CRAWFORD | Tuesday U of L news dump: Decision-making, doubt, mon - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Tuesday U of L news dump: Decision-making, doubt, money and morale

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — After a flurry of activity Monday night when the University of Louisville released the names of its Investigative Committee and committee member Ricky Jones, chairman of the school’s Pan-African Studies department, took issue with the school’s self-imposed postseason ban, it’s probably worth sorting things out just to keep everything straight.

1. WHO MADE THE DECISION, REALLY? On Feb. 5, U of L president James Ramsey said he made the decision, in consultation with athletic director Tom Jurich. That’s how I reported it, though at the time, Ramsey wasn’t clear on whether he had spoken with the investigative committee before the decision. It turns out, he had on the morning the announcement was made.

On the day of the announcement, Jurich noted that he had seen all the information and was on board with the decision to impose a postseason ban. He said: “We found out yesterday that we had a problem. It was verified by (investigator) Chuck (Smrt) and the NCAA, so we want to deal with this in as rapid a way as we possibly can. Although it’s a very disappointing time, a very sad day for all of us, it’s extremely sad for our players ... we want to do what’s right by the university, and by the NCAA. We support these actions, though they will be very painful.”

The next day, when I saw a banner criticizing Ramsey for the decision hanging on a Main Street business, I found it interesting that he would draw the fire alone for the whole situation. I wrote a column saying, “this decision was not made unilaterally by Ramsey, but in close consultation with athletic director Tom Jurich.”

That same day, head basketball coach Rick Pitino said: “Please nobody blame Dr. Ramsey. Tom Jurich made this decision, not Dr. Ramsey. Dr. Ramsey had to OK it, if Dr. Ramsey didn't want to OK it, he could have vetoed it. But Tom made the decision.”

Well, technically, if Ramsey could stop the ban, then Ramsey, of course, is the one who in the final analysis signed off on the ban. He did what presidents of universities, or countries, or companies do. He consulted with the ranking vice president and made the call.

His office clarified that again, one final time, on Monday morning, saying in a release: “Based upon the information that Smrt reported to Ramsey and Jurich on Thursday, the committee was informed that the decision was made by the two principals (Ramsey and Jurich) to impose the postseason ban ... According to customary procedures, the President has authority for making decisions throughout the investigation period, often consulting the Athletic Director on corrective and punitive action ... Institutionally, the President has the responsibility for any decisions regarding this matter.”

So once again: As president, Ramsey has the final responsibility -- but he and Jurich conferred on this decision and agreed on it publicly.

I’m happy to report that, in at least this one case, if you’d read my coverage at WDRB, you’d likely have understood that all along.

2. HOW MUCH HAS THIS INVESTIGATION COST TAXPAYERS? So far, nothing that I can see, though we don't yet know how much money the U of L Foundation may have spent on the matter, and all the the bills have far from come in. Another outlet reported erroneously Tuesday that consultant Chuck Smrt’s fees had been paid out of taxpayer money. They are being paid out of athletic department funds, which do not include tax dollars, but rather ticket sales and other revenue such is common to athletic departments.

So far, the athletic department has made four payments to The Compliance Group. University records show four checks:

Sept. 1 - Oct. 4, 2015 - paid $35,203.80 on 10-19-15
Oct. 5 - Nov. 5, 2015 - paid $54,634.28 on 1-13-16
Nov. 6-30, 2015 - paid $46,588.78 on 2-8-16
Dec. 1-31, 2015 - paid $15,630.37 on 2-8-16

The payments total $152,057.23.

This is far from the final price tag, however. Smrt may have other invoices for the months shown and certainly will bill more as the investigation continues.

Also not included is the price paid to public relations firms and others the university might have retained for the purpose of dealing with this matter.

3. HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE? We still don’t know. One source familiar with the investigation told me Monday that rather than concluding this summer, the original projections were that a hearing before the committee on infractions might not be held until 2017.

