Former Louisville sue NCAA seeking to restore 2013 title

This report will be updated.

A group of former Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball players filed their lawsuit against the NCAA on Wednesday, accusing the organization of portraying members of the 2013 team in a false light.

The suit seeks to restore the team’s 2013 championship and associated accolades, which were vacated by the NCAA along with more than 100 wins as a result of the school’s escort scandal.

The five plaintiffs — former players Luke Hancock, Gorgui Dieng, Stephan Van Treese, Tim Henderson and Michael Marra — also “seek a declaration that they are completely innocent of any wrongdoing as implied by the NCAA,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Jefferson Circuit Court.

They are being represented by a group of lawyers headed by John Morgan, of nationwide personal injury law firm Morgan & Morgan.

“We are used to fighting Goliath every single day,” said Morgan during a press conference Wednesday at the Galt House. “In the sports world I don’t think there is any Goliath that exists like the NCAA.”

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Read more: Luke Hancock, ex-Louisville players to sue NCAA for vacated 2013 title

During the press conference, Morgan went on a tirade against the NCAA, accusing the organization of taking advantage of poor and disadvantaged kids. He said that the college players should not be called “student-athletes” but rather “student servants.”

In Louisville’s case, he said the players have been falsely accused of being a part of the scandal and want their names cleared.

“They’re going to do it (reinstate Louisville’s 2013 national title),” Morgan said. “By God, they’re going to do it if we have to drag them down here by the hair from Indianapolis to the courthouse.”

The suit asks the NCAA to declare the players “did not engage in striptease dances, prostitution and tipping of strippers as implied by the Defendant (NCAA).”  

Hancock, the only player at the press conference, said he can’t go more than two days without anybody asking him about the strippers in the dormitory, even though he was not involved.

“The NCAA has a reputation that I think a lot of people in this room know about. Like Mr. Morgan said, we’re going to push back,” said Hancock, who won Final Four Most Outstanding Player. He declined to say who’s paying for the lawsuit.

The University of Louisville and former head coach Rick Pitino are not named as parties in the suit.

“We understand the frustrations and empathize with our former student-athletes,” Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra wrote in an email to the Courier Journal. “These young men expended a great deal of effort and came together as a group to accomplish something very rare and special. Our university invested significant resources to oppose the vacation of records penalty and engaged the nation’s top appeals attorney in our defense.  While we were unsuccessful and emphatically do not agree with the decision, we are obligated at this time as a member of the NCAA to abide by the ruling and have complied accordingly.”

The NCAA did not immediately respond to a Courier Journal email seeking comment about the lawsuit.

This is the second known lawsuit filed against the NCAA in relation to Louisville’s punishment.

A group of fans, who have dubbed themselves the University of Louisville Protection and Advocacy Coalition, sued the NCAA in April for the reinstatement of the wins and repayment of financial damages but not exceeding $74,999.

A judge is expected to rule next month on a motion to dismiss the case asked for by the NCAA.

The NCAA argued that the fan group has “no authority to sue on U of L’s behalf and have not sustained any legally cognizable injury.”

Danielle Lerner: 502-582-4042; dlerner@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @Danielle_Lerner. Justin Sayers: 502-582-4252; jsayers@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @_JustinSayers. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/daniellel.

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