Published reports Wednesday that former Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino was allegedly more deeply involved than first thought in the ongoing college basketball corruption investigation created fresh headlines and discussion on social media, but did not offer any substantially new information about the case.
According to one of the latest indictments, defendant Christian Dawkins “explained that while Coach-2 and the University of Louisville were recruiting the student-athlete Dawkins asked Coach-2 to call James Gatto, a/k/a “Jim,” the defendant, to request that Company-1 (Adidas) provide the money requested by the family of the student-athlete, which Coach-2 agreed to do.”
In multiple media reports, Pitino has been identified as the “Coach-2” mentioned in the initial indictment. James Gatto is the Adidas executive who has been charged by the FBI and since suspended by the athletic apparel company.
The new indictment passage “which Coach-2 agreed to do,” goes slightly beyond the initial indictment of Sept. 26, which detailed a similar conversation that included an FBI informant. The Sept. 26 complaint reads: “Dawkins then said he had spoken with Coach-2 about getting additional money for Player-10’s family and informed Coach-2 that ‘I need you to call Jim Gatto, (the defendant) who’s the head of everything’ at Company 1’s basketball program.”
ESPN correctly reported Wednesday the original indictment “didn’t include language indicating Pitino agreed to” call Gatto. But the allegation that Coach-2 coordinated the payment was implied in the original complaint, as well. The Sept. 26 indictment indicated the money could not be garnered without Coach-2’s involvement.
And later in the Sept. 26 complaint, it states that someone with a phone number used by “Coach-2” is said to have had two conversations with Gatto “on or about May 27” and then another conversation on June 1. “Two days later, on or about June 3, 2017, Player-10 (believed to be Louisville freshman Brian Bowen) officially committed to University-6 (Louisville) in return for the commitment by Gatto and Company-1 to pay $100,000 to his family.”
There has been no direct evidence announced of Pitino’s alleged involvement in the scheme. There have only been observations in the complaints about what a person or persons have said about Coach-2. And Pitino has not been indicted.
Pitino’s lawyer, Steve Pence, has repeatedly noted this point in arguing his client should not have been fired by Louisville in the fallout from the scandal. He repeated that assertion to Louisville media late Wednesday.
“There is zero corroboration anywhere that conversation took place ... This is a lie,” Pence said.
Chris White, sports director for the Courier Journal, which first reported on the new indictments Tuesday, rebutted the NBC report as soon as it was announced on Twitter by reporter Tom Winter.
The Courier Journal later filed its own report that these allegations were not new.
But the NBC report gained notice and was soon followed by an ESPN report and a number of tweets and retweets.