University of Louisville police focused on phone calls, texts between Andre McGee and former assistant coach
Mike Balado, now the head coach at Arkansas State University, said in a phone interview Wednesday that he 'absolutely' did not have conversations with Andre McGee about any wrongdoing.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Former University of Louisville assistant basketball coach Mike Balado spoke by phone or texted Andre McGee dozens of times over a five-day period in July 2014, according to records of a police investigation -- the same time when McGee allegedly arranged for a prostitute to have sex with a recruit.
In a document labeled “July Phone Numbers of interest,” U of L police focused on the communications between Balado and McGee as part of the department’s investigation into alleged criminal activity by McGee, Louisville's former director of basketball operations, and Katina Powell, the self-proclaimed madam who provided strippers and prostitutes to Cardinal players and recruits from 2010 to 2014.
The police records, released Tuesday under the Kentucky Open Records Act, don’t reveal the substance of the calls and messages between Balado and McGee, who was then an assistant basketball coach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
U of L has maintained that McGee was the only university employee involved in a sex scandal that ultimately cost the men’s basketball team its 2013 NCAA national championship. Prosecutors brought no charges against anyone in connection with the case.
Balado, now the head coach at Arkansas State University, said in a phone interview Wednesday that he “absolutely” did not have conversations with McGee about any wrongdoing.
“I was investigated thoroughly. I had nothing to do with anything that went on,” he said. “And that’s all I have to say.”
U of L spokesman John Karman said in an email that "the university has turned over the requested records. I don’t have any additional comment or speculation to provide."
The records released this week indicate McGee spoke to or texted Balado and Powell 38 times between July 22 and July 26, 2014. Those dates, identified by police, coincide with when McGee sent a $200 wire transfer from a suburban Kansas City, Mo., Walmart to Powell in Louisville when recruit Antonio Blakeney and his guardian were in town.
The phone data are part of a larger cache of investigative files provided to WDRB News under an open records request made last June. They focus on a period that was scrutinized by the NCAA because McGee already had left the university.
The records shed new light on how frequently McGee communicated with his former colleagues on the Louisville staff – and with whom – around the same time that he was arranging a payment to Powell.
Documents in the police investigation show $200 was sent from McGee on July 22, 2014 and picked up by Powell the next day.
On the day the wire transfer was sent, McGee called or texted Powell 20 times, according to the records. He also spoke on the phone with Balado at least six times.
Three of those conversations between McGee and Balado took place within minutes of McGee talking with Powell, according to the records. In one instance, McGee hung up with Powell and four minutes later called Balado and spoke for 22 minutes, the records show.
Balado told WDRB News that he spoke regularly with McGee, even after the two stopped working together.
“I mean, we worked together for years, so we talked about, it might’ve been recruiting. Most of the conversations I had with him were about kids because he was recruiting kids at UMKC,” Balado said. “That’s all I remember talking to him about after he left.”
Below is a log of communications between McGee and Powell, and McGee and Balado, on July 22:
Balado’s phone records obtained from U of L suggest McGee and Balado had not communicated by phone or text message in months until July 21, 2014, when McGee texted Balado at 10:52 a.m.
On July 23, 2014, Balado and McGee called and texted six more times, according to the records.
Powell has claimed she hosted 22 stripping and sex parties from 2010 to 2014 inside Billy Minardi Hall, the on-campus dorm for athletes. She alleged that McGee arranged the parties and paid her $10,000 for supplying dancers.
Balado agreed to speak with investigators on March 22, 2016, according to the records released this week. However, his interview was not included in the documents. U of L is still compiling records to respond to WDRB’s open records request.
“I got investigated thoroughly by both the NCAA and U of L, you know?” Balado told WDRB News. “And I turned everything over, and there’s obviously nothing there. You know? I did nothing.”
Balado served on the Louisville staff from April 2013 until 2017, when he was named head coach at Arkansas State.
The records released this week also include a document showing McGee’s recruiting budget. Between 2010 and 2014, McGee spent about $6,000 for recruit “entertainment,” although there is no breakdown of those expenditures.
In addition, the records included pictures of women, including Powell and one of her daughters in the basketball dorm, and security logs of Minardi Hall.
The investigative documents do not include records from McGee’s phone service provider. However they do contain a list titled, “McGee Phone Frequency Report” that appears to show all of McGee’s phone contacts – information that investigators could have been obtained via a grand jury subpoena – from July 22 to July 26, 2014.
That document shows that, among then-U of L staff, McGee was most frequently in contact with Balado.
McGee's calls and text messages are from a California number. At the same time, McGee still was using his U of L phone, but not to communicate with Balado, according to university phone records.
McGee also used the California number to text former U of L program assistant Brandon Williams 14 times on July 22, according to documents released by police. Williams refused to turn over to investigators records from a personal phone that was in his mother’s name.
Williams matched the description of a man Powell said gave her $200 before she took her daughter to meet Blakeney, the recruit who was visiting Louisville, according to the NCAA infractions committee.
Powell was not able to identify the man who gave her the money after NCAA investigators showed her photos of several men. But, in response to investigators’ questions, she said Williams most resembled the man.
In addition, the records show McGee had contact with then-director of basketball operations David Padgett 12 times on July 22, 2014. During the five-day period identified by police, he also was in touch with U of L assistant coach Wyking Jones.
There is no record of former Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino and McGee exchanging calls or text messages during July 2014, according to Pitino’s call records, which also were released by U of L. In Powell’s book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” Powell refers to a person called "Coach Mike," allegedly a Louisville assistant coach, who spoke to her about arranging parties.
However, Powell mentioned “Coach Mike” during 2012, a year before Balado arrived at U of L.
U of L police determined that Powell and McGee operated a “criminal syndicate” on campus for four years and should be charged with multiple felony crimes, according to a summary of the investigation released this March.
“We advocate the pursuit of felony indictments for the identified suspects for the charges noted as soon as possible” in connection with the sex scandal, three U of L police detectives wrote in a memo to Assistant Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Foster on May 27, 2016.
The investigators argued Powell and McGee committed the crimes of prostitution, promoting prostitution, engaging in organized crime and the unlawful transaction with a minor from 2010 through 2014. While prostitution is a misdemeanor crime with a one-year statute of limitations, which had passed, the other charges were felonies that could be prosecuted at any time.
Prosecutors determined there was not enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
U of L police wrote that the “organized crime” – about 21 acts of engaging in or promoting prostitution – “would have continued indefinitely” if McGee had not left the university for another job in April 2014.
In June of 2017, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions found McGee guilty of major violations and handed him a 10-year show cause order effectively banning any NCAA institution from hiring him. It did not find Pitino guilty of failure to monitor his program, but found him guilty of failing to monitor McGee, and suspended him for the first five ACC games of this season.
Pitino was fired last October after U of L was linked to an ongoing federal investigation into college basketball recruiting.
Eric Crawford contributed reporting. Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.