LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Former University of Louisville board of trustees chairman J. David Grissom said under oath last month that former U of L President James Ramsey told him that a university trustee was the “cash source” for payments to strippers who danced for and had sex with Louisville basketball players and recruits in a campus dorm.
Grissom’s assertion in the Katina Powell sex scandal – which Ramsey’s lawyer unequivocally denies – came during a July 26 deposition in the financial fraud lawsuit U of L and its nonprofit foundation are prosecuting against Ramsey and a handful of former top aides.
“He (Ramsey) told me that one of his board members was the cash source for paying off the strippers in the stripper incident,” Grissom said according to a video of the deposition obtained by WDRB News.
Grissom, who is still a university trustee, refused three times during the deposition to provide the name of the board member who allegedly funded the strippers before he finally said that, in fact, Ramsey did not identify the trustee.
Grissom added that he never asked Ramsey which trustee was alleged to have made the payments. The conversation took place in June 2016, “right in the midst when all that investigation (into the Powell matter) was going on,” Grissom said.
Ramsey’s lawyer Steve Pence said Monday that Grissom’s story is “ridiculous” and merely an attempt to “justify (Grissom’s) behavior” in pursuing the baseless lawsuit against Ramsey.
“I can give you 100% assurance that that (information about the board member) did not come from Dr. Ramsey,” Pence told WDRB News.
In 2017, the NCAA’s infractions committee ordered U of L to vacate its 2013 national championship and other records after finding former director of basketball operations Andre McGee guilty of major violations related to a sex-and-recruiting scandal. The scandal emerged in 2015, when self-described escort Katina Powell published a tell-all book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules.”
Powell alleged that, working with McGee, she helped arrange 22 parties providing strippers and prostitutes for U of L men’s basketball players and recruits. She claimed that McGee paid her more than $10,000 over four years to provide escorts for recruits and players. McGee denied the allegations.
The NCAA committee found McGee acted unethically when he arranged dances and sex acts for recruits. Among other findings, it determined that former Louisville Coach Rick Pitino broke NCAA responsibility rules by failing to monitor McGee.
U of L lost an appeal of the ruling in 2018.
In a criminal investigation, U of L campus police were not able to determine the ultimate source of the money McGee allegedly paid to Powell.
Records of the investigation previously obtained by WDRB News give no indication that police questioned Grissom or Ramsey during the probe.
Asked if Grissom's comments might have any ramifications for the closed inquiry, campus police referred comment to the university administration.
"As this statement was made as part of ongoing litigation, the university cannot comment," U of L spokesman John Karman said.
The sex-and-recruiting scandal is not an issue in U of L’s lawsuit against Ramsey, which alleges Ramsey associates depleted with the school’s endowment through unauthorized spending from 2010 to 2016.
Grissom volunteered the information when asked during the deposition for examples of times that Ramsey had failed to disclose relevant facts to the trustees.
Told of Ramsey’s lawyer’s denial on Monday, Grissom declined to comment.
Grissom first joined the board of trustees in June 2016 when Gov. Matt Bevin overhauled the group, leading to Ramsey’s forced resignation for a buyout in July 2016.
Grissom testified that his conversation with Ramsey took place during a lunch at Grissom’s office in eastern Jefferson County. Ramsey came to give what Grissom called “an indoctrination session” about how to be a U of L board member.
Pence said Monday that the meeting could have happened, as Ramsey often met with trustees.
But during the deposition in July, Pence persistently questioned why Grissom didn’t report what Ramsey told him about the source of the payments to the board, the athletics department or to U of L compliance officials.
When Pence asserted that Grissom had an obligation under “NCAA regulations” to share the information, Grissom said: “I get that. I did not have any information other than what Ramsey told me. It’s hearsay, and I don’t know who the person was.”
Grissom added that he did not have “the same duty” to report the allegation as Ramsey did.
Finally, when asked why he didn’t tell anyone about Ramsey’s comment, Grissom said: “Well, I didn’t. I am not perfect.”