--I first heard about this Thursday night. At that time, Louisville's understanding was that there was going to be a story released (at that time they thought it was going to be an outlet other than Yahoo) about this book, which they weren't even 100 percent sure existed. Louisville first learned about the scandal in late August and immediately contacted the NCAA and launched their own independent investigation. That investigation had been unable to turn up anything that corroborated what was being written in the book. As of Thursday night, U of L was hopeful that the "book" was still just going to wind up being an idle threat from someone looking for money. Still, they were aware that a story about the book was going to be written at some point in the succeeding five days, potentially as early as Friday afternoon.
I've been seeing a ton of "if the university knew about this in August, why couldn't they get more out in front of it?" The university knew that a book which would paint the basketball program in an unfavorable light was going to be written in August, they didn't know exactly what the book was going to allege until it was published late Friday night/early Saturday morning.
--The whole Indiana connection aspect is still very convoluted and unclear to me, but Louisville definitely has some suspicions about their involvement. Whether or not those suspicions are totally baseless, again, I don't know. Still, given the Mickey Maurer connection and the bizarre story of the totally unbelievable story of this woman just happening to land on IBJ Book Publishing through a Google search, I can see why there are some sideways stares being cast in the direction of Bloomington.
--Antonio Blakeney, who is discussed at length in the book, has been interviewed by the NCAA. While I have no knowledge of the exact content of what Blakeney said to the NCAA, I do know that his initial response to being informally questioned was being offended by both the notion that he needed prostitutes to get lucky, and that if he was going to go the prostitute route, that he would go with those prostitutes.
I know this is crude, but I'm just passing along what I know.
--I was very encouraged to hear that Scott Cox took on Andre McGee as a client, because Cox isn't a guy who takes on high-profile clients just for the sake of publicity, he usually won't take a case that he doesn't believe is a winner. He was adamant about the facts in the Chris Jones case last February, and ultimately everything he said at the start of the whole thing wound up being proven true. Here's hoping the same sequence of events plays out with this case, as Cox once again went heavily on the offensive right out of the gate.
--I'm fully aware that it's inadmissible in court for a reason, but my understanding is that McGee has already passed two lie detector tests. He fully admits to having a relationship with this woman, and I think the details of that relationship will eventually become more clear.
Reaction to the Book
--I steamrolled through the book in the early hours of Saturday morning when it first became available online. I went in fearing the absolute worst, and came away feeling relieved that there wasn't anything resembling a concrete, indisputable damning piece of evidence that could be used to hammer U of L basketball. I also felt like I needed to bathe in boiling water for the next five days.
The long and short of it as far as the book is concerned is this: it's not enough to bury Louisville on its own. The woman obviously had a relationship with McGee, she and her daughters (or "co-workers") obviously met U of L players in Minardi Hall, but the only real damning parts of the book come from the journal entries or text messages (more on those later), which have their own issues. If it comes down to a he said/she said situation, I'm not sure that Katina Powell is the person you want carrying that flag. Basically, if Louisville basketball is going to get burned badly by this, it's going to take a former player or recruit coming out and 100% corroborating one of the more scandalous passages in the book.
--My biggest fear when I heard that the author/accuser had pictures of what she was claiming was that these pictures would be of a bunch of recruits or that they would provide actual evidence of the scandalous behavior (sex, stripping, throwing dollar bills, whatever) in progress. There is none of that.
All of the pictures in the book look like the pictures we've seen a thousand times of basketball players posing for shots with fans. In fact, the Chane Behanan picture is the only one where it looks like one of the players might actually know who the woman they're posing with is. Both Harrell and Siva have that same "okay, this is awkward, let's get this over with" expression that everyone has seen a million times in fan pictures on Instagram or Twitter.
