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  • FILE - In this April 9, 2013, file photo, Louisville's Luke Hancock speaks during a news conference after the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game against Michigan, in Atlanta. An attorney representing a group of former Louisville men's basketball players says they have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA over the organization's vacation of the Cardinals' 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four. 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, described the NCAA as "a morally bankrupt organization" that exploits student-athletes during a Wednesday, July 11, 2018, news conference. The NCAA stripped Louisville of the title as part of sanctions for violations discovered during an escort scandal investigation. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 2:40 pm

Ex-Louisville players sue NCAA about vacated national title

Associated Press

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

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 and described the NCAA as "a morally bankrupt organization" that exploits student-athletes during a Wednesday news conference.

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 it wrongfully vacated the plaintiffs' wins, honors and awards.

Morgan added, "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."

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 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 their 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 any giant exists like the NCAA. The NCAA is a giant, but the NCAA is a morally bankrupt organization that has taken advantage of economically disadvantaged kids throughout the 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 whether 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 violations did occur and imposed penalties including sitting out the 2016 postseason in an effort to mitigate NCAA penalties.

The organization 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 and vowed to fight the penalties. 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.

Pitino is suing the school along with sportswear maker Adidas, which dropped him after his firing.