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Louisville basketball program hit with four allegations of NCAA violations committed during Pitino regime

By Russ Brown
Kentucky Today

The day the University of Louisville dreaded, while hoping it never arrived, came to fruition with the announcement Monday afternoon that the school has received a Notice of Allegations (NOA) from the NCAA for alleged infractions under the Rick Pitino regime during the college basketball pay-for-play scandal.

The NCAA alleges four violations — the most serious, a Level I violation — and three Level II violations. The violations cover the 2016-17 season, Pitino’s last season before being fired in Oct. 2017, and the 2017-18 program that was headed by interim coach David Padgett. Neither Padgett or any member of his staff is accused of any wrongdoing.

Level I and II violations, the most severe of the four levels, are resolved by the Committee on Infractions (COI), with any appeals decided by the Infractions Appeals Committee. After receiving an NOA, schools have 90 days to respond to the COI, although that time period can be extended. Once the response is sent, the NCAA has 60 days to reply.

A hearing follows, and after a ruling is reached, a school can appeal any penalties they receive.

Louisville has received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA for alleged infractions under the Rick Pitino regime. (AP photo by Bob Leverone via Kentucky Today)

Level 1 violations can include penalties such as postseason bans, show-cause orders against coaches and scholarship reductions as the most serious ones the NCAA considers under normal circumstances.

However, because Louisville is still on probation from the 2015 strippers/sex party scandal and would be considered a repeat offender, the NCAA has the option of levying enhanced sanctions that could include the death penalty for the Cardinals’ basketball program.

As a result of those earlier sanctions, UofL was forced to vacate its 2013 national championship and 123 victories that included the 2012 Final Four campaign, surrender scholarships and return hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue to the NCAA. UofL also self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2015-16 season.

Here is what the NCAA alleges in the current case:

Level I–That an improper recruiting offer, and subsequent extra benefits to the family of an enrolled student athlete; and a recruiting inducement to a prospective student-athlete’s non-scholastic coach/trainer, were provided by certain individuals, purportedly identified and defined by the NCAA as “representatives of the university’s athletics interests”, none of whom had traditional connections to the University beyond their affiliation with Adidas or professional athlete management entities, as well as by a former assistant coach and a former associate head coach.

Level II–Recruiting violations by the same two former men’s basketball coaching staff members in providing impermissible transportation and having impermissible contact in the context of recruitment-related activities.

Level II–The institution failed to adequately monitor the recruitment of an incoming, high-profile student-athlete.

Level II–That the former head men’s basketball coach (Pitino) did not satisfy his head coach responsibility when he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

UofL coach Chris Mack, who was hired at the end of the 2017-18 season, issued this statement:

Current Louisville head coach coach Chris Mack was hired at the end of the 2017-18 season. (UofL photo)

“Since arriving at Louisville, I have seen up close the incredible changes that have taken place under the leadership of President (Neeli) Bendapudi and Director of Athletics Vince Tyra in our university and in our athletics department. The shared values and commitment to integrity is evident in their actions and has always been demanded in the programs that my staff and I have led.

“While I understand the allegations brought today, I am confident that the University will do what is right, which includes fighting back on those charges that we simply do not agree with, and for which the facts do not substantiate. The future is bright for Cardinal Basketball. Our focus will continue to be on our tremendous student-athletes.”

The issuance of the NOA comes after a nearly two-year long investigation by the NCAA enforcement staff into several college men’s basketball programs, all stemming from a Department of Justice investigation involving the recruitment of Brian Bowen.

UofL was allegedly involved in a scheme by Adidas executives and aspiring agent Christian Dawkins to pay Bowen, a top recruit, to attend the school and later sign with the shoe company. In Oct. 2018, Dawkins and two Adidas officials were convicted in federal court in New York City in connection with the plan to pay basketball recruits to commit to schools sponsored by Adidas, among them Louisville.

Besides Pitino, longtime UofL athletics director Tom Jurich and assistant coaches Jordan Fair and Kenny Johnson were also fired. Pitino was recently hired as the head coach at Iona after spending more than a year coaching the Greek National Team. Pitino wasn’t charged in the case and has repeatedly maintained that he was unaware of the scheme.

Bowen enrolled at UofL, but never played. He later transferred to South Carolina, but didn’t play there either. He played professionally in Australia for one season and is currently on the roster of the NBA Indiana Pacers.

Louisville is the seventh school to receive an NOA stemming from the FBI investigation. The others are Kansas, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State, Southern California, Texas Christian and South Carolina. The NCAA is also investigating Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Creighton and LSU.

In a joint letter from UofL President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi and Vice President/Director of Athletics Vince Tyra that was emailed to media and Cardinal fans, Bendapudi and Tyra wrote:

“It is important to remember that these are allegations—not facts—and the University will diligently prepare a full and comprehensive response and, absent an unforeseen development, submit it within the prescribed ninety-day period.

Vince Tyra

“For those allegations that are proven to be factual, the University will take responsibility, as accountability is one of our core Cardinal Principles. However, we will not hesitate to push back where the evidence does not support the NCAA’s interpretations or allegations of charges.

“U of L has a right and a responsibility to stand up for itself when faced with unfair or unfounded charges and will always act in the best interests of the institution. Our legal team has begun the process of reviewing the Notice and will prepare a thorough response on behalf of the University.

“Over the last two-and-a-half years, we are proud of how the University of Louisville has worked hard to transform itself into a model of compliance and ethical conduct and has not shied away from difficult decisions, going well-beyond reforms at any other involved institution.”

Bendepudi and Tyra listed these steps, among others, that UofL has taken since the alleged infractions:

–The University changed its leadership on campus, in athletics and in the men’s basketball program, as part of a series of personnel, systematic and cultural changes.

–Athletics Compliance now reports outside of athletics directly to the Vice President for Risk Management, Audit and Compliance.

–All counsel for Athletics now reports directly through the office of the University’s General Counsel.

–The University completely revised the Head Coach contract language regarding NCAA compliance expectations, particularly as it relates to Head Coach responsibility.

–The Department of Athletics enhanced rules education and compliance monitoring for all staff.
-Compliance staff provided in-person rules education to the University Board of Trustees and to the ULAA Board.

Russ Brown covers University of Louisville sports for Kentucky Today.

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