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Louisville investigating claim of escort use for basketball recruits

Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals

Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals shouts in the first half of the game against the Michigan State Spartans during the East Regional Final of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Carrier Dome on March 29, 2015 in Syracuse, N.Y. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

Louisville is investigating allegations that former Cardinals men's basketball staffer Andre McGee brought escorts into dorm parties, and paid for the women to strip and have sex with recruits, their fathers and players.

Those allegations by Katina Powell are in an upcoming book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen," from a publishing affiliate of the Indianapolis Business Journal. Some details of the book were published on the Journal's web site, noting during a four-year period many of the activities allegedly took place in the players' dormitory.

Louisville officials say they learned of the allegations in late August and immediately notified the NCAA. McGee left Louisville in 2014 to become an assistant at Missouri-Kansas City. That school put McGee on paid leave Friday night and issued a statement saying the allegations were being taken seriously.

The age of consent to have sexual intercourse in Kentucky is 16, though in some instances it could be 18. It is unclear if a criminal investigation has also been launched in light of the allegations.

Louisville Metro police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said she was unaware of any investigation by the department, saying it was an issue to be handled by campus police.

University police operator Peter Anderson said he was unaware of the allegations and that no staffers were available to comment. Cardinals basketball spokesman Kenny Klein initially notified the compliance office about the allegations, but said he didn't know if police are involved.

Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said the situation caused sleeplessness when he first found out and said that he tried to conduct his own investigation before being rebuffed by the school's compliance office.

Pitino said McGee denied the allegations in a brief conversation.

Louisville retained Chuck Smrt of the Compliance Group, which assists schools in NCAA cases, to review the claims.

"Chuck is the quarterback of this entire project," Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said. "Chuck knows he's the most well-respected person, probably, within the NCAA and the NCAA has been involved every step of the way. We're an open book."

The Journal's summary of the book said that Powell brought women to 22 parties from 2010 to 2014 at Billy Minardi Hall, which houses Cardinals basketball players.

The woman said that she and three of her daughters, along with other women, danced and stripped for Louisville recruits and players and performed sex acts with them, according to the book. Powell, 43, also said McGee offered recruits alcohol at those parties.

In the book, Powell said that McGee initially brought women into the dorm through a side door. The process evolved to the point where the escorts entered and left the building through the front entrance and had become familiar to staff.

Jurich said he didn't know if video surveillance had been reviewed to back up that allegation and added, "that would be a Chuck Smrt or an NCAA question."

McGee played for Louisville from 2005-09 and started 57 games during his career. He played professionally in Europe before becoming a program assistant in 2010 and was promoted to director of basketball operations in 2012. McGee could not be reached for comment.

Both Jurich and Pitino said they believe that money was the woman's motivation for writing the book. Powell was paid for the book, but said in an interview with the Journal that she felt it was important to tell the story.

The publishing company said it paid investigators and Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Dick Cady to vet Powell's story, and based much of it on journal entries, photos and text messages.

The allegations come on the eve of Louisville's first Red-White scrimmage. The Cardinals reached the NCAA East Region final last season.

"To say I'm disheartened, disappointed would be probably the biggest understatement I've made since I've been a coach," Pitino said during a news conference. "It's mind boggling to me how all this could go on. I've read that the statement that the publishing company put out and it almost got me sick to my stomach.

"My emotions right now, my heart is really broken."

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