LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Escort Katina Powell broke her silence on Tuesday, saying she has no proof that Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino knew that a former Cardinals staffer hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with former recruits and players.
But Powell said in an interview initially aired on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that with “a boatload” of recruits and dancers, “loud music, alcohol, security, cameras” in a campus dormitory, “how could Rick not know?”
In her first interview since the release of her book earlier this month, “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” Powell spoke with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” part of which was aired on the ABC morning show and all day on the sports network. Powell said that the coach had to be aware of some of 22 shows she alleges that former staffer Andre McGee paid her for that took place in Billy Minardi Hall from 2010-14.
Pitino has denied knowledge of the activities that Powell alleges in her book.
Former Cardinals recruit JaQuan Lyle, now an Ohio State freshman, has confirmed the “gist of allegations” detailed in Powell’s book during a meeting earlier this month with the NCAA, CBS Sports reported. OSU confirmed that Lyle spoke with the NCAA.
Powell alleges that McGee, who played for Louisville before becoming a graduate assistant coach and director of men’s basketball operations, paid her $10,000 for the 22 shows. The dancers included Powell, her three daughters and other women, according to the book.
“Andre would come to me and tell me what girl the recruit wanted,” Powell said Tuesday morning in the broadcast of the ESPN interview, “and I would tell the girl. She would say her price, I would tell him, he would say, ‘OK’, give me the money. That was just it.
“He would take them into another room, and her and the recruit would do what they did behind closed doors.”
McGee left Louisville in 2014 to become an assistant at Missouri-Kansas City. The school placed him on paid administrative leave on Oct. 2 when the allegations surfaced and said it is taking them seriously.
Louisville men’s basketball spokesman Kenny Klein said in a text message Tuesday that “to preserve the integrity of the review process, the university will withhold comment on any details until the review is concluded.”
No one answered at Powell’s home Tuesday afternoon. Messages left on Powell’s cellphone and with her attorney, Larry Wilder of Jeffersonville, Indiana, were not immediately returned. Attempts to reach McGee’s Louisville-based attorney, Scott C. Cox, also were unsuccessful.
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, who played for Pitino at Kentucky, said he is 100 percent confident Pitino knew nothing of the sex parties, if the allegations are true.
Ford said Tuesday during Big 12 Conference media day “for somebody who played for him and knows what he stands for and his expectations out of his players and how he does things, I know there is no chance in the world he knew anything about it.”
At a season tipoff luncheon Oct. 13 with Cardinals fans and supporters, Pitino said he understood the motivation behind Powell’s book but questioned the need for those activities in light of the talent his program has produced in recent years.
“From our end of the thing, I don’t get the ‘why?’ It doesn’t make sense,” Pitino said then, reiterating his adherence to NCAA regulations.
Pitino said if the allegations are true, “those responsible will pay the price” and that his program “will get through this the right way.”
Powell’s assertions have led to four separate investigations, the two most recent coming two weeks ago.
Campus police chief Wayne Hall announced that his department would work with Louisville Metro Police and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to review the allegations for possible criminal charges.
Two days later the University of Louisville Foundation announced the hiring of a law firm to review the allegations. Investigations by the athletic department and the NCAA were launched immediately after the school was notified of the book’s allegations in late August.
Powell told ESPN that she tried to notify the NCAA this spring about her allegations but was hung up on by someone at college athletics’ governing body.
The NCAA didn’t comment on the allegation, but spokeswoman Emily James did say in an email on Tuesday, “As with any potential rule violation, we welcome a conversation with anyone who has information.”
AP Sports Writers Mike Marot in Indianapolis, and Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.
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