Louisville is set to announce a self-imposed postseason ban at a Friday afternoon press conference, as the result of allegations that a former staffer paid an escort service to "dance for and have sex with players and recruits," according to Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal.
Louisville players were informed of the school's decision earlier in the day. The Cardinals are 18-4 on the season and ranked as the No. 19 team in the AP Poll. Louisville was projected as a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament in our latest Bracketology post.
Louisville's trouble started when Powell published a book with the help of author Dick Cady titled Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen. The book alleged that Cardinals staff member Andre McGee "paid escorts to dance for and have sex with players and recruits" through a service run by Powell. An investigation by the NCAA and university followed, with the result being Friday's announcement.
Louisville president James Ramsey says he determined violations did occur and decided the postseason ban was the best move.— Jeff Greer (@jeffgreer_cj) February 5, 2016
Pitino: "This was not a team that wasn’t going to make the tournament. . . . It is substantial. It comes as a complete shock to me."— Eric Crawford (@ericcrawford) February 5, 2016
Pitino says the entire team stood up and hugged Damion Lee and Trey Lewis as they cried after they were informed of the decision.— Jeff Greer (@jeffgreer_cj) February 5, 2016
Pitino said it was a punishment he "never thought would come this season" and is a punishment that is "as harsh" as anything he's ever seen, but that he supports the university's decision. Louisville said it can't go into details of their findings until the committee of infractions files its report. The NCAA's investigation is still ongoing.
At the height of the operation, Powell alleges $10,000 changed hands between her and the program for parties that were taking place at dorms and off-campus housing. Pitino has remained steadfast in saying he had no knowledge of the operation, and has said he will not resign from his position.
The penalty is particularly crushing for Louisville's two seniors: Damion Lee and Trey Lewis. Both players are grad transfers playing their final season of college ball at Louisville, Lee from Drexel and Lewis from Cleveland State. They came to Louisville to play in the NCAA Tournament and now they will never get the chance. Both players both with the media Friday evening and had the support of their teammates:
McGee left Louisville after the 2014 season to become an assistant at University of Missouri-Kansas City. He resigned from that job on Oct. 23 after the allegations surfaced.