It's pretty obvious that at some point, Powell knew she was going to wind up selling her story, which is why we have pictures of receipts and Andre McGee's car in a hotel parking lot and one of her daughters just posing inside Minardi Hall. My question then is why not snap at least one picture of the players watching the girls strip? Why not snap a quick phone picture of a player in bed with one of the girls? Sure, they might ask you not to do that, but I'm pretty sure you could sneak one in at some point during these "parties." And even if you couldn't, why not at least try? If you're really out here trying to get rich and famous off this, that's the money shot .... that's the UNLV hot tub picture that makes you immortal.
Not having that picture or anything resembling that picture was the biggest takeaway from the book, for me at least.
--If something in the book outside of just the allegations made by Powell can hurt it Louisville, it's the alleged text messages between her and McGee. Some of these messages appear in the form of screnshots whereas others seem to be re-produced from her memory. It's a bit hard to follow, and Powell says that the reason for that is she had hundreds of text messages disappear when her phone became infected with a virus .... which is something that has never happened to anyone. Even if some of what she's saying winds up being true and provable, claims like "I got a virus on my phone and it deleted all these crazy awesome messages I had that would have totally taken Louisville basketball down" are what make Powell such an unreliable accuser.
--McGee hiring Powell to help Louisville land Blakeney while McGee himself was already an assistant at UMKC also doesn't make much sense, and Powell never attempts to explain in the book why he was doing it.
--On top of that, the whole notion of McGee doing all this to land recruits doesn't make much sense ... that wasn't Andre's job. Additionally, he didn't make all that much money. I know members of athletic staffs often wind up performing tasks that aren't in their job description, but I don't know ... McGee was never once a name you heard associated with any sort of recruiting news.
--Blakeney's mother says her son was never at the Embassy Suites on the night where it's alleged that Antonio and a guardian both had sex with one of the girls. The presented evidence to the contrary is this direct message exchange on Twitter.
The woman then goes on to ask Blakeney for his number and other personal information, and he doesn't respond.
Here's the deal: a pretty girl sends a picture of herself looking especially enticing to an 18-year-old and then asks if he remembers her .... there's a very solid chance that he's going to lie and just say "yes" just to see where this is going. I'm not saying that this is absolutely what happened in this case, I'm just saying that it's too much of a plausible scenario to make this screenshot overwhelmingly convincing.
--Claiming that Pitino 100% knew about everything that was going on isn't going to help Powell's case much either, I don't think. Anybody who knows Rick Pitino on any level is going to dismiss the notion that he was aware of, in approval of, and at least partially funding the use of prostitutes for Louisville basketball players and recruits.
The fact that Powell never makes this claim in the book, but is doing so now, is also more than a bit odd. That would seem to be a key point that you would want to make sure was included in (electronic) print.
--Damage has already been done at this point, and for now at least, that's the worst part. Louisville will have to hear about this for the entire season, and even if every word of that book winds up being proven false, the program will still be forced to wear the stain that comes with salacious accusations in the modern world.
So much of what has made the past handful of seasons great has been the character and likability of the young men involved. To see that tainted in any way hurts, and I think that's why Pitino appeared so heartbroken on Friday.
--Anyone who believes that Louisville knows exactly what's going on and is now figuring out how to perform damage control is incorrect. The powers that be at U of L know little more than what's been reported on up to this point. I think both Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino made it apparent on Friday that they're both aware and worried about the potential that at least some of this could be true, but some people have mistakenly taken that as an admission of guilt.
The fact of the matter is that the higher-ups at U of L feel strongly about the facts they've received thus far and the light in which they will ultimately paint Louisville, but they're also aware that this is an ongoing process, and that the "wait and see" approach is really all they have. They've invested a significant amount of money into an investigation that they believe will present them with the whole truth, and for now they're going to let that investment do its job.
Just because U of L hasn't come out on the offensive yet doesn't mean that it isn't going to happen or that they're accepting at least partial guilt. When the time to swing comes, swings will be taken.
I'll be discussing this in greater detail on today's radio show from 3-6 on 93.9.