Rick Pitino, head coach of the University of Louisville’s powerhouse basketball program, has responded to claims that a former staff member solicited prostitutes for players and recruits.
The university learned of the allegations on Friday with the imminent release of a new book by a Louisville-based escort that claims a former staff member of the organization paid escorts thousands of dollars to have sexual relations with players and recruits.
The book, titled Breaking Cardinal Rules, which is set to be released in the coming days, was penned by escort Katina Powell.
The book alleges that former Louisville player, graduate assistant and director of basketball operations Andre McGee “paid an escort service for four years to provide sex to teenage recruits to help woo the players to join the Cardinals team,” according to a release from the book’s publisher, Indianapolis Business Journal Publishing LLC.
IBJ said the book is “based on hundreds of journal entries and thousands of text messages kept by the head of the escort service,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Words of wisdom from Rick Pitino pic.twitter.com/lXMGOBG5aZ
— Jimmy Howard (@VegasXJimmy) October 3, 2015
Powell reportedly penned the book with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dick Cady.
According to the Courier-Journal, the university hired private investigator Chuck Smrt, a Kansas-based compliance expert, to conduct an inquiry into Powell’s allegations after learning about them in August.
The university’s athletic director Tom Jurich said Smrt had been in touch with the NCAA, and that the university contacted the NCAA when the publishers approached the university about the book.
Smrt and an NCAA spokesperson said they would not comment on an ongoing investigation.
“We’re still trying to uncover the facts,” Jurich told the Courier-Journal. “We want to get to the bottom of this as much as anybody, as much as our fan base does, as much as our university and our community does, and we will.”
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) October 3, 2015
McGee, who is now an assistant coach at University of Missouri at Kansas City, has been placed on administrative leave by the school.
Rick Pitino said he began his own investigation into the book’s allegations before the university’s compliance department asked him to stop.
The Hall of Fame coach said he spoke with 12 former assistants who worked at University of Louisville between the 2010-14 period mentioned in the book, plus several video and support staffers.
Pitino also spoke with former Louisville forward Kyle Kuric, who told the coach he had been contacted by the book’s authors.
“When this first broke a month ago, I questioned everybody if anybody has even a little knowledge or hearsay or seen anybody, and everybody, to the person, 15 people, said they had no knowledge of anything, never seen anything.”
An IBJ news release says Powell has “hundreds of text exchanges” with McGee and pictures of her escorts with players and recruits.
Yahoo Sports, which obtained an advance copy of the book, reported that Powell claimed she and McGee exchanged more than $10,000 for her and her escorts’ services.
“I felt like I was part of the recruitment team. A lot of them players went to Louisville because of me.”
The basic premise of Rick Pitino’s system. pic.twitter.com/7GIJ8KtSJm
— Coach Mac (@BballCoachMac) October 3, 2015
On Friday Pitino shot down allegations that he denied the claims in the book, according to CBS Sports.
“I didn’t say that. I’m heartbroken that this, under my watch, could even — anything like this could have happened. How can over 20 people be involved? Look, we’re heavily involved in this program. We’re in here at 6, 6:15 in the morning, and we go late at night. … Not one of us has ever heard anything of being out with the wrong people, so that bothers me. I can’t say what’s true and not true, because we’re investigating.”
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