October 2, 2015

Reaction: Doubt creeps in for Louisville basketball amidst allegations

Andre McGee photo courtesy of UMKC Athletics

By Sam Draut–

The most worrisome moment for Louisville basketball fans while Head Coach Rick Pitino addressed the allegations of former director of basketball operations Andre McGee and the prostitution scandal wasn’t when Pitino made comments about being heartbroken and sickened.

The most unearthing moment was when Pitino couldn’t definitively say what was true and what wasn’t.

Pitino may have been bound by legal ramifications while speaking, but his lack of knowledge of what may have transpired was still unsettling.

“Not one person knew anything,” Pitino said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

When given the opportunity to reassure Louisville fans that the basketball program wouldn’t be in jeopardy, that the Final Four and National Championship wouldn’t be forfeited, that looming sanctions wouldn’t come, Pitino couldn’t do so.

He couldn’t do so because he doesn’t know. Whether the murky waters of the allegations are a good or bad sign, the Louisville basketball program is forced to sit and wait.

The Louisville Athletic Department has done everything right to this point in handling this situation.

The University of Louisville released a statement saying the University first learned of the allegations when the Indianapolis Business Journal contacted the University’s sports information department seeking comment in late August.

On its own initiative, the University of Louisville notified the NCAA Enforcement Staff regarding this matter and has been in regular communication with the NCAA.

Members of the University met with IBJ Book Publishing in late September to discuss the book. Athletic Director Tom Jurich said Chuck Smrt has been working for U of L since the end of August.  

“We are still trying to uncover the facts,” Jurich said. “We want to get to the bottom of it as much as anybody.”

Smrt worked for the NCAA Enforcement Staff for more than 17 years and was responsible for the overall coordination of the major infractions process. If there is one person Jurich needed to hire to battle these allegations, it is Smrt.

The strangest part stemming from the allegations is the lack of awareness from any other members of the basketball program.

Pitino said he had spoken with other assistant coaches and players, all who knew nothing about the stunning allegations.

The book titled “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen” provides a narrative inside the life of prostitute Katina Powell. The book supposedly contains evidence of handwritten pages with bookings for McGee and hundreds of exchanged text messages.

McGee would arrange and pay for prostitutes to meet recruits and players. According to allegations, this went on over a four-year span until McGee took an assistant coaching position at University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“Coach Pitino wouldn’t condone this,” Jurich said. “This is a program I’m extremely proud of, I’m extremely loyal to. If we did any wrong, we are going to ante up.”

Time will tell whether the allegations can hold firm while the book is set it release shortly. With no timetable set for the completion of the investigation, Louisville basketball will have to wait.

Without the ability to determine what is true and what isn’t just yet, doubt and intrigue will mar the coming weeks.

No reassurance can be given now, but up until this point, the University of Louisville has done everything right in handling the allegations and investigations.

Jurich and Pitino may not know what will come tomorrow, but the Louisville basketball program waits as prepared as it can be for the coming storm.

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