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NCAA Suspends Louisville Basketball Coach Rick Pitino in Escort Scandal

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was suspended on Thursday from his team's first five Atlantic Coast Conference games next season in an alleged sex-for-pay scandal.

Louisville said it would appeal the ruling by the NCAA, which also put the basketball program on probation for four years.

Image: Rick Pitino
Louisville basketball Rick Pitino at a news conference in October 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. Timothy D. Easley / AP file

In addition, the NCAA wiped out all basketball records in which ineligible student-athletes competed from December 2010 to July 2014. The university will pay a self-imposed $5,000 fine, as well.

Pitino at a news conference called the NCAA penalty "unjust" and "over-the-top severe."

The decision stems from the NCAA's investigation into allegations that a former operations director arranged for adult entertainment and sex acts to visit the university for 15 prospective students, three current student-athletes, two coaches and others, the NCAA's infractions committee said in a statement.

At least seven, and potentially 10, of the prospective students allegedly were minors. The director chose not to cooperate with the investigation.

The infractions committee found Pitino to be partly at fault because he allowed the director to interact with the visiting prospects in their dorm. It said all staff members must "act with honor and dignity, but [Pitino] instead created an environment that has no place on a college campus."

The NCAA described the violations as "serious" on Twitter.

The university's interim president, Greg Postel, said the school was "saddened by what took place" and that "it never should have happened," but he said the penalties "went beyond what we consider to be fair and reasonable."

Postel said in a statement that he doesn't believe Pitino knew about the activities and that the decision wasn't fair to him.

Postel said the university accepted full responsibility from the start, and imposed its own penalties, which included a post-season ban in 2016.

Consultant Chuck Smrt, hired by the university, said the NCAA penalties include vacation of basketball records, which could affect 108 regular season games and 15 NCAA wins. In 2013 the Cardinals won the NCAA championship, which could be in jeopardy. The NCAA did not specifically mention the title in its announcement.

"We sat down and made some very tough decisions a year ago in imposing those penalties and it did severely hurt our program," Pitino said at a news conference Thursday. "And none of us do not feel extreme remorse, regret in everything that — what went on inside that dormitory. We've said that many, many times."

"But this is over the top. It's to the point where it's not even conceivable what I just read," Pitino said. He added that "we believe we will win the appeal because it's right and it's just."