NCAA sanctions unlikely to hurt Louisville with recruits
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By GARY B. GRAVES
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Rick Pitino and Louisville officials are preparing their appeal to the sanctions the NCAA levied on them after its escorts investigation.
But one would-be elephant in the room they don't have to deal with is a postseason ban. That is a reprieve of sorts from the NCAA that allows the program to move forward on the court and the recruiting trail.
There are other sanctions looming one day after the governing body docked the program four scholarships over the next four years, restricted recruiting and suspended Pitino for five Atlantic Coast Conference games. School officials said Thursday they will appeal the penalties.
Louisville, however, has operated under its own restrictions for over a year following its own investigation of Katina Powell's allegations that she and other escorts were hired to have sex parties and strip for Louisville recruits and players. The university's self-imposed penalties included a 2016 postseason ban that seems to have had little effect on Louisville's recruiting standing with an incoming class ranked in the top 10 nationally by several services.
Not to mention, a promising outlook down the road.
"Everyone's known what happened, the transgressions that took place, and Louisville's recruiting has been just as good as it's ever been," 247Sports scouting director Jerry Meyer said.
"It's kind of odd. You think it'd have a negative impact. It just seems logical. But it's been a very counterintuitive situation."
Louisville is ranked sixth nationally in composite rankings of recruiting services compiled by 247Sports. Its 2018 class is ranked fourth at this point.
The Cardinals' 2017 class includes the recent addition of high school All-American Brian Bowen, a 6-foot-7, 195-pound guard who averaged 20.4 points and 7 rebounds per game last season for La Lumiere High School in La Porte, Indiana. He bolsters a highly touted class featuring 6-11 forward-center Malik Williams; 6-8 forwards Jordan Nwora and Lance Thomas; and 6-2 guard Darius Perry.
They will be counted on to blend with veteran guards Quentin Snider and Deng Adel and fill voids left by the departures of guard and leading scorer Donovan Mitchell and big men Mangok Mathiang and Jaylen Johnson.
Pitino raved about the incoming group last month and said at that time he didn't think any NCAA ruling would affect recruiting. Though he seethed Thursday about that penalty and other sanctions, the coach was also encouraged by the talent signed and his program's prospects going forward.
"We've had the best recruiting class I've had in 16 years this year, probably going to have an even better one next year," the Hall of Fame coach said when asked about the scandal's lingering effects.
Meyer suggested that Louisville's situation might have ended up generating sympathy for the program and Pitino among recruits, and could increase after the ruling. Though he noted a potential impact from fewer available scholarships, he doesn't believe it will be a big deal because "no one plays 12 players."
While Pitino was among many who disagreed with the announcement of a postseason ban in February 2016, that pre-emptive move turned out to be one disciplinary measure acceptable to the NCAA.
Pitino accepted the school's decision back then but was unhappy with it for many reasons, one of which was that it denied graduate transfers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis the NCAA Tournament appearance both had dreamed of playing. Louisville returned to the ACC and NCAA tournaments this spring and can move forward knowing it's eligible for future appearances, an important selling point to recruits even with fewer scholarships.
As the school plans its appeal of the sanctions, the 64-year-old Pitino seems more emboldened than ever.
"I plan on staying here winning multiple championships, not just one," he said. "I plan on going to multiple Final Fours, not just one. And that is what leaders do, they lead the players they are coaching."
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
Updated June 16, 2017