAA outlining which games the ineligible players participated in, which is standard procedure. The NCAA's report said 15 recruits and 3 enrolled players were involved in "adult entertainment and/or prostitution." UofL special consultant Chuck Smrt confirmed that the ineligible players in question did play in the 2013 National Championship game, meaning that unless UofL wins its appeal (a very slim chance), that banner is gone.
Who were those enrolled players? We probably know because...
Katina Powell called into KSR moments after the ruling came out
Who better to ask about the incidents than the woman behind it all? Katina Powell agreed to come on the show to discuss the ruling, and confirmed that Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, and Montrezl Harrell all participated in the sex acts or strip shows. All three played in the 2013 title game. Title gone.
The testimony from the recruits is damning
Included in the 35-page infractions report from the NCAA is a detailed account of the "Late Night Activities in Minardi Hall" from the recruits and players interviewed. The more you read, the more disturbing it gets. Of the 15 recruits involved, at least seven or as many as ten were minors under the age of 18 at the time. Four of the recruits who engaged in sex acts were 17, while one was 16. Another 16-year-old recruit declined the offer of a sex act, while a third 16-year-old witnessed a striptease but was not interviewed. For those of you asking how no one went to jail for statutory rape for all of this, the age of consent in Kentucky is 16.
Seriously, the further you go in this, the worse it becomes. The fact that all of these tawdry acts are laid out in the NCAA's formal legalese actually makes it seem even dirtier than Katina's descriptions in "Breaking Cardinal Rules."
This passage alone makes the NCAA's verdict indisputable
From pages nine through ten, as highlighted by Eric Crawford:
Ugh. I feel like I need to go scrub my hands clean and watch some cartoons for a while after reading that. The overwhelming horribleness of all of this is exactly why UofL's appeal has no hope. Repeatedly today, the NCAA debunked UofL's main defense: that because the sex acts/strip shows didn't cost much ($5,400 in total), the violations aren't severe enough to take the 2013 title away. Throughout the report and in their comments during the conference call today, the NCAA made it clear that the monetary value of the acts has zero correlation to the reprehensible nature of the acts themselves
, which undermine the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model.
"These are severe violations, regardless of any dollar amounts assigned to them," the report reads. "In this instance, the panel need not ascertain an exact value of the activities. The nature of the violations themselves, without more, elevates them to Level I. The types of activities that occurred in this case were repugnant and threaten the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model, regardless of any precise dollar value assigned to them."
There is no way to argue that. Game, set, match, NCAA.
Brandon Williams refused to turn over his phone because his mom had it
There's a lengthy section of the report that deals with a "former program assistant" that took over the striptease/prostitution operations when McGee left. We know now that person is Brandon Williams, who worked at UofL from 2014-2016. The report suggests Williams was specifically involved in the July 2014 incident, in which a prospect (Antonio Blakeney) and his father had sex with Powell and her daughter. While the meet-up was still orchestrated from afar by McGee, the report alleges that Williams paid Powell beforehand outside the back door of Minardi Hall, citing "institutional records" to confirm that he went through the door around 10 p.m. that night.
Williams refused to cooperate with the investigation, telling the NCAA that he couldn't turn his phone over because it actually belonged to his mother.
"In his supplemental response, dated March 24, 2017, he asserted for the first time that he could not produce the requested phone records because the phone was controlled by his mother, who would not consent to their release."
An assistant coach blamed a bad practice on the strippers
Rick Pitino may not have been aware of what was happening with his team between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., but several members of his staff were. The report notes that "assistant coach 3" (not McGee or Brandon Williams) called out the team for playing bad in practice "because y'all had strippers in there all night."
"Prospect 4 related an incident after he enrolled when assistant coach 3 made a comment to the team that it had practiced poorly 'because y'all had strippers in there all night.' He felt that assistant coach 3 may have known of the incidents, as assistant coach 3 was 'close' to the former operations director."
Uhhh, ya think?? Wow.
The NCAA only gave Rick Pitino a 5-game suspension...and he was still outraged!
Going in to today, many of us expected the NCAA to go after Rick Pitino and not the 2013 banner. Well, it was pretty much the opposite. Pitino was only suspended for five conference games for failure to monitor, a mere slap on the wrist considering the severity of the violations against his program. Yet, Pitino was STILL outraged by the punishment, his lawyer calling the NCAA's finding "one of the weakest I've ever seen against a head coach."
In a long line of BS that's associated with Rick Pitino, that may take the cake. Five conference games is nothing after you read this report. I don't believe Rick knew about the happenings at Minardi Hall, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be responsible for them; that's how leadership works. Sixteen-year-olds were essentially pressured into sex acts and you're complaining about having to sit out five games? Shut up and take your suspension, Rick. It could have been a lot worse.
Rick Pitino reacted like a child
Pitino's outrage over his own suspension was just the first of many bizarre behaviors from him today. Pitino attempted to take the moral high ground, blasting the NCAA for an "over-the-top" punishment and warning them that they "made a very large mistake." The irony of Pitino's comments is especially rich when you consider he spent more time ranting about the NCAA than showing remorse for what happened under his watch. I understand being upset, but being so defensive in a time like this is childish, a sentiment that was hammered home by Pitino's response to a reporter's question about what he should bear responsibility for as a head coach.
"I'm not answering that question," Pitino said. When asked why, he quipped, "Because I don't want to."
If I could use that defense -- essentially, a child's -- my life would be a whole lot easier.
Throughout the UofL press conference, Pitino lectured reporters, including this exchange:
Reporter: "Have you discussed the findings that were discussed today with the players that are in town or do you plan to do it?"
Pitino: "Well it doesn't affect them in any way, but I will discuss to them what I told them all along, that every step along the way if you see something wrong, immediately step up so that it doesn't become a problem going forward, it becomes a problem in the past that you can erase. Just, if you see something that's going on -- you have to understand -- obviously this gentleman is not from here. Where are you from, by the way?"
Reporter: "Wave 3"
Pitino: "Wave 3. I guess he is from here."
To that entire exchange, I say this:
It gets crazier!
Rick Pitino suggested the NCAA gave Jimmy V cancer
The most bizarre moment of the presser came at the end when Rick Pitino made one final, desperate attempt at martyrdom by bringing up Jim Valvano, the former NC State coach that died of cancer in 1993.
"I'll finish up with this story. I once saw Jimmy Valvano, and this was way before he got sick and I recommended him for a pro job and he was coaching some tough times at NC State. I saw him later on when he was just getting sick and I said, 'Jim, how do you feel?' And he said, 'You know, the NCAA investigation broke down my immune system.' And I always thought about that and I asked Bobby if that was true, did I remember it the right way and he said yes. And believe it or not, it can tear you apart, inside and out."
So...the NCAA investigation broke down Jimmy V's immune system, leaving him more susceptible to cancer? Or the NCAA investigation was the cancer? I'm so confused. Also, I'm shocked that he left the room before bringing up 9/11.
The NCAA finally got something right
There are some words I never thought I'd type, right? Yet, after reading the NCAA's detailed account of how the University of Louisville basketball program tried to lure recruits -- including minors -- in via strip shows and sex acts, I am certain that, for once, the organization designed to govern college sports acted appropriately. Yes, they could have been harsher on Pitino, but for the most part, the infractions panel delivered a just ruling.
It all boils down to this: three players and 15 recruits received impermissible inducements and benefits arranged by an employee of the University of Louisville. Due to the despicable nature of those inducements and benefits, 108 wins and 15 NCAA Tournament wins should -- and I believe, will -- be wiped from their record.
UofL and Pitino can complain all they want, but those are the facts.