NCAA rejects UofL’s denials in pay-for-play basketball scandal

NCAA rejects UofL’s denials in pay-for-play basketball scandal
Rick Pitino was fired following the FBI investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball in 2017.
Rick Pitino was fired following the FBI investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball in 2017. (Source: John P. Wise)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The University of Louisville on Monday released a redacted version of the NCAA’s recent response to the school’s response to the governing body’s notice of allegations in the 2017 pay-for-play scandal that rocked college basketball.

Dated Dec. 1, the 70-page document essentially rejects UofL’s argument that its apparel partner, Adidas, should be to blame for cash payments allegedly paid to prized recruit Brian Bowen, whom, because of the scandal, never played a game for the Cardinals.

In its September response to the NCAA, UofL essentially claimed victim status, opining that Adidas executives were behind the corruption also reported at powerhouse programs like Arizona and Kansas and several other Power 5 schools.

But the NCAA Enforcement Staff wrote in its response that Adidas acted on behalf of the university, particularly its “athletics interests.” In 2017, the school and Adidas agreed on a $160 million apparel deal, then one of the most lucrative in all of college sports. The partnership isn’t set to expire until 2028.

In its original notice of allegations in May, the NCAA accused UofL of one Level I infraction, the most serious, and three Level II infractions.

The Level I infraction is for the cash payments allegedly paid to at least one recruit. Such infractions can carry a postseason ban and/or scholarship reductions, sanctions levied this year against Oklahoma State related to this scandal.

Complicating matters for Louisville is the fact that it already was in the middle of another scandal when federal prosecutors announced their investigation into the pay-for-play scheme that led to the dismissals of legendary coach Rick Pitino and his boss, UofL athletic director Tom Jurich.

Self-proclaimed escort queen Katina Powell published a 2015 memoir detailing sex parties involving UofL basketball players and recruits. That scandal led the NCAA to vacate more than 100 UofL victories, including the Cards’ 2013 national championship.

This most recent response by the NCAA does not end the matter, but it is one step closer to resolution, at least for Louisville. The NCAA Infractions Committee could hear the case, or it could go before the NCAA’s newly-established Independent Accountability Resolution Process. The IARP route would mean all decisions are final and there are no appeals.

Pitino is now the head coach at Iona, and Bowen is on the Indiana Pacers’ roster heading into the 2020-21 season.

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