U. of Louisville imposes postseason ban; men’s basketball team will miss ACC, NCAA tournaments
(CNN) — Graduate transfers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis headed to Louisville in hopes of getting to take part in March Madness for the first time.
The two headed to practice Friday knowing they weren’t going to get that chance, because of the actions of others.
The university announced it was placing a self-imposed postseason ban on the men’s basketball team, saying the program broke an unspecified NCAA rule.
“Based upon the available information gathered by the NCAA enforcement staff and the University of Louisville, I determined that it was reasonable to conclude that violations had occurred in the men’s basketball program in the past,” school President James Ramsey said.
The team, ranked 19th in the country, will miss the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
Pitino said when he told team about the decision the players got up and hugged Lee and Lewis, who were crying.
The coach said using the word painful to describe the meeting was an understatement.
“This is a decision that’s as harsh as anything I have seen. But I am a soldier in this army and I will go along,” Pitino told reporters. Later he said that he backed Ramsey’s decision.
Allegations that a former assistant coach, Andre McGee, paid for sex and stripper parties on the Louisville campus for basketball players and recruits were broadcast by ESPN in October. Scott Cox, an attorney for McGee, said at the time that his client denied the allegations.
None of the Louisville officials at Friday’s news conference spoke about the nature of the NCAA violation. Consultant Chuck Smrt, who worked for the NCAA for 17 years, said the investigation was ongoing and the university was bound by bylaws from speaking about the specifics of the case.
Neither Pitino nor Director of Athletics Tom Jurich knew about the details of the investigation and Pitino said he was shocked by the decision on a postseason ban.
The coach said he had no knowledge about any wrongdoing.
According to ESPN’s investigative unit, five former University of Louisville basketball players and recruits said McGee paid for strippers to attend nearly two dozen parties at the dorm from 2010-2014. Each of the players and recruits attended different parties.
At those parties, ESPN reported, there were dancers who stripped naked. Of the five players interviewed by ESPN, three said they attended parties as recruits and again when they were players at Louisville. The ESPN report says one of the former players said he had sex with one of the strippers and that McGee paid her for it.
The allegations first were made public in a book published in October by a self-described escort named Katina Powell and Dick Cady called “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.”
Louisville, one of the winningest programs in NCAA history, has nine games remaining in the season.
“Unfortunately we’re going to have to go through this, and this team that’s totally innocent will have to go through it, but I’ll get ’em through it,” Pitino said.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford called Louisville’s action “proactive and significant.”
“President Ramsey, Tom Jurich and the Louisville leadership have been and continue to be cooperative throughout the process, and we fully support their decision,” he said.
CNN’s Jason Hanna and Jill Martin contributed to this report.
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