Did University of Louisville hire escorts for basketball recruits?

The NCAA is investigating claims that the University of Louisville paid strippers and prostitutes to woo basketball players and recruits.

Joe Raymond/AP/File
Louisville coach Rick Pitino talking with guard Andre McGee during the first half of an NCAA college men's basketball game against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., in February 2009. Louisville said Friday it has launched an investigation into allegations that former Cardinals staffer McGee paid an escort service to provide sex for recruits.

The NCAA is investigating stunning new claims that a former staff member of the University of Louisville hired escorts to have sex with players and recruits in the school’s beloved basketball program.

The claims stem from an upcoming book titled “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” written by local escort Katina Powell and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dick Cady.

Ms. Powell is alleging that Andre McGee, former Louisville player and director of basketball operations, "paid an escort service for four years to provide sex to teenage recruits to help woo the players to join the Cardinals team," the book’s publisher said in a press release.

"I felt like I was part of the recruitment team," Powell writes in the book. "A lot of them players went to Louisville because of me."

The book's authors drew from "hundreds of journal entries and thousands of text messages kept by the head of the escort service," said the Indianapolis Business Journal’s publishing department.

Powell said she provided entertainment, either directly or by lining up other dancers and escorts, for 22 parties between 2010 and 2014. The team went to the Final Four in 2012 and won the national championship in 2013.

Officials at the University of Louisville say they were first informed of the book in late August and subsequently hired Chuck Smrt, a "Kansas-based compliance expert who has worked with scores of universities and their athletics programs," to privately investigate, according to the Courier-Journal.

Several former Louisville players have been contacted by the book’s authors, said the school. It is not clear what was said in those encounters.

Powell writes that Mr. McGee provided strippers and prostitutes not only to campus recruits, whose names are revealed in the book, but some of the recruits' dads as well.

Several players contacted by the Journal said that this "was the first they’d heard of escorts coming to parties at U of L and interacting with players."

McGee, who now serves as an assistant coach at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, was placed on paid leave Friday night, according to local news.

McGee's lawyer, Scott Cox, told the Journal that while the former player knew Powell, the allegations aren't true. 

"Andre McGee has cooperated at every stage of this investigation," Cox said. "He loves the University of Louisville and would not do anything to hurt the image of the university."

Sports Illustrated reports that the NCAA is reaching out to recruits from the past several years for questioning. Both the NCAA and Mr. Smrt, the investigator hired by the university, have said they will not comment on an ongoing investigation.

The school’s athletic director, Tom Jurich, said that Louisville has provided investigators with logbooks for the dormitory where basketball players lived, calling the school an "open book."

"If we did anything wrong, we will ante up," he said.

Basketball coach Rick Pitino offered a more personal response.

“To say I’m disheartened  and disappointed would be probably the biggest understatement I’ve made since I’ve been a coach,” said Mr. Pitino. "I’m heartbroken."

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