CRAWFORD | Notes on a scandal: 8 thoughts on the NCAA's allegati - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Notes on a scandal: 8 thoughts on the NCAA's allegations against Louisville

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Louisville officials prepare to speak to the media Thursday after the NCAA Notice of Allegations has been received. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Louisville officials prepare to speak to the media Thursday after the NCAA Notice of Allegations has been received. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Many thoughts, no good way to tie them all together. So, on the subject of the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations to the University of Louisville being released today, my initial thoughts -- NCAA-style. That is, in a numbered list. In no particular order of importance.

1). THIS IS ABOUT THE MONEY. I know, there were strippers. I know, there were prostitutes. I know, there were parties. But for the purposes of NCAA rules, you might as well substitute any other kind of impermissible benefit. Movie. Meal. Late-model vehicle. Small appliance. That’s not intuitive, of course. It’s the kind of objectification of women that is offensive. And it is offensive. But from the standpoint of crime and punishment, the NCAA (in as antiseptic report as you’ll find about a basketball employee making it rain for strippers, players and recruits) had to boil down the violations to dollars (or dollar bills) and cents. An example of this: Two players in this letter were said to have declined to have sex with women who were paid for the "benefit." That’s still a violation, because the women were paid. The sex, then, is incidental. And from an NCAA standpoint, that's just reality.

Overall, the value of those impermissible inducements (benefits given to recruits) and extra benefits (benefits given to two current players) was, in the end, judged to be at least $5,400. (Why this language, “at least?” Because where a range of values were given, the NCAA used the smallest value.)

With the redactions, it’s hard to break these down by players, and it’s impossible to know which recruits wound up at Louisville, which went elsewhere, and not knowing the dates, we don’t know when they played, let alone what monetary value was given to each individual player.

This is important. Why? Because for amounts of $100 or less, there’s one guideline for regaining eligibility, for amounts of $100 to $300 there’s another, and so on. By my figuring, the overall money breakdown looks like this (all values are approximate):

  • Money for strip shows: $2,760
  • Money for actual sex acts $1,700
  • Cash given to players/recruits $940

That’s it. That’s the pile of cash. And the reason it matters is this: It’s hard to claim that an entire season’s worth of wins should be vacated on the basis of two or three players receiving benefits that would’ve amounted to 2-3 game suspensions. I don't know how the NCAA will manage this. I do know the NCAA is limited in some way by its own precedent. The NCAA, for instance, can’t come down harder on Louisville than it did on Miami, which had tens of thousands of dollars flowing from a booster to various programs for illegal inducements and extra benefits (including strippers, night clubs, gifts, a washer and dryer, $50,000 for a single recruit, etc.) The NCAA has to act in line with its past actions. That's why the money matters. 

2). THE MONEY AND THE MEDIA. When ESPN did an Outside the Lines report in early April just after Selection Sunday, one source close to the NCAA investigation told OTL: “If this guy's spending $2,000 to $3,000 on a recruiting weekend, where's this money coming from?”

My immediate thought was that if McGee was spending $3,000 per party, Louisville could be in real danger of having seasons vacated. But instead of $3,000 per party, the NCAA is officially alleging an average of $385.71 per party, or somewhere in that neighborhood.

I’m not saying that’s all the money that was involved. One of the limitations of NCAA enforcement is that it can’t get at everything. It can’t compel former players to talk. It can’t subpoena phone records (other than university-owned phones). As a result, the allegations it compiles are not exhaustive or comprehensive. But the notion that Powell received $10,000 wasn’t borne out in this listing of allegations.

If the NCAA accounted for $1,700 in “side deals” or sex acts, and another $940 as cash given to players or recruits, it leaves just $2,760 at most given to Powell for the parties themselves. If her original number seemed too large, that number seems too small. The reality probably lies somewhere in the middle.

A story I wrote here in October was my best stab at following the money, and I think it held up pretty well, now that we see the reality of the NCAA’s findings.

3). LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX. This part of the story is hard to stomach. It has to be. Some are more angered by it than others. Some, in fact, can't get past the sex part of this. But let's not gloss over what this really is. You bring a prospective student onto campus, and put him in a strip-club party environment. He has no choice in the matter. You throw him into that. If he plays along, he commits a violation, and perhaps violates his own moral code. If he doesn't play along, is he rejected by the program? By his prospective teammates? And then you have fathers potentially involved? Or AAU coaches? 

There's no place for this in college sports. It is reprehensible.

Most people agree on this. They disagree on how to address it. Some feel like the problem isn't addressed if heads don't roll. Some feel as if a "go and sin no more" approach is enough, once sanctions have been applied. There is justice, and there is grace. Sometimes the two are tough to square.

In the end, I say this to everybody, including myself: The only opinions that matter belong to the NCAA, and to the leadership at U of L. The NCAA decides the allegations. U of L decides what to do with them. The rest of us are just arguing. But thank goodness for that. I'd be out of a job without it.

4). WHAT WASN’T IN THE REPORT. I did a lot of talking early on about text messages between Andre McGee and Katina Powell being the key to determining all this. While those text messages Powell claimed to have salvaged -- and the journals she kept -- may have been an important road map for the NCAA, they are not mentioned by name in the Notice of Allegations, and instead the NCAA appears to have tried to rely mainly on interviews with players and coaches.

