Sports

NCAA suspends Rick Pitino five games for sex scandal

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino speaks during an NCAA college basketball news conference Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. The NCAA suspended Pitino on Thursday for five ACC games following sex scandal investigation. A former men's basketball staffer is alleged to have hired strippers to entertain players and recruits. (Pat McDonogh/The Courier-Journal via AP)

Pat McDonogh/The Courier-Journal via AP

The NCAA ruled that Rick Pitino should have known about the illicit activities of a former Louisville employee.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The NCAA has suspended Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino for five Atlantic Coast Conference games following its sex scandal investigation.

The governing body also Thursday placed the basketball program on four years’ probation, vacated wins in which ineligible players participated, and handed down a 10-year show-cause order for former basketball operations director Andre McGee.

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The NCAA has not vacated the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship, saying the school must determine which games ineligible players participated in. Players deemed ineligible would be those involved in the sex parties.

Louisville interim president Greg Postel issued a statement saying the school believes the additional ‘‘severe’’ penalties are excessive and plans to appeal. The university, which has self-imposed several sanctions, has 45 days to respond.

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‘‘The entire UofL community is saddened by what took place,” said Postel. “It never should have happened, and that is why the school acted to severely penalize itself in 2016. Today, however, the NCAA Division 1 Committee on Infractions went beyond what we consider to be fair and reasonable.

‘‘We intend to appeal all aspects of the penalties.’’

Pitino, who has repeatedly denied any knowledge of McGee’s actions, also fired back at the NCAA after reviewing the report.

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‘‘Not only was this unjust and over the top in its severity,’’ said Pitino, who coached the Celtics from 1997-2001, ‘‘but I've lost a lot of faith in the NCAA.

‘‘We are devastated by the news, all of us are. But moving forward we believe we will win the appeal because it’s right and it’s just, and what went on was unjust and inconceivable.’’

The long-awaited NCAA announcement reiterated its original view that Pitino should have known about McGee’s activities with former escort Katina Powell, who alleged in a 2015 book that McGee had hired her and other escorts to strip for and have sex with Louisville recruits and players.

The NCAA’s release included statements by the panel on its decision, which said: ‘‘The types of activities that occurred in this case were repugnant and threaten the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model, regardless.’’

The NCAA also said, ‘‘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.’’

Penalties prescribed by the panel also include 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 championships.

The NCAA also accepted the university’s self-imposed 2015-16 postseason ban.

Powell alleged that McGee paid her $10,000 for 22 shows at the Cardinals’ dormitory from 2010-14, a period that includes their NCAA title run.

The panel also had harsh comments about McGee’s actions in its decision.

‘‘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.’’

Louisville officials met with the governing body in April and expected to hear about its penalties from the Committee on Infractions. Louisville was alleged to have committed four violations, with Pitino charged with failing to monitor former McGee. The Hall of Fame coach and the school had denied that allegation.

‘‘This ruling is also unfair to Coach Pitino,’’ Postel said, ‘‘who we believe could not have known about the illicit activities.’’

The NCAA disagreed.

‘‘For approximately four years, the head coach failed in his responsibility to monitor the activities of the former operations director, who reported to him,’’ the report stated. ‘‘He 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 dormitory.

‘‘Further, he delegated responsibility for monitoring the former operations director to his assistant coaches, who later stated they were unaware it was their job.’’

McGee did not cooperate with the NCAA investigation, something Postel emphasized in his statement.

‘‘The person responsible for these activities, Andre McGee, long ago left the university, and he has yet to cooperate with investigating officials,” said Postel. “We are disappointed that he was not cooperative. In contrast, UofL did cooperate.”

Pitino has said he had no knowledge of the activities described in Powell’s book, ‘‘Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.’’ Besides reiterating its allegation that Pitino failed to monitor McGee’s conduct, the NCAA said it in its earlier response to the school that Pitino didn’t seem to want to know what his assistant was doing.

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