Over the weekend, Russ Smith submitted an open letter to The Courier-Journal that he wanted to be shared with Louisville fans. Here’s what Russ had to say:
Just so the fans of U of L and the people who follow basketball know, I strongly believe the truth will come out and I still have faith the NCAA will take a closer look at the situation at hand and not penalize any of my brothers or recruits or young men who were minors at the time because of deceitful adults who had separate intentions. This is embarrassing for many of us, including our families, our close friends and our fans who saw everything we went through in order to achieve that goal.
I think the NCAA's final decision was wrong, but I understand they are in a difficult situation at hand and no decision will please everyone. But I know for sure the right one isn't vacating games. College is a place where things happen, where young adults open wrong doors and see things maybe they shouldn't see or meet people on campus who have no intentions of being a student on campus. Louisville basketball is a place where we are the face of the city, and we take pictures with many and don't ask what their profession is or what they do for a living. Maybe we should, but then again, who's to say we wouldn't be lied to? Who's to say we will be supported? My brothers and I took photos with these women because they were friends of a friend.
No one condones hookers or prostitution. In the city of Louisville, I've seen women chase some of my teammates and including myself when I was pretty popular. We did not have any attraction or interest in any of Ms. Powell's shenanigans, especially paying.
As for the recruits, in my personal opinion, maybe front office action or penalties should be required for an incident like this, or the adults in the situation should be brought to justice, such as Mr. McGee or Ms. Powell. McGee is and will always be a close friend of mine, but even in this instance, I feel he would agree that this accusation is between him and his friend, Ms. Powell.
This paints a terrible image of the university and most important my coach, who, for a fact, if he had found out what was at hand or that woman's business, would have had charges brought upon her, and the people involved would have lost jobs immediately. My coach has taught me many life lessons, and the truth is one of them. He cooperated entirely with the NCAA and he will do anything and everything in his power to keep the dignity of our university, demand justice and refuse to sell his soul.
We have had plenty of talented kids visit our school, but our coach gives us the decision to choose our teammates. We pick out who we want to go to war with. No money, no bribes, no women. What Coach tried to implement was a system of trust with us and the players, which was obviously broken, but our decision to get kids and their offers, for the most part, entirely, ultimately comes down to the players. I say this only because Ms. Powell states our actions are the reasons for players attending, which is completely false. Her actions of being deceitful, along with the broken trust of Mr. McGee and Coach, are the reason the university, the fans, my brothers and I are all in this mess.
Like I said before, college can be a welcoming or tainted place depending on the city, certain students, who hangs around campus, underage drinking, women, drugs, rape, etc., etc., you can name it. Sometimes the kids are always at fault because they make bad decisions. In this instance, it was two adults who put kids in harm's way, and for that sole reason, I think our wins should be kept and not vacated, and that the punishment should go toward the way of the adults who had set everything up.
The NCAA is a big organization, and getting into a shouting matter or over-the-top disagreement is completely futile. I think they need a better idea and understanding considering Mr. McGee wasn't and isn't willing to cooperate, so in some instances they are in the dark and they are left with a tough decision to make.
If there's any light that needs to be shed on the matter, I'll try my best to. These women imposed as friends and friends only, to my understanding. We meet many people every day, some in and outside of our dormitory. Yes, I've had parties in my dorm and invited sororities, frats, people in the West End, East End ... it's college and you meet people. Some people want to be with you because of your name or the letters in the front of your jersey. The women were in our dorm because they were around the campus and the athletes and nothing more. Whatever transpired between them and whoever else was their decision. I strongly believe they did not get paid for this. (I may be wrong.) And if they did, that is also between Mr. McGee and Ms. Powell and not any of my brothers. If the mother pimps out her daughters without anyone knowing that, how can my brothers be at any type of fault? Ms. Powell acted discreetly.
I stand behind the university, my coach and my brothers who were deceived and falsely accused of taking part in something they chose not to be a part of or may not have known the much deeper intentions of Mr. McGee and Ms. Powell.
That's where I stand. I hope the NCAA reads this and this sheds a brighter light on whatever you may have.