Louisville’s Pitino awaits NCAA interview about sex scandal

  • By GARY B. GRAVES
  • Wednesday, February 10, 2016 1:04am
  • News

Coach Rick Pitino said Tuesday morning that he is still waiting to be interviewed by the NCAA about an escort’s book allegations that a former Louisville staffer hired her and other dancers for sex parties at the team’s dormitory.

Pitino has said repeatedly that he did not know about the incidents, and Tuesday took that a step further, saying that athletic director Tom Jurich does not believe he was aware of the activities.

The coach said on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” that if Jurich “thought for one second I had one percent knowledge of hearsay in this case, I would have been gone a long time ago.”

The university has announced a self-imposed one-year postseason ban for the men’s basketball team after the school’s investigation into allegations revealed violations did occur.

The coach said he has been kept in the dark about the investigation because he has not been interviewed by the NCAA. The university investigation is ongoing and it’s unclear if more self-imposed penalties are possible.

Pitino also has stated that he has no plans to step down, and Tuesday he indicated he position has not changed.

“My future is really irrelevant and unimportant, it’s the University of Louisville that I care about,” Pitino said. “I do the same thing every single year. I go away, I take my time and say, ‘Did you have fun? Do you still have great passion?’

“I have more passion today with coaching, I love teaching more than ever.”

Powell alleged in the book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen” that Andre McGee paid her $10,000 for 22 shows from 2010-14 with many taking place in the Cardinals’ Billy Minardi Hall dormitory. The allegations led to several investigations: one by the athletic department; the University of Louisville Foundation; the NCAA; and university and Louisville Metro Police in cooperation with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

She also spoke out on Tuesday.

Powell wouldn’t say how she felt about Pitino being disciplined in a radio interview, but did say that the school should be punished because it tried to damage her reputation after the book’s release in October. During an appearance on Kentucky Sports Radio, she also said she didn’t think much of Louisville’s self-imposed penalty and suggested it was the school’s way of heading off possible NCAA sanctions.

The No. 13 Cardinals (19-5, 8-3 ACC) are 1-1 since the ban but would have been a lock for the NCAA Tournament without winning the conference title.

Asked if she felt vindicated by Louisville’s action, she added, “I knew all along I was telling the truth.”

Powell was interviewed by the NCAA last fall. A Jefferson County grand jury is looking into her allegations.

A message left with the NCAA was not immediately returned.

Powell’s attorney, Larry Wilder of Jeffersonville, Indiana, said Louisville’s decision vindicates his client’s allegations and added, “a 19-5 team wouldn’t self-ban itself if any part she had mentioned was just a broken fingernail.”

Pitino said on ESPN Tuesday that he talked to McGee after being made aware of the allegations and was told only that parties took place. The coach said McGee misled him about what went on.

“He said it was just women coming over and listening to music,” Pitino said. “Then, he got a lawyer and that was the last I spoke to Andre McGee.” The coach added that since that exchange, he has sent McGee a text asking that he “just tell the truth.”

Pitino has described the decision not to play in postseason “as harsh as anything” he has experienced and criticized the NCAA for a system he said unfairly penalizes people unconnected to any infractions. He has been particularly outspoken in support of leading scorers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, graduate transfers who came to Louisville this season with hopes of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Powell said she regrets that Lee and Lewis are being punished for something they weren’t part of and even feels bad about the allegations impact on McGee’s career. She initially wouldn’t say if she feels bad for Pitino, pausing before eventually saying she did not.

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