The saga that began when the FBI and the US attorney for the Southern District of NY announced they had uncovered a pay-for-play scheme that roped in Louisville, is beginning to end. Rather, it is the beginning of the end.
Back in May of this year, Louisville received the Notice of Allegations against its men’s basketball program for the alleged violations revolving around former signee Brian Bowen. CSZ brought you coverage of that which you can read here. The NCAA charged the program with a single level 1 violation and multiple level 2 and level 3 violations in regards to the Adidas pay-for-play scandal. However, the tone of the written statements from UofL President Neeli Bendapudi and AD Vince Tyra seemed to indicate they were going to battle the allegations.
The indication was correct as, in September, Louisville filed a response to the NOA with the NCAA. You can read our detailed coverage of that here. In it, they categorically denied that anything that was alleged to have happened (especially with regards to Jordan Fair) rose to the standard of a level 1 violation, that the Kenny Johnson issues laid out in the NOA cannot be corroborated, and that Coach Pitino was not guilty of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance when speaking with the convicted former Adidas employee James Gatto.
With the Jordan Fair issue, the university admitted the meeting took place, but they advised Fair was not an active participant and had no role is setting up, approving, or scheduling payments to Bowen or his family. They admitted Fair should’ve contacted compliance of the meeting, but that his actions, or lack thereof, did not meet criteria in the bylaws for a level 1 violation.
In regards to the issues revolving around Kenny Johnson, they did admit to the level 3 violations. However, they argue the allegation that Johnson funneled cash directly to Brian Bowen Sr is a case of he said-he said and there’s no concrete evidence this happened. They also point to the consistency in Johnson’s statements on the matter versus the inconsistency from the Bowen side.
As for former Coach Pitino and his single phone call, they advised the NCAA that the phone call was not a violation as Gatto is not a member of the program. They point to the fact that the bylaw cited clearly states a violation would’ve occurred had Pitino communicated with a member of the program.
Of course, the university also argued the mitigating circumstance that all involved, from the assistant coaches, to Coach Pitino, and even former AD Tom Jurich were let go immediately upon the allegations coming to light. This a move none of the other institutions involved in this scandal made. Many retained their coaches and those coaches are still coaching right now.
It was a strong argument, but the NCAA is notoriously known for being disproportionate in their adjudication of violations. For instance, they hammered Louisville over the Andre McGee scandal, but did nothing to North Carolina over an alleged case multi-year academic fraud. What would the NCAA’s response be to Louisville’s well-crafted arguments against the charges levied in NOA? For Louisville fans, we all expected the worst. Today, we now have an idea of what our fate may be.
The NCAA enforcement arm rejected all of the claims and refutations made by the university in their response. In essence, they wholly stand by the findings in the NOA. Louisville will now have to choose whether to argue their case in front of the Committee on Infractions or the IARP via a hearing. Arguing their case to the COI will allow Louisville to appeal. The IARP decision would be final. The likelihood, based on today’s response from the NCAA, is that Louisville will go the IARP route, but that is yet to be determined.
You can read the entire NCAA response by clicking on the link in the tweet below.