Louisville’s attempt to convince the NCAA that it should avoid punishment because it only hired cheap prostitutes that barely assisted their recruiting efforts has, predictably, failed.
The NCAA released its public infractions decision regarding the Louisville prostitution case on Thursday, slamming the school and head coach Rick Pitino for allowing former staffer Andre McGee to attempt to lure recruits with prostitutes and strippers. While Pitino denied having knowledge of the situation, the NCAA wrote in its decision that he violated the organization’s rules “when he did not monitor the activities of his former operations director.”
The NCAA went on to dish out a bevy of punishments and make sure the public record states that it is not down with its members hiring strippers as a recruiting tool:
“Without dispute, NCAA rules do not allow institutional staff members to arrange for stripteases and sex acts for prospects, enrolled student-athletes and/or those who accompany them to campus.”
The NCAA’s penalties for the Cardinals program include the following:
- Louisville has to return the money it made via conference revenue sharing from the 2012-2015 NCAA tournaments
- The Cardinals have to vacate their men’s basketball wins and losses “from December 2010 through July 2014,” per an NCAA email clarifying a typo in the release
- A five-game suspension from 2017-18 ACC play for head coach Rick Pitino
- Four years of probation for the school
- A 10-year show-cause order for Andre McGee
- A $5,000 fine
The $5,000 fine, the show-cause order for McGee, the probation, and Pitino’s suspension are all, ultimately, easy enough for the program and the university to handle—punitive actions are often tacked onto various kinds of NCAA violations, and Pitino’s bench has plenty of assistants to handle five conference games.
The vacated wins and the loss of four year’s worth of conference revenue sharing, however, are as close as the NCAA will come to throwing the book at one of its bluebloods.
The school already self-imposed a postseason ban on the program in 2016 despite being a top-20 team all season; the NCAA’s request for it to vacate its victories will go several steps further, erasing four year’s worth of official victories from Pitino and Louisville’s resumes and, presumably, wiping out the Cardinals’ 2012 Final Four appearance and their 2013 national championship victory over Michigan. (No, Michigan won’t be made the new champs.) As of today, Louisville has 45 days to report the impacted games to the NCAA.
While the knock to the coach and the program’s egos will sting for fans, athletic department officials are likely sweating more over the fact that they now have to pay back millions in NCAA tournament money made through conference revenue sharing.
Conference revenue sharing is the payout model the organization uses to spread the glut of cash it pulls in every March. It’s a system that guarantees the rich get richer while poor, no-name schools hope to get lucky, but never rich. Conferences earn one unit for each game a member school plays in—one unit in the 2017 tournament was worth $264,859. The money made from the tournament is then split among its members (though it doesn’t have to be, per NCAA rules) and paid out to the schools over a six-year period.
Louisville, a member of the ACC since 2014, has contributed to and benefitted from being a part of an extremely deep conference, resulting in the school making, in financial terms, a shit-ton of money. Over the past three years, the conference has made over $100 million in tournament money, per ESPN, the most of any conference in the nation.
As the News & Observer reported in March, the conference’s incredible showing in just the 2016 tournament (that the Cardinals skipped, no less) made the ACC $39.9 million; the year before, when Duke won the title, the conference hauled in $33 million. With the ACC hauling in an estimated $30.6 million from this year’s tournament, Louisville reportedly made over $3 million, though that money will be safe from the NCAA. Should today’s NCAA ruling stand, Louisville will be required to pay back millions in NCAA tournament money; the funds will then go back into the NCAA’s coffers.
Naturally, because this is the NCAA, there will be a lengthy appeals process in which Louisville’s lawyers argue for lighter sanctions. Louisville interim president Greg Postel already announced the school’s plan to appeal, per ESPN, saying in a statement that the punishments “went beyond what we consider to be fair and reasonable.”
Pitino and his lawyer criticized the NCAA’s findings—the 64-year-old coach told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman he’s “lost faith in the NCAA”—and said in a statement they intend on fighting the suspension. In his press conference, Pitino said “we did not deserve any of this at all.”