The NCAA announced Thursday that it had suspended Louisville’s Hall of Fame basketball coach, Rick Pitino, for the first five games of Atlantic Coast Conference play next season and ordered the program to forfeit what could be dozens of victories. Those forfeited wins could include the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship, which would become the first vacated national title in men’s basketball history.
The NCAA sanctions went above and beyond ones Louisville imposed on itself in 2015, including a postseason ban, after it was revealed that a former director of basketball operations had provided strippers and prostitutes to players and recruits in a campus dormitory over several years.
It is up to Louisville to determine over the next several weeks which victories ought to be vacated based on whether ineligible players competed.
The university said in a statement Thursday that it was appealing the ruling.
While the NCAA’s committee on infractions accepted Pitino’s insistence that he was unaware of the actions of the former operations director, Andre McGee, he was nonetheless found to be responsible for failing to monitor his staff adequately.
Pitino’s lawyer, Scott Tompsett, said the coach planned his own appeal, charging that the NCAA’s ruling “does not identify a single specific thing that Coach Pitino should have done that he wasn’t already doing that would have either prevented or detected the illicit activities.”
“The finding against Coach Pitino is one of the weakest I’ve ever seen against a head coach,” Tompsett said.
In addition to Pitino’s suspension and the potential loss of dozens of wins, the NCAA announced an assortment of other penalties, including placing the basketball program on probation for four years and restricting scholarships and recruiting. Vacated victories also could ensnare the Cardinals’ trip to the Final Four in 2012, the year before they defeated Michigan to win the program’s third NCAA Tournament championship.
The university was also fined $5,000 and ordered to return any conference revenue-sharing money for appearances in the NCAA Tournament from 2012 to 2015. McGee was handed a 10-year show-cause order, effectively barring him from coaching at any NCAA university. A former assistant coach was given a one-year show-cause order.