The University of Louisville received its notice of allegations from the NCAA on Monday, the latest school implicated in the federal basketball scandal to receive formal allegations.
The NCAA charged Louisville with a Level I violation, the harshest in its repertory. There are also three additional Level II violations tied to the case, one of which is leveled toward former coach Rick Pitino for not satisfying his “head coach responsibility when he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.”
The case stems from the Department of Justice investigation, which broke in September of 2017 when federal officials arrested 10 men with ties to varying levels of basketball. The basis of the Level I violation is “an improper recruiting offer” to recruit Brian Bowen “and subsequent extra benefits” to his family. The two Level II violations not tied to Pitino include impermissible benefits by staff members and the institution not monitoring a high-profile student athlete.
Louisville now has 90 days to respond to the allegations. A final decision on Louisville’s punishment likely won’t come for another calendar year, as there still needs to be a Committee on Infractions hearing and potential appeal.
Louisville is in a particularly precarious situation, as there are potentially six aggravating factors in the notice of allegations that could lead to stiff penalties. The school got in trouble while still on probation from the escort scandal that began in 2015. The fallout from that included Louisville having to forfeit its NCAA tournament championship from 2013. (Louisville also self-imposed a postseason ban tied to that scandal.)
The biggest determination for the severity of Louisville’s punishment, assuming the violations are upheld by the Committee on Infractions, will be if the Level I violation is found to be aggravated, standard or mitigated. Considering the school’s history, it’s highly unlikely to be mitigated. According to the NCAA penalty matrix, an aggravated violation could include a one- to five-year postseason ban. A standard violation includes a penalty of one to two years. (The Level II violations, if found, could include a postseason ban, although that would be considered highly unusual.)
Louisville could also face significant scholarship losses, access to recruiting visits and other penalties. The totality of what’s alleged is serious, especially because the school was already in the NCAA’s crosshairs.
That means a postseason ban is very much in play here. Louisville’s argument to the NCAA will revolve around the total houseclean they’ve done at the school since the scandal. The school immediately fired Pitino, athletic director Tom Jurich and has new university academic leadership as well.
These two potential aggravating factors don't bode well for Rick Pitino when the Committee on Infractions views his case. He's change with a Level II violation, but there's two potentially aggravating factors. (These will help guide potential suspension length.) pic.twitter.com/7tkPpgYRNC— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) May 4, 2020
Louisville coach Chris Mack said in a statement that he was proud of the “incredible changes” that have taken place at the school since he was hired to replace Pitino.
“While I understand the allegations brought today, I am confident that the University will do what is right, which includes fighting back on those charges that we simply do not agree with, and for which the facts do not substantiate.”
The news reverberates deep within the Louisville program, but will also be followed closely by Iona. That’s where former Louisville coach Pitino was hired this spring despite uncertainty about his exposure in the case.
According to the NCAA penalty matrix, Pitino could miss up to half of a season from suspension if the Level II violation is found to be aggravated. If it’s a standard penalty, he could lose up to 30 percent of the season.
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