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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Five former Louisville players file lawsuit against NCAA

The Evening News and the Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind. — Josh Cook The Evening News and the Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.

July 11--LOUISVILLE -- Five former University of Louisville men's basketball players from the 2012-13 team want their banner -- and their honor -- back.

Gorgui Dieng, Tim Henderson, Stephan Van Treese, Mike Marra and Luke Hancock, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2013 Final Four, have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, accusing it of portraying them in a "false light." The quintet is seeking, among other things, "a declaration that they are completely innocent of any wrongdoing implied by the NCAA."

The lawsuit, which was announced Wednesday in a press conference that featured Hancock and a team of lawyers at the Galt House, comes five months after the NCAA Appeals Committee decided to uphold the NCAA's original penalties levied against Louisville in the wake of the escort scandal sparked by Katina Powell's book Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen. The punishment included the vacation of 123 wins, most notably the 82-76 victory over Michigan in the 2013 national title game, and the removal of the 2013 national championship banner from the KFC Yum! Center, the Cardinals' home court.

"We're here to get back what was wrongfully taken," John Morgan, of the Morgan & Morgan law firm, said. "We're here today to clear names. We're here today to reinstate awards. We're here today to reinstate wins, all of the wins. ... We're here to get [former head coach Rick] Pitino's championship back. But more than that, we're here to get these players' good names back. The NCAA is the home of broken promises ... of broken dreams and just flat-out lies. I can not think today of a more awful organization in America."

Hancock, the recent guest speaker at the 2018 NTSPY Awards, said that since Powell's bombshell book he hasn't "gone two days without someone asking me if I had strippers in the dorm."

Hancock wore his massive national championship ring on his right hand and declared, "it's never coming off."

"I worked my entire life to win that championship," added Hancock, who recently organized a public reunion of the 2012-13 team at Fourth Street Live! in downtown Louisville. "I'm involved with the right things. I didn't do anything wrong. ... This is something that is worthy to all of us. ... It's worth fighting for.

"Enough is enough. The NCAA has a reputation that I think a lot of people in this room know about. And like Mr. Morgan said, 'We're going to push back.'"

The press conference, which also included one of the lawyers comparing the five plaintiffs to the main character in Nathaniel Hawthorne's book The Scarlet Letter, was dominated by Morgan, who spent a good deal of time attacking the NCAA.

"The NCAA is a giant, but the NCAA is also a morally-bankrupt organization who, for years and years and years, has taken advantage of economically-disadvantaged young people from throughout our country," he said.

Morgan also said that he believes the five players he represents have had their names and reputations sullied by being falsely accused of involvement in the scandal and he wants their names cleared.

"By God they're going to do it, even if we have to drag them by the hair all the way from Indianapolis down to the courthouse, we're going to do it," he said.

Neither the University of Louisville nor Pitino were named as parties in the lawsuit.

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