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Associated Press 133d

Former Louisville players file suit against NCAA over vacation of 2013 national title

Men's College Basketball, Louisville Cardinals

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A group of former Louisville men's basketball players have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA over the organization's vacation of the Cardinals' 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four appearance.

John Morgan, one of several attorneys representing former Cardinals captain Luke Hancock -- the 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player -- and four teammates from that title team, said a lawsuit had been filed. During a Wednesday news conference, Morgan described the NCAA as "a morally bankrupt organization" that exploits student-athletes.

The suit filed Wednesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court does not specify monetary damages. It states the NCAA cast the plaintiffs in a false light and seeks declaration that it wrongfully vacated the plaintiffs' wins, honors and awards.

"If all we get is this championship back for Louisville, and the players, and the city, and Luke's MVP back, that's going to be plenty pay for us," Morgan added.

The attorney also mentioned former Louisville players Gorgui Dieng, Tim Henderson, Stephan Van Treese and Mike Marra as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The NCAA stripped Louisville of the title as part of sanctions for violations discovered during an escort scandal investigation.

Hancock stressed that his title ring "is not coming off" and said the embarrassing scandal continues to dog him despite not being involved.

"It's been five years and I can't tell you two days where I've gone without having someone come to me and ask me if I had strippers or prostitutes in the dorm," he said. "I'm excited that Morgan & Morgan has partnered with us and is going to represent us because enough is enough."

Messages left with the NCAA were not immediately returned.

The governing body in February denied the school's appeal and vacated 123 victories, including its third NCAA title, following an escort's book allegations in October 2015 that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers for sex parties. Louisville removed the championship banner from its home arena soon afterward.

"We are used to fighting giants," Morgan said. "In the sports world, I don't think there is any Goliath that exists like the NCAA. The NCAA is a giant, but the NCAA is a morally bankrupt organization that has taken advantage of economically disadvantaged young people throughout our country.

"They answer to nobody but are bad for everybody."

The liability attorney did not mention former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who has denied knowledge of the activities alleged by Katina Powell in her book "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen."

Hancock said he frequently talks with Pitino but did not specifically ask if he wanted to be involved.

Several investigations soon followed after Powell's allegations, including ones by the school and the NCAA. Louisville's own investigation found that violations did occur and imposed penalties including sitting out the 2016 postseason in an effort to mitigate NCAA penalties.

The NCAA in June 2017 ordered Louisville to vacate victories that included the championship and Final Four appearance for activities it described as "repugnant" in its decision. Pitino was suspended for five games for failing to monitor McGee. The school and the coach vowed then to fight the penalties.

As the appeals process unfolded, the Hall of Fame coach was suspended and eventually fired after 16 seasons last fall following Louisville's acknowledgment of its involvement in a federal corruption probe of college basketball.

Pitino is not named in the federal complaint and has denied knowledge of any payments made to the family of former Louisville recruit Brian Bowen. The coach is suing the school along with sportswear maker Adidas, which dropped him after his firing.

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