Also not mentioned specifically in this report was the money transfer from California to a Walmart location in Louisville, a photo of which was included in Powell’s book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.” The money was payment for a meeting with Antonio Blakeney, in town for an AAU basketball tournament. Nor did we hear any identification of “Coach Mike,” who was mentioned by Powell as the source of funds for McGee’s parties.

And who would’ve predicted that former Cardinal Terrence Williams would not have figured in the notice of allegations, but basketball administrative assistant Brandon Williams would? The latter Williams received a major violation for not turning over phone records to the NCAA. U of L attorneys said they strongly encouraged all university personnel who were approached by the NCAA to do so.

There could be more to come on that particular story. But it’s worth noting, and media organizations ought to note it, that things we’re often fixated on early wind up not being as important as they were billed to be. That certainly seems to be the case in a few items here.

5). IS KATINA POWELL VINDICATED? Her attorney, Larry Wilder, told WDRB News this afternoon he’d like an apology from Rick Pitino, because he attacked her as untruthful. Wilder acknowledged, he doesn’t expect that to happen.

(For the record, Pitino quoted what he was told her publisher said during a meeting with Louisville officials, that she “can’t complete two sentences the right way to write a book.’” He went on to say, “There was no four-year record. Come on, You’ve got to be kidding me.”)

Looking at Powell’s claims, her original listing of 22 parties doesn’t seem out of line. The NCAA was able to corroborate 14 (and 13 on Louisville’s campus). In fact, that’s more on-campus parties than the 11 she outlined in her book. As I said above, her monetary claims would appear to be exaggerated, just based on what was found by the NCAA. However, I do think the rather small amount found by the NCAA is due more to the difficulty of reconstructing those kinds of transactions than embellishment on her part, though her financial claims certainly could have been overstated.

There is no evidence here of banded bills, of any denomination. And the amounts of money here wouldn’t suggest it, unless they were bundles of ones.

Rick Bozich and I had the opportunity to look at her various journals. We published our conclusions here. Most of it is typical, scatterbrained stuff of the type any of us would write down in the midst of the hustle of life. There were strange things omitted, like dollar amounts, but given that she was involved in an illegal enterprise, that too isn’t surprising.

If I were Powell today, I’d have to feel as if the bulk of my claims were ratified by the NCAA’s notice.

6). WHAT’S NEXT FOR PITINO? The university says it will vigorously dispute the NCAA’s claim that Pitino did not monitor Andre McGee strongly enough. I will devote an entire column to Pitino soon.

But for the process stuff, Pitino and U of L will try to build a stronger defense, relying heavily on his longtime record of NCAA compliance, his level of cooperation in this matter, and his historic vigilance on NCAA matters.

As it stands, Pitino could face a suspension from the NCAA, and even a show-cause penalty, given that he is facing an NCAA Level I violation. In reality, the show-cause is unlikely for a violation of this nature. This violation came under the umbrella of the head coach responsibility legislation. Under that legislation, coaches a presumed guilty. They must rebut that presumption in order to escape the charge. Pitino was able to rebut the presumption that he failed to monitor his entire program. Now, he and university officials will work to offer a better rebuttal on his monitor.

A suspension is another question entirely. The NCAA has been consistent in wanting to make statements enforcing its coaches’ responsibility legislation. Pitino may well find himself in that line.

The question of a suspension for Pitino remains, but I’d be surprised if it were of the magnitude of the nine-game suspensions received by Jim Boeheim or Larry Brown.

For example, Brown was found to have provided misleading information to an NCAA investigation, almost always an action that will bring the hammer down (and, in fact, it was this that caused Bruce Pearl most of his problems at Tennessee). There was no such finding with Pitino.

With Boeheim, in addition to failing to monitor his director of basketball operations (including a failure to check up on his activities even after he became aware of academic wrongdoing within the program), the NCAA found that the coach failed to create an atmosphere of compliance -- a charge not leveled at Pitino in this notice of allegations. Boeheim also was found not to have acted properly with regard to a representative of the school’s athletic interests whose interactions with players resulted in NCAA violations. Pitino faces nothing like that in this notice of allegations.

7). WHAT’S AHEAD FOR LOUISVILLE? I’d be surprised if the allegations as they now stand result in any more significant penalties for U of L. I don’t think the school will have to vacate victories or its 2013 NCAA championship season.

Clearly, Chuck Smrt, hired as a consultant by U of L, believes this. Tom Jurich said that if U of L believed further sanctions were coming, it would have self-imposed them.

Keep in mind, the final infractions report from the NCAA will be a more complete document, with more of a narrative of events, and more detail, than the notice of allegations. So at the conclusion of this entire matter, we should have an even better grasp on how things worked than we have today.

8). IS THIS THE END FOR THE ALLEGATIONS? A lot depends on what happens in the court. One limitation of NCAA matters is that it can’t compel people to be interviewed and can’t subpoena documents or people. The courts have no such constraints. If criminal or civil cases warrant, the court can obtain personal phone records and any other data that the NCAA doesn’t have access to. If that happens, the NCAA can access anything produced in public in court cases to revisit violations it has found.

So as long as a possibility exists for Katina Powell or others involved in this matter to face civil or criminal action, the possibility remains for further discoveries.

And so, even though today marks an important step in this long saga, we continue to wait and watch.

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