Rick Pitino: 'Not one person knew' about alleged use of escorts for recruits

ByDana O'Neil ESPN logo
Monday, October 5, 2015

Louisville Cardinalsmen's basketball coach Rick Pitino, despite an author's claim otherwise, again denied any knowledge Monday that former director of basketball operations Andre McGee allegedly paid an escort service to provide sex for recruits.

"Not myself, not one player, not one trainer, not one assistant, not one person knew anything about any of this," the Hall of Fame coach told ESPN on Monday. "If anyone did, it would have been stopped on a dime. Not one person knew anything about it."

Katina Powell, who wrote the book"Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen," told IBJ.com on Saturday that McGee implied that Pitino "knows about everything."

"When I would ask Andre, 'Does Pitino know about this?' he would laugh and say, 'Rick knows about everything,'" Powell told IBJ.com, which is a subsidiary of the company that published the book.

Pitino added that the university, in conjunction with attorney Chuck Smrt, is in the process of interviewing former players and staff members and has been in contact with the NCAA.

"The university, as well as the NCAA and our attorney, is doing its due diligence to get to the bottom of this investigation,'' Pitino said.

Powell told IBJ.com that McGee resorted to hiring the escorts because he felt pressure to help secure recruits to Louisville.

"I think Andre's back was against the wall,'' she said. "I think he had a lot of pressure on him. I think he did whatever he had to do to make the University of Louisville a great team. He found something that worked and went with it.''

Under the current NCAA rule structure, head coaches can be held accountable for what goes on with their programs, whether they are directly implicated or not.

Hall of Fame coaches Jim Boeheim of Syracuse and Larry Brown of SMU each will serve multiple-game suspensions under the penalties of that rule. However, NCAA vice president of enforcement Jon Duncan told ESPN.com that the rule is not one of strict liability.

"It's a rebuttable presumption," Duncan said Monday. "If there is a violation, it's presumed that he is responsible, but that can be rebutted in one of two ways -- that he created an atmosphere of compliance, and two, that he monitored his direct and indirect reports."

Duncan, while unable to speak to the specifics of the Louisville case, spoke more broadly about the challenges the NCAA may face while investigating. A written document -- whether it be a published book, news article or message board -- is not taken at face value by the NCAA. Rather, it's a starting point that needs to be verified by NCAA investigators.

But what often happens, he said, is a public record which includes people's names makes it more difficult to conduct the separate NCAA investigation.

"The reality is, once the information is in the public, info in public, either individuals are reluctant to talk to us, or we see individuals comparing notes or stories and the integrity of the investigation is compromised," Duncan said.

The NCAA can compel only people affiliated with member institutions -- staff members, coaches or current or prospective student-athletes -- to speak. If they do not, they can be penalized for failure to cooperate. Third parties -- like Powell and even players who have used up all of their eligibility -- can choose to never speak to investigators.

NCAA investigators also must decide if a person is credible and determine what level of collaboration allows them to feel comfortable that a violation occurred.

"Backing up from the legalese, these cases are a big deal," Duncan said. "They have real implications for the institutions and the individuals involved and the student-athletes. We are very careful when we analyze any potential allegation that we can support it fully."

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