Neeli Bendapudi

University of Louisville president Neeli Bendapudi speaks with reporters after a meeting with former basketball players.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – After sitting down with more than 50 former University of Louisville basketball players for more than two hours, president Neeli Bendapudi took a couple of minutes on Monday afternoon to discuss her current program.

On Friday, in a surprise move, the school suspended head coach Chris Mack for the first six games of the 2020-21 season without pay, in part for not adhering to university policy in letting go a pair of assistants, one of whom wound up being convicted of extorting the university.

Louisville Athletic Director Vince Tyra spoke about the suspension on Friday, but beyond a comment released by the university, Bendapudi hadn't weighed in on the action, which was largely seen (and reported by WDRB) to have originated out of her office in consultation with university trustees and Tyra.

"I have great confidence and optimism in our program," Bendapudi said. "Chris Mack is our coach. Vince Tyra is our AD. And we have some of the best in the business in there. Am I happy about what happened? Absolutely not. But I'm very optimistic about how we move forward."

Bendapudi declined to discuss specifics of the decision or the six-game term of the suspension. Nor would she speculate on further disciplinary action if the NCAA finds violations as a result of allegations brought forward by former assistant Dino Gaudio.

"One of the things you all know is that any kind of personnel matter is highly inappropriate for me to comment in any way," she said. ". . . I don't want to go into any details. But I can tell you that my AD, I have complete confidence in Vince and what he deems appropriate. In any area, the person leading it should have my confidence, and Vince has my confidence. So I'm comfortable with all of the thoughtfulness that went into it and I stand behind it."

Mack also spoke after the meeting but said he wasn't permitted to discuss specifics of the matter. Former Cardinal Darrell Griffith called the episode "unfortunate" but added that he hoped both Mack and the program could move past it.

"I think that what Neeli did, she did what she had to do, and we've just got to wait and move forward," Griffith said. "I don't know the main extent of it. But I know that for her to make that decision, the university to make that decision, something had to be done. . . . We've just got to get behind coach Mack. We like winning. We've got a tradition of winning here, and last year unfortunately with COVID, it was an unfortunate situation and we didn't make the tournament, but it's a new day now, and he's got the full support of all the former players up there. We told him, 'We want you to win. You're carrying our legacy. The city wants you to win.'"

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