Louisville self-imposes 2016 postseason ban amid investigation into sex scandal

Rick Pitino’s team is having a good year — but it’s no longer in the running for the NCAAs. (USATSI)

The Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball program has removed itself from eligibility for all postseason activity in 2016, the school announced Friday.

“Based upon the available information gathered by the NCAA enforcement staff and the University of Louisville, I’ve determined it was reasonable to conclude that violations had occurred in the men’s basketball program in the past,” school president James R. Ramsey said.

Louisville is currently the subject of an NCAA investigation that was brought on by the allegations of a self-described madame who wrote a book last fall detailing numerous alleged incidents with paid dancers and escorts who involved themselves with Louisville basketball players and recruits from 2010-2014.

Ramsey said the decision came after sitting down with Cardinals athletic director Tom Jurich. School officials reiterated no one could speak on the case as it stands now, as the NCAA has yet to publicly disclose the findings of its investigation. Even without giving details, Ramsey said violations uncovered and/or confirmed by the NCAA were severe enough that taking harsh action now, barely a month out from the start of the NCAA Tournament, was warranted.

“We found out yesterday that we had a problem,” Jurich said. “If was verified by (Louisville investigator) Chuck (Smrt) and the NCAA. So we want to deal with this in the most rapid way we possibly can.”

The story was first reported earlier by Kentucky Sports Radio and the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Smrt was careful to note that the NCAA’s case is not over and an ongoing evaluation on behalf of Louisville and its self-punishment protocol will continue.

Pitino referenced two fifth-year grad transfers, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, who were impact players who were not on Louisville’s campus until last summer.

“They were hit over the head with a sledgehammer, and they’re devastated, as well as the rest of the team for actions they weren’t involved with,” Pitino said.

Pitino said the team hugged and cried with Lee and Lewis after Pitino broke the news to his players on Friday afternoon.

Pitino, who said he has no plans to resign, also reiterated this news came as “a complete shock” and said Thursday night, after he found out a postseason ban had been decided, was “a night of extreme pain.”

Louisville’s ban comes two days after from the Cardinals’ best win of the season, a 71-65 home victory over No. 2 North Carolina. Pitino’s team is ranked 19th in the latest AP poll and is 18-4 this season. Before the ban was announced, Louisville was a No. 5 seed in the CBS Sports Bracketology bracket projection, but that’s moot now. The Cardinals will not play in the NCAA Tournament or the ACC tournament. Once Louisville’s March 5 game at Virginia ends, it will mark the end of the 2015-16 season for the team.

“This is a punishment I thought would never happen this season,” Pitino said. “This is a decision that’s as harsh as anything I’ve seen. But I’m a soldier in this army and I will go along with Dr. Ramsey, and certainly there’s no one in life I have more respect for than Tom Jurich. So we will go along with this and we will play the last nine games of the season as if they’re the last nine games we’ll ever play the game.”

Smrt said Pitino and Jurich — as is normal protocol — still don’t know the details of the NCAA’s investigation at this point.

The news comes 366 days after Syracuse self-imposed a postseason ban on its men’s basketball program for the 2015 season. Unlike Louisville, Syracuse was not on pace to reach last year’s NCAA Tournament. This is the third incident in a year to feature a program inside a multi-bid conference to undergo a postseason ban. In September, the NCAA ruled SMU would not be eligible for all postseason play in 2016 as well.

Since Syracuse’s self-imposed postseason ban on Feb. 4, 2015, these schools have been punished with postseason bans tied to NCAA investigations:

Syracuse
SMU
Cal State Northridge
Missouri
Southern Miss
Pacific
Louisville

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