Pitino, Louisville hit with NCAA sanctions; school to appeal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The NCAA didn’t feel Louisville went far enough with its self-imposed sanctions following a sex scandal investigation, so the governing body Thursday handed down a few more.

An outraged Rick Pitino feels the NCAA went too far.

After completing its investigation of Katina Powell’s allegations that she and other escorts where hired to have sex parties and strip for Louisville recruits and players, antics the NCAA described as “repugnant,” it benched the Cardinals men’s basketball coach for five games and imposed several other penalties.

Pitino’s suspension is less than Jim Boeheim and Larry Brown recently received for NCAA violations.

Still, Louisville said it is appealing the NCAA’s decision, and even that wasn’t enough for Pitino. He fired a few salvos at the NCAA after reviewing the report.

“Not only was this unjust and over the top in its severity,” the coach said at a news conference, “but I’ve lost a lot of faith in the NCAA.”

Pitino, who has repeatedly denied any knowledge of former assistant Andre McGee’s interactions with Powell, wasn’t done.

“We are devastated by the news, all of us are,” the Hall of Fame coach added. “But moving forward we believe we will win the appeal because it’s right and it’s just, and what went on was unjust and inconceivable.”

The NCAA suspended Pitino for five Atlantic Coast Conference games.

Louisville had self-imposed several sanctions, including a postseason ban in 2015-16.

The NCAA accepted those, and tacked on more. The other penalties Louisville received include vacating wins in which ineligible players participated, placing the basketball program on four years’ probation and issuing a 10-year show-cause order for McGee, Louisville’s former basketball operations director.

The NCAA has not vacated the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship — yet. And that might be one reason Pitino and Louisville officials are adamant about appealing the decision.

The NCAA said the school must determine which games ineligible players participated in, and that might include the Cardinals title game. Players deemed ineligible would be those involved in the sex parties, which are considered impermissible benefits.

Compliance consultant Chuck Smrt, hired by Louisville when the allegations surfaced, estimated that 108 regular season games and approximately 15 NCAA wins could be impacted — including the Cardinals’ third national championship.

“The additional penalties imposed by the committee were the ones that surprised us,” Smrt said during a news conference that included Pitino, athletic director Tom Jurich and Louisville interim president Greg Postel.

The long-awaited NCAA announcement reiterated its original view that Pitino should have known about McGee’s activities with Powell, who alleged in a 2015 book that staffer McGee paid her $10,000 for 22 shows at the Cardinals’ dormitory from 2010 to 2014.

The NCAA’s release included statements by the panel on its decision, saying: “The types of activities that occurred in this case were repugnant and threaten the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model, regardless.”

Chief hearing officer Carol Cartwright also dismissed idea that the amount of money involved — estimated by the NCAA to be at least $5,400 — was relatively small.

“In this case, we felt that any of the acts, on their own, would be Level 1 and be inappropriate,” Cartwright said in a conference call.

Other penalties prescribed by the panel also include men’s basketball scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions; a fine of $5,000, plus the university must return money received through conference revenue sharing for its appearances in the 2012 to 2015 NCAA men’s basketball championships.