Louisville received a notice of allegations from the NCAA on Monday, including one Level I allegation involving improper recruiting offers for former signee Brian Bowen II and three Level II allegations, including one against former coach Rick Pitino.
The NCAA alleges that Pitino, who was recently hired at Iona, did not satisfy his head coach responsibility when he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
Former assistant coaches Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair are also accused of providing impermissible transportation and having impermissible contact with a recruit.
Along with the Level I allegation, Louisville is also accused of failing to adequately monitor the recruitment of an incoming, high-profile student-athlete.
In a joint statement from Louisville president Dr. Neeli Bendapudi and athletics director Vince Tyra, the university said it was reviewing the notice of allegations and would begin formulating a response to the charges.
“It is important to remember that these are allegations — not facts — and the University will diligently prepare a full and comprehensive response and, absent an unforeseen development, submit it within the prescribed ninety-day period,” the Louisville statement said. “For those allegations that are proven to be factual, the University will take responsibility, as accountability is one of our core Cardinal Principles.
“However, we will not hesitate to push back where the evidence does not support the NCAA’s interpretations or allegations of charges. U of L has a right and a responsibility to stand up for itself when faced with unfair or unfounded charges and will always act in the best interests of the institution. Our legal team has begun the process of reviewing the Notice and will prepare a thorough response on behalf of the University.”
In September 2017, Louisville officials ruled Bowen ineligible after an FBI investigation uncovered that an Adidas employee and others conspired to pay his father $100,000 for him to sign with the Cardinals. After Bowen transferred to South Carolina, the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the 2018-19 season.
Bowen, 21, never played a game in college and wasn’t selected in the 2019 NBA draft. He signed a two-way contract with the Pacers in July 2019. He played in five games for the Pacers this season.
Louisville’s recruitment of Bowen, a former five-star recruit from Saginaw, Michigan, was at the center of the federal government’s investigation into bribes and other corruption in the sport.
Adidas executive James Gatto, former consultant Merl Code and aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins were convicted in October 2018 for their roles in pay-for-play schemes to steer recruits to Adidas-sponsored schools. The three men are appealing their convictions.
In the spring of 2017, Louisville was not involved in Bowen II’s recruitment and he had never been to campus. He favored Arizona, according to his father, Brian Bowen Sr., but they were worried about more experienced players being ahead of him.
“Louisville offered him a scholarship as a freshman, but they’d been off the radar,” Bowen Sr. testified during the federal criminal trial. “We hadn’t really talked to them.”
After Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins returned to Arizona for the 2017-18 season and Donovan Mitchell left Louisville for the NBA, Bowen Sr. said Dawkins approached him about the possibility of Bowen II playing for the Cardinals.
Federal prosecutor Ted Diskant showed the jury text messages between Bowen Sr. and Pitino on May 24, 2017, with Bowen Sr. asking Pitino to talk to his son.
The government also played a voicemail Gatto left for Pitino on May 27, 2017.
“I just got a call about a player I want to discuss with you,” Gatto said.
On May 29, 2017, Bowen II, his mother and father, his friend and Dawkins took an unofficial visit to Louisville. Bowen Sr. told the jury that Dawkins paid for the visit.
On June 1, 2017, Bowen II committed to Louisville and signed a financial aid agreement with the school. Shortly thereafter, Gatto left another voicemail for Pitino, according to the government.
“Coach, Gatto,” he said. “Hope all is well. Checking in. Heard the good news, um, and it’s going to be good, and I’m excited for you guys.”
After Adidas officials made an initial offer of $60,000 to $80,000, according to Dawkins, Bowen Sr. said the offer to attend Louisville went up to $100,000 because Dawkins alleged that Billy Preston, who had chosen to play at Kansas, received $100,000 from Adidas for his commitment.
The money was to be paid in four installments of $25,000.
Earlier Thursday, the government said former Louisville associate head coach Kenny Johnson paid Bowen Sr. $1,300 and former Louisville assistant coach Jordan Fair paid another recruit $900. Johnson is now an assistant at La Salle.
John Carns, Louisville’s senior associate athletic director for compliance, told the jury that he was unaware of the payments at the time.
In an interview with ESPN in 2017, Pitino reiterated that he had “no knowledge” of any payment to Bowen’s family, citing a lie detector test that he took in October of that year. Pitino said of Bowen: “He fell into our lap in recruiting. Obviously, now with the circumstances behind it, there’s more to it than meets the eye. But I believe Brian Bowen chose the University of Louisville because he loved the visit, he loved his future teammates and he wanted to play for me. I don’t think he’s involved in this in any way. Now, am I being naive? I don’t know. I just believe in that young man.”
The NCAA placed Louisville on probation for four years in June 2017 following a two-year investigation into allegations that a former Louisville staff member arranged for striptease dances and sex acts for players and recruits during parties at an on-campus dormitory from 2011 to 2015. The Cardinals were also forced to vacate their 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four appearance, and self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2015-16 season.
Louisville’s escort scandal stemmed from allegations made by former escort Katina Powell, who wrote in a book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” that former Louisville staffer Andre McGee paid her $10,000 for 22 shows at the Cardinals’ dormitory from 2010 to 2014.
Pitino denied knowledge of McGee’s actions, but the NCAA ruled that he violated NCAA head-coach responsibility rules by failing to monitor McGee. Pitino received a five-game ACC suspension, while McGee was given a 10-year show cause.
“Since arriving at Louisville, I have seen up close the incredible changes that have taken place under the leadership of President Bendapudi and Director of Athletics Vince Tyra in our university and in our athletics department. The shared values and commitment to integrity is evident in their actions and has always been demanded in the programs that my staff and I have led,” current Louisville coach Chris Mack said in a statement. “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 future is bright for Cardinal Basketball. Our focus will continue to be on our tremendous student-athletes.”