UofL backs Pitino, questions Powell’s credibility in lengthy response to NCAA

Updated: Feb. 7, 2017 at 11:54 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The University of Louisville on Wednesday publicly released the response it submitted to the NCAA last week following a year-long investigation into the school's powerhouse basketball program.

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The highlights include strong defense of its coach, Rick Pitino, but acknowledgment that serious violations -- Level 1 violations, in NCAA language -- occurred from 2010-2014.

The response also included repeated objections to the credibility of Katina Powell, the self-proclaimed escort queen whose tell-all memoir, "Breaking Cardinal Rules," rocked the basketball program when it was released in October 2015, just as the Cards were beginning workouts ahead of a new season.

MORE COVERAGE + UofL response to NCAA's notice of allegations + Exhibits from UofL's response + Pitino, attorney issue 43-page response

In her explosive book, Powell alleged that she worked in tandem with former UofL player and staff member Andre McGee, pocketing approximately $10,000 for providing strippers and escorts for sex parties involving UofL basketball players and recruits from 2010-2014. Among the women she allegedly took to the parties at Billy Minardi Hall, the athletic dorm named after Pitino's late brother-in-law, were her own daughters.

Below is a recap of some of what's included in the more than 200-page response:

+ UofL acknowledged that the stripper parties qualified as a Level 1 violation. Per NCAA guidelines, such "violations ... seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws, including any violation that provides or is intended to provide a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage, or a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit." Level 1 is the most severe breach of conduct.

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+ UofL acknowledged that McGee's conduct also is a Level 1 violation.

+ UofL argued it should not be penalized for a former team assistant's refusal to provide cellphone records in connection with the NCAA investigation.

+ UofL argued that the case should be classified as Level I-mitigated because the school reported the violations and has aggressively investigated them. Also in its response, the school detailed the already-imposed penalties -- including last year's postseason ban -- and argued that they should be sufficient.

+ UofL argued that the stripper parties did not give them a recruiting advantage. One recruit who said McGee paid for him to have sex said that that was the very reason he did not choose UofL.

UofL Defends Pitino

The school also spent a fair amount of time defending Pitino, the legendary coach whom UofL claims monitored McGee properly.

"No amount of reasonable oversight would have detected McGee's furtive activities," the school wrote in its response.

UofL noted that the NCAA said Pitino would have found out about the scandal had he asked the right questions, but the school argued that Pitino did ask those questions.

Pitino and his lawyer also filed their own response, defending his actions even more strongly. Together they accused the NCAA of "overreach," and said Pitino never should have been charged. One assistant adamantly denies Pitino would have allowed it to go on.

UofL also argued that a "vacation of records," essentially giving up the 2013 championship, is not appropriate.

School Disputes Accuser's Credibility

UofL also questioned Powell's credibility, claiming she was out to get the university, and specifically Pitino.

The school also called into question the validity of her journals, and complained that NCAA investigators never fully reviewed them.

"Her memory was inexact," the UofL report said, citing instances in which Powell would claim to have seen certain individuals in certain places who couldn't have been in those places, then backing off those claims after being challenged.

"She has written a book and has a motive to sell books," the report continued. "The more sensational the information in the book, the more likely more books would be sold."

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