The University of Louisville is investigating explosive allegations in a new book that claims a basketball staff member paid escorts to dance for and have sex with players and recruits, Yahoo Sports has learned.
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 – the self-described madam who allegedly provided women to the University of Louisville team – and Indianapolis-based journalist Dick Cady.
An advance copy of the book was obtained Friday afternoon by Yahoo Sports.
"The University of Louisville first learned of these allegations when the Indianapolis Business Journal contacted the University’s sports information department seeking comment in late August," the school said in a released statement. "... The University, on its own initiative, notified the NCAA Enforcement Staff regarding this matter and has been in regular communication with them."
Head basketball coach Rick Pitino said in a press conference Friday that the allegations made him "sick to my stomach."
"To say I’m disheartened and disappointed would be probably the biggest understatement I’ve made since I’ve been a coach," added Pitino, who denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.
In the book’s final chapter, it quotes a statement it says it received from the university in response to a request for comment on the allegation: "The University of Louisville has retained an outside expert to investigate allegations evidently contained in a book that IBJ Book Publishing, LLC has been asked to publish. The outside expert is aggressively reviewing this situation in full cooperation with relevant authorities, including the NCAA. The university notes that the publisher has provided sparse detail to date and repeats its request for additional detail in order to further the thoroughness of the investigation. If the investigation uncovers any misconduct by University employees, the university will deal with it swiftly and severely."
Powell identifies former Louisville staffer Andre McGee as the point man who paid her for her staff’s services. A former player for the Cardinals, McGee was a graduate assistant under Pitino from 2010-12 and director of basketball operations from 2012-14. He spent last year as an assistant coach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, working under former Pitino assistant Kareem Richardson.
The book alleges that over a four-year period, Powell brought women into Billy Minardi Hall – the basketball dormitory on the Louisville campus that is named after Pitino’s late brother-in-law – through a side door to entertain players and recruits. Powell also says 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 the women 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 book cites Powell’s diaries and journals as sources for much of the information. It also contains a handwritten page from one journal listing 19 parties for Louisville basketball and/or former Louisville star Terrance Williams.
Pitino said he spoke to McGee about the allegations and that "at no time did he own up to any of what’s being printed."
In a release from IBJ to Yahoo Sports, the publisher 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 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’ title would seemingly be in jeopardy.
The book does not make any allegation that Pitino – who weathered a sex-related extortion attempt that he announced in 2009 – knew of McGee’s activities or had knowledge of the women being provided to the players.
NCAA spokeswoman Emily James declined comment on the allegations, citing the NCAA's policy not to discuss any current, pending or potential investigations.
“This story needs to be told,” publisher Patricia 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.”
Keiffner said Powell was reticent to seek out a publisher in Louisville, so she found IBJ Book Publishing through an Internet search of Indianapolis-area publishers. “And I answered the phone,” Keiffern said.
Yahoo Sports’ attempts to contact Powell were unsuccessful Friday afternoon.