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U of L Says Investigative Committee Had No Authority In Postseason Ban Decision

J. Tyler Franklin

Less than a day after a member of the University of Louisville's investigative committee looking into allegations of prostitution within the men's basketball program spoke out against the school's decision to self-impose a postseason ban, the university is attempting to clarify the committee's role.

It is the first time any U of L official has spoken publicly about details of the committee, despite inquiries from WFPL and other media for more information.

The statement from U of L also comes after men's basketball coach Rick Pitino last week told a national ESPN radio show that Athletic Director Tom Jurich made the decision to keep the team out of the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA tournaments this season. The school had previously said it was U of L President James Ramsey's call, and reiterated that in a statement today.

U of L Professor Ricky Jones, chair of the Pan-African Studies Department and a member of the investigative committee, told The Courier-Journal on Monday that he disagreed with the decision to self-impose a ban.

“There was nothing we saw that implicated anyone but Andre McGee," Jones told the C-J.

McGee, former director of basketball operations, is accused of hiring an escort service to provide strippers and sex to recruits and players between 2010 and 2014.

Jones told the newspaper no new information was presented to the committee at a meeting the day before Ramsey announced the decision.

But U of L said Jones, who has not responded to a request for comment from WFPL, did not attend the Feb. 5 meeting at which the university's investigator presented the information that led to Ramsey's decision to self-impose the postseason ban.

“At President Ramsey’s request, the U of L Investigative Committee met on Friday morning (February 5) to allow Chuck Smrt, our investigator who is working in coordination with the NCAA, to brief the committee members regarding the results of the inquiry to date," said the statement from U of L spokesman John Karman. "Professor Jones was unable to attend because of another commitment."

Karman said that morning, the committee was provided the information Ramsey was given when he decided to impose the ban. They were also told of the decision then, he said.

When he announced the ban Feb. 5, Ramsey said Smrt and the university had found information showing at least one NCAA violation had occurred. He declined to elaborate further, citing the ongoing NCAA investigation.

The decision sparked widespread criticism and outcry. The team's two fifth-year seniors, Trey Lewis and Damion Lee, transferred to U of L from mid-major programs expressly to play in the NCAA tournament.

Pitino also criticized the decision, saying it was the harshest he had seen. But after days of Ramsey receiving the brunt of the criticism, Pitino told ESPN's Mike and Mike on Feb. 9 that Jurich actually made the call. And, he said, he trusted Jurich's judgement.

The university clarified on Monday that Ramsey actually made the decision, saying that he consulted with Jurich.

U of L had also been tight-lipped about the role of the investigative committee, which includes Ramsey; Elaine Wise, chair of the Division of Humanities; Jerry Tolson, professor of Jazz Studies and Music Education; U of L general counsel Leslie Strohm; and John Carns, senior associate athletic director for compliance.

"The committee’s role is to serve in an advisory capacity to the President, but there is no custom or requirement that the President’s decisions are subject to a vote of the committee or its acquiescence," Karman said. "Institutionally, the President has the responsibility for any decisions regarding this matter."

Stephen George is President and CEO of Louisville Public Media. Email Stephen at sgeorge@lpm.org.