CRAWFORD | Q&A on Louisville, the NCAA, where things stand, and what's next
WDRB's Eric Crawford answers questions about where the University of Louisville's case with the NCAA stands, and what's ahead.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Louisville basketball season is over, the NCAA has responded to its written arguments after a Notice of Allegations has been received, and now comes the question: What’s next?
That’s what we’ll discuss here.
The timeline so far has been pretty well defined. Louisville had 90 days to respond to the Notice of Allegations, and the NCAA had 60 days to reply to that response in writing.
At this point, the deadlines become a little less rigid. Rick Pitino said, in an interview Friday morning with Terry Meiners of WHAS Radio, that he expects to speak with NCAA officials in April, though school representatives said they could name no date at the moment.
“It’s just a formality you go though in responding,” Pitino told Meiners, of the recent back-and-forth. “I know what I’ve done the past 30-some-odd years in terms of being compliant, to all NCAA rules, no deals with agents, AAU coaches, nothing like that. And I feel very, very comfortable answering their response and I look forward to that so-called day in court … sometime in mid-April, I believe.”
Here's a look at what’s ahead, and some thoughts on where things are headed:
Q: What's the next step?
A: If we’re going by the book -- and by the cover letter to U of L’s Notice of Allegations delivered last October -- the next step would be a pre-hearing conference between the parties to discuss pertinent issues and the key points expected to come up at the hearing.
Here’s the section in the NOA letter pertaining to that conference:
Pursuant to Bylaw 19.7.4, the enforcement staff will conduct a prehearing conference to clarify the issues and discuss whether additional investigation is necessary. Unless the hearing panel's chief hearing officer orders otherwise, Bylaw 19.7.5 requires the parties to submit all relevant materials to the hearing panel no later than 30 days before the date of the infractions hearing.
The “infractions hearing” is the final step, where the NCAA’s committee on infractions hears more testimony on the evidence gathered by NCAA enforcement officers, and rebuttal information from U of L, and gets to ask its own questions of the parties involved.
Now here's a bit of news, even if it isn't quite "breaking." U of L and Pitino already have conducted their prehearing conferences. University representatives conducted a prehearing conference with enforcement staff on Feb. 21, according to a timeline of the case included by the NCAA in its response to U of L's NOA response. Pitino, the same timeline said, conducted a prehearing conference with the NCAA a day later.
The timing of that conference is interesting. It came on Feb. 22, the same day Louisville lost by 11 points at North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and Pitino's anger flared at a fan who approached him from a short distance in the tunnel leading off the court. Whether that conference was by phone or in person isn't clear. (The NCAA also conducted a prehearing conference with the attorney of former basketball employee Brandon Williams, on Feb. 23.)
The NOA advised U of L, as to when and where that hearing will be: “Once the final schedule is established, the office of the Committees on Infractions will notify the institution, involved individuals and enforcement staff of the hearing date and, if an in-person hearing is scheduled, the location.”
For U of L, the likely attendees at the hearing will be acting president Dr. Greg Postel, athletic director Tom Jurich, basketball coach Rick Pitino, and various athletic support and compliance staffers, as well as representative Chuck Smrt.
Q: Didn't the NCAA already reject most of Louisville's arguments?
A: In a reply to U of L’s written arguments over some of the allegations, and to Pitino’s defense of his own actions, NCAA enforcement staff argued strongly against any mitigating factors or explanations for rationale in the original allegations.
It’s important to note, that response, essentially, came from the “prosecution” in this case, and wasn’t likely to concede any points the university or Pitino made in their own defense.
As well, one easy mistake to make in the media -- and everyone made it, including this station -- was using the phrase, “The NCAA rejected the argument that Rick Pitino monitored his program.”
The NCAA, itself, didn’t reject anything. It’s enforcement staff did. And no one rejected the idea that Pitino monitored his program. In point of fact, the NCAA did NOT find Pitino guilty of a failure to monitor his program. That would be a more serious penalty than the one he faces. The NCAA enforcement staff, instead, alleges that he failed to monitor his director of basketball operations, Andre McGee.
In more than one place in its reply, the NCAA stated, “The allegation does not state that Pitino knew or should have known about the allegations. Rather, the enforcement staff alleges that Pitino failed to demonstrate that he monitored McGee as required by NCAA rules.”
So, the question of whether Pitino knew, or should have known, is, as far as NCAA investigations are concerned, a settled issue. The question remaining is whether he should be punished for the actions of McGee, and for not sniffing out what McGee was up to.
That, officially speaking, is the question that will be at issue when the committee on infractions holds its hearing on this matter.
Pitino says that he’s being accused of not seeing red flags that did not exist, and of not asking pointed questions when the questions he did ask were met with misleading answers, and in fact the NCAA investigators were given misleading answers when they initially asked them of some players.
NCAA investigators say that there weren’t red flags because Pitino did not dig hard enough to produce any red flags.
Q: Who makes up the NCAA's committee on infractions?
A: The chairman of the committee is Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey. The vice chair is Temple faculty athletic rep Eleanor Meyers. The other members: Notre Dame deputy athletic director Melissa Conboy; former Georgia president Michael Adams; WVU provost and VP for academic affairs Joyce McConnell; Iowa State senior VP for student affairs Thomas Hill; USC VP for athletic compliance David Roberts; Belmont professor and dean Alberto Gonzales; Princeton University Counsel Sankar Suryanaryan; Xavier athletic director Greg Christopher; Wisconsin-Green Bay chancellor Gary Miller; Big East deputy commissioner Vincent Nicastro; College Football Playoff Foundation executive director Britton Banowsky; Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Larry Parkinson; former athletic director Joel Maturi; former coach Joe Novak; former president Carl Cartwright; former Georgia Tech and South Carolina basketball coach Bobby Cremins and attorneys Jill Pilgrim, John Black (of the National Federation of State High School Associations), Stephen Madva, and William Bock III.
Q: What additional penalties are coming?
A: It’s difficult to predict. The NCAA has demonstrated in the recent past that it is willing to vacate victories and even championships if it believes they were compromised by ineligible athletes. It also has suspended some big-name coaches.
Those are the two things everyone will be watching. Most don’t believe the level of penalties aimed at Louisville’s overall athletic department or basketball program rise to the level of vacating an NCAA championship. Certainly, that was the hope of Smrt when asked the question during a news conference last October.
“Whether a vacation of records penalty is appropriate -- we don’t believe a vacation of records penalty is appropriate,” he said. “That is one of a long list of penalties the committee can impose.”
U of L was spared some of the most serious charges the NCAA could level, things like lack of institutional control and failure to monitor, as was Pitino. A look at how Pitino's case compares to some other big-name coaches who were suspended may be read by clicking here. A look at key points Pitino made in his response to the allegations is here.
One thing that was lost, to a degree, in the university arguing some minor points during its response to the NCAA, was that it agreed, in essence, on all but three of the 40 impermissible inducements alleged by the NCAA, differing only in amount on some. The university also took some serious measures -- banning itself from postseason play in 2016 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting dates in 2016.
“We have already acknowledged that some improper activities occurred . . . and taken very decisive action,” Smrt said when the Notice of Allegations was received by U of L in October of last year.
For his part, Jurich said when asked if he expected the NCAA to take further action: “That’s a question we’ll leave up to the NCAA. We’ve done what we think is appropriate. We’ve had great guidance by Chuck. We’ve done what we think is appropriate. We’ll leave that in the NCAA’s hands.”
Q: When will this be over?
A: If the hearing takes place this spring, a final decision on sanctions could come by early summer. U of L then can accept those additional penalties, if there are any, and move on, or appeal them. Same for Pitino.
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