The Louisville Cardinal

Scandal erupts to national prominence, but Jurich will stand by Pitino

Andre McGee photo courtesy of UMKC Athletics

By Sam Draut–

There was a brief moment when everything seemed quiet on the front of the University of Louisville men’s basketball prostitution scandal at Billy Minardi Hall.

After a week or so of swirling rumors and leaked investigation interviews which was kicked off by Katina Powell’s release of her book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” news around the investigation had gone quietly stale over the past few days.

It was too quiet and too stale for ESPN, who tore open the investigation to a national audience on Tuesday morning.  “Outside the Lines” spent a special hour-long edition of the show interviewing Powell and going through the investigation.

ESPN reported five former University of Louisville basketball players and recruits told OTL they attended parties in Billy Minardi Hall from 2010-14 which included strippers paid for by then Director of Basketball Operations Andre McGee.

Speaking to OTL on the condition of anonymity, the former players and recruits confirmed stripping and paid sex occurred during the parties.

One of the former players told ESPN that Minardi Hall was “like a strip club.”

Along with the already condemning evidence from former players and recruits, ESPN independently confirmed the text messages Powell and McGee exchanged, which were included in the book, came from a phone number that belonged to McGee.

Powell’s daughters spoke with OTL and admitted to having sex with Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell, among other recruits and players.

OTL attempted to reach U of L for comment, but the university refrained from commenting, but did release a statement.

“To preserve the integrity of the review process, the university will withhold comment on any details until the review is concluded.”

Head Coach Rick Pitino and Athletic Director Tom Jurich declined to comment on the new development, but a Louisville spokesperson told ESPN Jurich said Pitino would not resign.

“Coach Pitino has no plans to step down and he absolutely didn’t know about the allegations,” Jurich said.

Later in the day, Pitino spoke with ESPN college basketball reporter Dana O’Neil. The Hall of Fame head coach implored McGee to come forward with the truth, whatever that truth maybe.

“I don’t know if any of this is true or not,” Pitino told ESPN’s Dana O’Neil by phone Tuesday. “There’s only one person who knows the truth, and he needs to come out and tell the truth to his teammates, to the University of Louisville, to his fans and to his coaches that have taught him to do the right thing for years and allowed him to be part of something special here. He’s the only one with any answers. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know. Everything else is absurd. I don’t care about the legal issues. If he’s done something wrong, he has to own up to it and do his penance.”

McGee did not comment to ESPN after Powell’s appearance on several shows or Pitino’s comments to O’Neil.

Piece by piece, evidence is being put into place as the investigation continues, and piece by piece, the evidence appears to be more condemning to the University of Louisville.

Named after Pitino’s brother-in-law who died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Minardi Hall has become a building synonymous with fornication and corruption.

This building’s activities that took place from 2010-14, along with McGee and Powell could mark the end to Pitino’s career at the University of Louisville.

While Pitino has been resolute on his stance that he knew nothing about the strip shows and prostitution, national and local critics have called for his resignation.

Though knowing about the shows and side dealings put on for recruits and players should fall under the umbrella of responsibility for Pitino, there is little doubt that he actually did know.

Throughout his career, Pitino has adamantly followed NCAA guidelines and is known around coaching circles as a man who does things the right way.

But, can the University of Louisville withstand another scandal with Pitino as the head coach of the men’s basketball program?

In 2009, his extra-marital affair with Karen Sypher drew poor disdain upon the university, but Pitino held onto his job after a sincere apology.

It maybe difficult for Pitino to recover from this scandal, but Jurich will do everything possible to hold onto his head coach.

After being the athletic director for nearly 20 years at the University of Louisville, Jurich has always kept a fatherly loyalty and protection for his coaches and players.

No one should expect any different from this current scandal.

Finding the absolute truth is most important and it will eventually come out.  More rumors will add fuel to the fire, but until the absolute truth is completely defined, Jurich will reserve judgment and refrain from a rash decision to rid the program of Pitino.

No matter how long it takes, Jurich will stand by Pitino and await the truth, until then, Pitino will remain the head coach of the men’s basketball team.