CRAWFORD | Five things we learned from Louisville's response to the NCAA
WDRB's Eric Crawford takes a run through Louisville's response to the NCAA, and lifts out a few new details.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — There’s nothing quite like having 200 pages of documents dropped on your desk and trying to digest — and explain — all of them on deadline. After a few hours to look at the various filings from the University of Louisville made public today, here are five things we learned from what those responses say.
1). HOW KATINA POWELL GOT INTO THE BASKETBALL DORM. In all of the responses from U of L to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations on the Katina Powell sex-for-recruits scandal, none probably was more bizarre than the series of problems described in basketball Rick Pitino’s defense to the NCAA’s charge that he failed to monitor the program.
Powell described in her book how she and her girls would go through a side door into the dorm. But there had been little explanation of why security camera footage wasn’t available or why an alarm on the door didn’t go off.
Pitino’s attorney says the dorm’s video security cameras often weren’t working. The company charged with running the dorm provided the NCAA with nearly 1,000 pages of daily activity reports for the dorm. The response says, “A cursory review of those Reports shows that the security guard frequently noted that some of the security cameras were not working. It appears that malfunctioning security cameras was a frequent problem in 2013 and 2014. Thus, one of the front-line mechanisms for monitoring Minardi Hall was not fully functioning during the period of McGee's illicit activities.” Moreover, the company did not provide daily reports prior to 2013, leaving many of the years in which Powell alleges she held parties in the dorm not accounted for.
Moreover, then-director of basketball operations Andre McGee apparently had a means to disable the security alarm on a side door, through which Powell said she brought women to parties. “The door was supposed to be used only for emergencies and an alarm was supposed to sound whenever the door was opened,” according to the response. “However, McGee had a key that allowed him to disarm the alarm.”
The decision to give that key to McGee was made by a Louisville housing supervisor whose name has been redacted.
Beyond that, one resident told investigators that McGee brought strippers into the dorm late at night when the resident assistant was off duty and the security guard “ would usually literally be asleep at the door.”
Also from the report: “An Incident Report filed in 2012 strongly suggests that a security guard who worked at Minardi may have been willing to overlook strippers being brought into the dorm.”
The report then goes on to report an alleged sexual assault by this security guard, who was the subject of an incident report — though that report was not among those provided to WDRB when the station filed an open records request for incident reports from the building last year.
2. AT LEAST ONE RECRUIT SAYS HE PASSED ON LOUISVILLE BECAUSE OF THE STRIPPERS. More than one recruit told investigators that their “experience with the strippers was uncomfortable or embarrassing.” One recruit said McGee offered to send strippers to his hotel to entertain him, and he asked him not to, saying, “I know females that I go to high school with and we’re not trying to mess with any . . . older girls that look disgusting, that look like they carry diseases.”
One recruit told investigators that he was uncomfortable with the situation, and that he avoided talking to another recruit about it the next morning, and that he never spoke to Pitino or his assistants about any of it. “It’s awkward,” he said, telling investigators that although he “really liked the university and his basketball program, the strip show and McGee’s arrangement for him to have sex with one of the strippers turned him off of the university and was the deciding factor in his decision not to attend.”
3). CHUCK SMRT INTERVIEWED McGEE RIGHT BEFORE POWELL’S BOOK CAME OUT. The discussion didn’t yield much, because McGee denied everything, including the direct line of questioning from Smrt: “Did you ever arrange sex for prospects when they came on a visit.” Answer: Absolutely not. Another question: “I meant with Katina or friends, but I will make it even more generally, with anybody?” Answer: Absolutely not.
McGee said Powell was “a friend of mine.” He told Smrt he had been friends with her since his playing days. Powell said she met McGee at the first show she had at the dorm, in 2010. He said he talked to Powell on the phone about twice a month, and that she came to the dorm fewer than five times a year, sometimes bringing her daughters.
Asked what happened during those visits, McGee said Powell would “hang out with him,” and that her daughters hung out with some of the players. He said Powell and her daughters might have met recruits if they were in the dorm.
McGee said he did not give Powell any gear, clothing, money or transportation. He said he gave her tickets to a game for her birthday. And he said he had no communication with Powell after he left U of L in April of 2014 (though she produced a wire transfer receipt for money from him at a subsequent date in her book).
He also told Smrt he was unaware of any sexual activities or services provided by Powell or her daughters to players or recruits.
4). THE SCHOOL STILL QUESTIONS ELEMENTS OF POWELL’S CREDIBILITY. The ship has sailed, for the most part, because the school has acknowledged that there were shows in the dorms and that Powell did provide strippers who performed sexual acts for players and recruits. At the same time, U of L asked that a small number of violations that are based solely on Powell’s testimony or journals be thrown out. The school says it has doubts about Powell because her counsel would not allow her to be tape recorded, because she has written a book with the motive to make money from her story, and because her “memory was inexact.”
At one point, it says she told investigators that a certain player opened the door for her first show performed at the dorm in the fall of 2010, only to be told by Smrt that the player she named wasn’t enrolled in 2010. At another time, the report seems to indicate that she recounted a conversation with McGee telling her that his job depended on getting some recruits, only to be told that McGee apparently wasn’t on staff, or was leaving for another staff, at that time. The university also says she had allegations that were denied by players or recruits alleged to be involved, and that she made statements that she was “out to get” the university.
U of L also claimed that while it was led to believe that it had seen all the pages involving the school in her journals, a report by Rick Bozich and me on Nov. 17, 2015, after reviewing the journals, told of an entry that said, “My goal is Rick Pitino, that is where the money is.” U of L said it had not seen that entry, leading it to believe that there could be more material concerning the school within those pages.
5).PITINO VEHEMENTLY DISPUTES THE ALLEGATION THAT HE DID NOT MONITOR McGEE. I’ll write more about Pitino’s response to the Notice of Allegations, but the NCAA essentially says that Pitino did not heed red flags when it came to what was going on in the basketball dorm, that he did not conduct regular spot checks or ask pointed follow up questions.
His response claims, among other things, that it took a year-long investigation and some inducements to witnesses for the NCAA to get some involved to tell the truth, yet Pitino was expected to do it with a simple question or two. From the response:
To persuade some of the young men to tell them about the strip shows, the enforcement staff requested and obtained limited immunity from the Chairperson of the COL Limited immunity is an investigative tool used by the enforcement staff to elicit truthful information from student-athletes who may have been involved in NCAA violations which could jeopardize their eligibility to compete. In exchange for truthful information, the enforcement staff agrees not to put the student-athlete at-risk for losing his eligibility.
The staff told the Chairperson of the (Committee on Infractions) that limited immunity was necessary to facilitate obtaining full cooperation and truthful information. Thus, trained NCAA investigators, armed with the details from the book, photos and Ms. Powell's journal, believed they needed to give the young men limited immunity to get them to tell the truth.
Pitino, of course, had not even an inkling that strip shows were going on in the dorm, much less all of the details of the illicit activities or the ability to give the student-athletes immunity from losing their eligibility. Yet according to the enforcement staff, Pitino would have uncovered the secret and deliberately concealed activities if he had only asked some "pointed questions" and "solicited honest feedback.”
That conclusion, Pitino says, is incorrect, and he plans to contest it during a hearing before the committee on infractions at a later date.
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