Saying he was "disappointed, surprised and shocked" at allegations of a basketball staffer paying escorts to have sex with players and recruits, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich confirmed that the school is investigating the explosive claims made in a book expected to be published Saturday.
The book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen," is being published by IBJ Book Publishing of Indianapolis. The book is written by Louisville resident Katina Powell – a self-described madam who allegedly provided girls to the Louisville team – and Indianapolis-based journalist Dick Cady. Powell alleges that former graduate assistant and director of operations Andre McGee paid her thousands of dollars over a four-year period to provide women to dance for and have sex with Cardinals basketball players – often in the players' on-campus dorm.
Jurich and Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino held a news conference Friday evening to address the allegations, and to announce that the school has hired an outside investigator to look into the claims.
"The first response right off the bat was to get ahold of the NCAA and hire [former NCAA investigator] Chuck Smrt," Jurich said. "We've been working on this since the end of August and trying to do all the due diligence we can with the limited information we have."
Said Pitino: "To say I'm disheartened and disappointed would probably be the biggest understatement I've made since I've been a coach. I've had about 12 different assistants take part in this program in the last four years, as well as graduate assistants, different video guys. When this first broke a month ago, I questioned everybody to see if anyone had even a little knowledge, or hearsay, or had seen anybody. Everybody, to the person, 15 people, said they had no knowledge."
Pitino added that he had one conversation with McGee before being "shut down" from further communication by Louisville's compliance department. When asked if McGee denied the allegations, Pitino said, "Yes."
An advance copy of the nine-chapter book was obtained Friday afternoon by Yahoo Sports.
In it, Powell identifies McGee as the point man who paid her for her staff's services. A former player for the Cardinals, McGee was a graduate assistant from 2010-12 and director of basketball operations from 2012-14. He spent last year as an assistant coach at Missouri-Kansas City, working under former Pitino assistant Kareem Richardson. McGee was placed on administrative leave by the school on Friday.
The book alleges that Powell brought girls into Billy Minardi Hall – the basketball dormitory that is named after Pitino's late brother-in-law, who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center – through a side door to entertain players and recruits. Powell writes that her dancers – which included her daughters – also entertained Louisville players at other locations off-campus. After the women danced for the players for an agreed-upon sum, Powell alleges that she would negotiate a second payment for them to have sex with the athletes.
The book alleges: "At the peak of the dormitory and off-campus entertainment more than $10,000 cash changed hands to Katina for supplying the women. This does not include the hundreds of one dollar bills thrown at the dancers at each party by McGee, the recruits and players. Nor does it include the money paid to the women who had sex with the recruits afterward. So frequent were the escapades that Katina would later say, especially after the Cardinals won the 2012-2013 NCAA championship: 'I felt like I was part of the recruitment team. A lot of them players went to Louisville because of me.' "
The actions described in the book would appear to be both illegal and in violation of school and NCAA rules. If, as Powell alleges, players who were members of Louisville's championship team received impermissible benefits that were provided by a staff member, the Cardinals '13 title would seemingly be in jeopardy.
Pitino was asked about that possibility Friday and said, "I'm not concerned about that. I don't think any of those players were involved on that basketball team. To my knowledge, anyway."
The book cites Powell's diaries and journals as sources for much of the information. The book contains a handwritten page from one journal listing 19 parties for U of L basketball, and/or former U of L star Terrence Williams.
In a release from IBJ, publisher Patricia Keiffner says Powell "has hundreds of text exchanges with [McGee] to set up her services as well as pictures of her girls with players and recruits."
The book does not make any allegations that Pitino knew of McGee's activities or had knowledge of the women being provided to the players.
"We're going to do all our due diligence," Jurich said. "If we did anything wrong, we're going to own up. …Coach Pitino wouldn't condone this, either. I think Coach Pitino has a terrific track record."
Pitino said responsibility for the program rests with him.
"I'm in charge of this," he said. "When someone gives you their son, you're their parent for the time they're here. I'd venture not one player came here because of those women."
Jurich said that the logs for visitors entering and exiting Minardi Hall have been turned in to the NCAA. He said the investigation's timetable is unknown, but added that his department is "an open book. Whatever they want, they can have."
"You're caught off guard," Jurich said. "You certainly don't expect things like this because I would think you would hear things like this around campus. I have my ear to the ground. My coach has been criticized many, many times for being a micromanager of his kids. I would think some of this would have surfaced."
Keiffner said Powell came to her to pitch the book because she was reticent about seeking out a publisher in Louisville. So she found IBJ through an Internet search of Indianapolis-area publishers.
"And I answered the phone," Keiffner said.
"This story needs to be told," Keiffner said in the IBJ release, which goes on to say, "Powell does not present a sympathetic character. Her life is full of contradictions. She has no remorse for her life or the choices she has made. Her story is true, and 'Breaking Cardinal Rules' goes into firsthand and graphic detail."
Yahoo Sports' attempts to contact Powell were unsuccessful Friday.
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