In February 2018, the University of Louisville men’s basketball program was forced to vacate 123 wins from the 2011-2014 seasons. This included Louisville’s 2013 national championship, making Louisville the first university to have to vacate a national title. The program was forced to vacate these wins and pay fines by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) due to multiple NCAA infractions. The infractions revolved around former staff member Andre McGee of the men’s basketball team allegedly hiring exotic dancers and escorts to entice recruits to choose Louisville. The NCAA also accused Louisville of providing $5,400 in “impermissible benefits” on 24 out of 200 prospect visits between 2010 and 2014.
The allegations and following sanctions were previously reported by the Sports Law Insider. Additionally, we have previously reported that disgraced former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who was removed from his head coaching position after the allegations surfaced, suggested legal action to reclaim Louisville’s national title.
Now, on Wednesday, July 11, five former Louisville basketball players are suing the NCAA over their sanctions. The suit was filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court and does not specify monetary damages. The plaintiff players include Luke Hancock, Gorgui Dieng, Stephan Van Treese, Time Henderson and Michael Marra, who all played for the Cardinals for at least one year from 2011-2014. All five of the plaintiffs were members of the 2013 national championship team as well. Hancock commented on the importance of the suit by saying, “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, I’m excited that Morgan & Morgan has partnered with us and is going to represent us because enough is enough.”
The plaintiffs are being represented by Michael T. Morgan of Morgan & Morgan Kentucky PLLC. Morgan was very outspoken in his comments about the suit and the NCAA. Morgan said, “”We are used to fighting giants, 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.” The complaint states that taking away the title amounts to theft, alleging specifically the state law claims of conversion and trespass to chattels. The complaint says, “The plaintiffs had legal title to their basketball wins, championships and awards, Defendant exercised dominion over their wins, championships and awards in a manner that deprived plaintiffs of their property.”
Additionally, the complaint says the NCAA has casted the players in a “false light”, a state law claim similar to defamation. The plaintiffs have been said to engaged in “lewd and lascivious behavior” by the defendants even though the defendants “know” the plaintiffs never engaged in such behavior. The complaint also states that the NCAA never should have been investigating Louisville in the first place and seriously “botched” the investigation due to their lack of expertise in conducting investigations. Most importantly, the suit seeks declarations that the players “are completely innocent of any wrongdoing and are champions” and reinstatement of all wins and titles to Louisville.