LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In a stunning development, the University of Louisville will announce Friday that it is self-imposing a postseason ban for the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament as a result of alleged rules violations committed by a former staffer and players.
The university reached that conclusion this week amid an ongoing NCAA investigation. That investigation began in October after Louisville madam Katina Powell wrote a tell-all book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” alleging that former U of L staffer Andre McGee paid for strippers to dance for and have sex with Louisville recruits and players over a period of four years. Some of the alleged transactions and interactions took place in the players’ dormitory.
The announcement of self-imposed sanctions came with little warning or indication that the university was considering taking action this year. A formal Notice of Allegations from the NCAA was not expected before the end of the 2015-16 season. If Louisville had wanted to get through this season and take its chances with the NCAA in 2016-17, it could have.
Instead, the school opted to act quickly and forcefully.
The ban takes out an 18-4 Louisville team that is ranked 19th in the latest AP poll and is in second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 7-2 league record. After beating second-ranked North Carolina on Monday, some thought the Cardinals could be a Final Four contender.
Now, Louisville will not get that chance. It also will not participate in the ACC tournament.
The news is a bitter blow to a pair of graduate transfers who came to Louisville last summer in hopes of making their first NCAA tourney appearance. Damion Lee, a transfer from Drexel, and Trey Lewis, a transfer from Cleveland State, have been the team’s top two scorers. Their college careers now will end without playing in college basketball’s signature event, victims of a scandal they had nothing to do with.
Lee and Lewis are the only seniors on the Louisville roster.
The ban also sullies the career résumé of two-time national championship coach Rick Pitino, who has adamantly maintained from the day the book was published that he knew nothing of the alleged escort interactions. Pitino becomes the third active Hall of Fame coach to endure a postseason ban in the last year – Jim Boeheim and Syracuse sat out the 2015 ACC and NCAA tourneys, and Larry Brown and SMU will miss the postseason this March.
The self-imposed ban will end Louisville’s streak of nine straight NCAA tournament appearances, the sixth-longest active streak in the country.
The NCAA declined comment Friday, citing its longstanding policy of not commenting on current, pending or potential investigations. NCAA investigators were expected on campus to interview Louisville coaches and administrators this month, multiple sources told Yahoo Sports, and those interviews might already have happened.
Depending on its findings and the outcome of a Committee On Infractions hearing, the NCAA has the option to apply additional penalties to Louisville.
McGee, who left Louisville to become a full-time assistant coach at Missouri-Kansas City in 2014, resigned from that job Oct. 23, three weeks after the book was published. In a resignation email to the UMKC athletic director, he said described Powell’s assertions as “false allegations.” He has not commented publicly since the book was released.
A Jefferson County Grand Jury investigation into the allegations in Powell’s book remains ongoing.