The truth is, no one knows. It’s been assumed, since Pitino said he was scheduled to be interviewed by the NCAA this month, that the NCAA and U of L were drawing their joint investigation to a close. And that might well be the case. Certainly, I think U of L would prefer that.

Regardless, once the school receives a notice of allegations, then a more fixed timetable begins.

The school may either agree to the recounting of facts and violations set forth in the notice of allegations and proceed to a disposition by the committee on infractions, or it may file a response to the notice and proceed to a hearing before the committee on infractions.

In either event, the school has 90 days to file a response or to ask for an extension.

For instance, once these events kicked into gear in the scandal at Syracuse in 2014-15, the dates went like this. The NCAA sent its notice of allegations in May of 2014. The school filed a response in August of 2014. The school had an infractions committee hearing on Oct. 30-31, 2014. And the committee on infractions released its final report and penalties on March 6, 2015.

Once the committee issues its findings, the university has 15 days during which it may file an appeal, which would be heard by the infractions appeals committee — a separate body — at a later time.

4. SO WHAT DO RICKY JONES’ COMMENTS MEAN? Well, it’s interesting that a member of the investigative committee would speak out, though Dr. Jones is known for speaking his mind.

He told WDRB he disagreed with the decision to self-impose a postseason ban, that he believes the NCAA wields too much power and, most importantly, that he has heard of no new information that made imposing a ban a necessity.

It should be noted — and was noted in WDRB’s original story Monday night — that Jones wasn’t present at the Friday morning meeting when Ramsey informed the committee of his decision to impose a ban.

But Jones told WDRB in separate interviews that he has spoken to a colleague who did attend the meeting and has heard nothing to make him believe a ban was necessitated. He acknowledges that NCAA violations took place, but says they are limited to the actions of a single individual at the university and that no link to anyone else at the university has been established, nor any link between the university and alleged funds that have changed hands.

The news value in his comments is the insight it gives, limited though it might be, into what information the committee has seen.

Jones also seemed to acknowledge that the number of parties and players involved is greater than those Katina Powell specifically outlined in her book, though he didn’t necessarily say so.

“You don’t need to talk to me to conclude that,” he said.

It’s doubtful whether the NCAA will ever get a firm handle on the amount of money that changed hands, which is one thing that will make determining a penalty difficult.

An individual player, for instance, being involved in a single sexual encounter — depending on the alleged price — might not even constitute enough of a penalty to sit out a single game, though it might.

Regardless, the NCAA’s primary interest seems to be determining institutional responsibility in this matter.

As far as Jones is concerned, as a journalist, I appreciate nothing better than anyone in authority who will speak his (or her) mind. In this case, him speaking his mind probably isn't a great look for the university and probably does damage Ramsey in that it looks as if he can't keep a lid on his committee.

But I also know a lot of people around the university who support its basketball program, and many of them appreciate someone at the university stepping forward and saying something, particularly something many of them agree with.

In the end, there were violations and there has to be a consequence. The disagreement is over how and when to impose it and what it should be, and that's a disagreement that won't end until the actual allegations, as everyone agrees to them, can be made known.

5. HOW IS THIS AFFECTING THE TEAM? Jones’ statement was, in part, in behalf of the players, who he feels are getting a raw deal.

But they will also make it tougher for Pitino to motivate his players, once they find out that there was some question over whether the postseason ban was an absolute necessity at this time.

On Monday, Pitino noted that the ban has taken a toll on his team.

“You know, the toughest thing we’re going through right now, and what I’m trying to do is get them to be just as disappointed in a loss as gracious in victory, because we’re playing for very little right now,” Pitino said. “The guys played very hard the past two games, but you can see it’s weighing on them a little bit, emotionally, that they’re not going to be in the tournament. We’re just trying to keep our perspective, and keep working hard.”


Follow Eric on Twitter @ericcrawford or on Facebook by clicking here.

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