LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has announced a one-year postseason ban for its men's basketball team in a move that stunned coach Rick Pitino Friday.
The ban follows ongoing investigations into a sex scandal in which an escort alleged that a former staffer paid her and other dancers to strip and have sex with recruits and players.
University President James Ramsey said at a news conference that an investigation by the school has revealed that some violations did occur. Ramsey said the ban is for all postseason tournaments, including the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference tournaments.
Ramsey said he received the latest results of the investigation on Thursday, but noted the review of the allegation is continuing.
"We found out yesterday that we had a problem," said athletic director Tom Jurich, adding that university wanted to deal with the findings as quickly as possible.
Pitino called the ban "as harsh as anything I've ever seen in college basketball."
"This is a punishment I never thought would have happened this season," said Pitino, who also attended the news conference with Ramsey, Jurich and former NCAA investigator Chuck Smrt.
The Cardinals (18-4, 7-2 ACC) are currently are ranked No. 19 and scheduled to play Boston College on Saturday. They would have been a lock for a tournament berth if they had not won the league title.
The 63-year-old Pitino has denied knowledge of allegations in a book by Katina Powell that former director of men's basketball operations Andre McGee paid $10,000 for 22 shows performed by her and other strippers, including three of her daughters.
Powell's allegations in her tell-all book rocked the Louisville community and led to four separate investigations into Pitino's program.
Louisville notified the NCAA about the allegations in late August and immediately launched its own investigation. The athletic department hired Smrt of The Compliance Group to look into the allegations.
Smrt said Friday that the action taken by the university is "a very significant step" considering the investigation is ongoing.
Within a week following the book's initial release, campus police chief Wayne Hall announced that his department would work with Louisville Metro Police and the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office to review the allegations for possible criminal conduct. The University of Louisville Foundation announced the hiring of a law firm to review the allegations two days later.
Powell's book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen" was released online Oct. 3 and in hardcover 17 days later. On Oct. 20, Powell said in interviews with ESPN's "Outside The Lines" that she had no proof that Pitino knew about the shows that took place in the players' Billy Minardi Hall dormitory from 2010-14.
But Powell said that with "a boatload" of recruits and dancers, "loud music, alcohol, security, cameras" in a campus dormitory, "how could Rick not know?"
The NCAA hasn't accepted coaches' explanations that they didn't know about violations or illegal activities. The sports' governing body has at times viewed ignorance as a sign of lack of institutional control in penalizing programs.
College athletics' governing body has recently cited Hall of Famers such as Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and SMU's Larry Brown, suspending both coaches nine games each for violations they contended occurred outside of their view.
Powell has said many of the shows took place in the players' Billy Minardi Hall dormitory, which Pitino named after his late brother-in-law who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Powell wrote that McGee paid her $10,000 plus tips during that period for her and dancers to strip and have sex with Louisville recruits and some of their fathers, along with some Cardinals players.
Pitino said McGee denied the allegations when brought to his attention in August, and he said other assistants weren't aware of the activities described in the 104-page book.
As successful as the defense-minded Pitino has been at winning college basketball games, he has also been at the center of some embarrassing episodes of sexual misconduct.
The first occurred in 2010 when Karen Sypher, the ex-wife of former assistant Tim Sypher, was convicted of trying to extort money from Pitino to keep secret their 2003 tryst on a restaurant table. She is serving a seven-year sentence for the crime in a Florida prison.
Last February, Pitino dismissed senior guard Chris Jones from the team just before his arrest for rape and sodomy of two women in a campus dorm. A grand jury declined to indict Jones and two other men in the incident.
The same year that Sypher was convicted, McGee allegedly had begun hiring Powell to dance for recruits. McGee left the program in 2014 to become an assistant at Missouri-Kansas City, which placed him on paid administrative leave on Oct. 2