By Sam Draut–
The Louisville men’s basketball team won’t be playing in the NCAA tournament this season.
U of L president James Ramsey, athletic director Tom Jurich and head coach Rick Pitino announced on Friday the men’s basketball program has decided upon a self-imposed postseason ban because of recent allegations of paid prostitution at on-campus dorm Billy Minardi Hall.
Ramsey and university-hired investigator Chuck Smrt uncovered new evidence in the past week that led them to the decision. Ramsey spoke with Jurich yesterday, and concluded upon a postseason ban. The final decision on the self-imposed postseason ban was made by Ramsey, and Louisville will not play in the 2016 ACC and NCAA tournaments.
The initial allegations and investigation began with Katina Powell’s book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” which claimed former director of operations Andre McGee paid prostitutes to have sex with recruits and players over a four-year span. The university first learned of the allegations in late August when the Indianapolis Business Journal contacted U of L’s sports information department seeking comment. On its own initiative, the University of Louisville notified the NCAA Enforcement Staff and hired Smrt to lead its own investigation.
Throughout the investigation, which is ongoing, Jurich and Pitino have been kept in the dark. Pitino said coaches are supposed to be completely oblivious during the investigation. Neither Jurich nor Pitino are privy to specifics within the investigation. Former players, recruits and coaches were interviewed by the NCAA regarding Powell’s claims.
“We found out yesterday that we had a problem,” Jurich said.
Smrt, a former NCAA compliance investigator said the investigation found U of L in violation, so the self-imposed ban is a significant step toward showing the NCAA the university is accountable for its mistakes. Additional details from the NCAA and U of L investigation will not be made available.
“There is an expectation that when a violations occurs the institution is supposed to take action,” Smrt said.
Pitino met with players a few hours ago and told them of the decision. Fifth-year transfers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis cried after hearing the news. The two transferred to Louisville with hopes of playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time in their careers. The graduate transfers are the leading scorers for the Cardinals this season and provided an instant impact for an inexperienced roster.
“Damion and Trey have nothing to look forward to,” Pitino said. “I call for our fans to come out in full force to honor Damion and Trey. It is all we have left to look forward to.”
After its biggest win of the season on Monday over second-ranked North Carolina, Louisville is in second place in ACC and 18-4 overall. Pitino said speaking to the team about the postseason ban was “difficult.”
Louisville has nine games remaining in the season, but Pitino brushed off any thought of team giving up without hope of playing in the ACC or NCAA tournament. The Cardinals hold a 7-2 record in ACC play.
“We will play the last nine games of the season as if they’re the last nine we will ever play,” Pitino said.
In the latest Bracketology by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, Louisville was predicted as a four-seed and one of eight ACC teams in the NCAA tournament.
“Louisville’s decision to self-impose sanctions by removing themselves from any men’s basketball postseason opportunities this season is both proactive and significant,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a written statement. “President Ramsey, Tom Jurich and the Louisville leadership have been and continue to be cooperative throughout the process, and we fully support their decision.”
This story will be updated.