Men's Basketball

Louisville athletics board fires Rick Pitino

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino walks off the court after a 73-69 loss to Michigan in a second-round game in the men's NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 19, 2017, in Indianapolis.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino walks off the court after a 73-69 loss to Michigan in a second-round game in the men's NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 19, 2017, in Indianapolis. AP

The University of Louisville Athletics Association voted unanimously to fire men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino for cause Monday afternoon following revelations from an FBI investigation into alleged corruption in college basketball.

The determination came after Pitino’s lawyers presented their case for why he should not be fired for cause during a lengthy closed-door session.

“We listened carefully to what they said,” interim university president Gregory Postel said. “We read carefully everything they gave us in the booklet of materials. And at the end of the conversation we felt that our initial decision to begin the process of termination for cause was still in the best interest of the university to make the decision at this point in time.”

Pitino has signaled he would sue Louisville for breach of contract and demand the $44 million remaining on his deal.

“Coach Pitino could not have known of this scheme that was going on,” Pitino’s lawyer Steve Pence said Monday after his team met with the ULAA, but before its decision Monday afternoon. “And the right thing to do is bring the coach back. He’s not terminated right now, and he should not be terminated. He should be brought back. If the university wants to negotiate for him to leave at a later time, we can talk about that.”

Firing Pitino for cause likely sets in motion a legal battle over whether the university followed the contract stipulations for removing him. Postel said it was premature to discuss the possible settlement of such a suit while acknowledging it would not be unusual.

During the ULAA deliberations, Pitino’s legal team submitted a 50-page presentation that included an affidavit and the results of a polygraph test attempting to refute the allegations that the coach knew of the alleged pay-for-play scheme the Justice Department alleged against a number of coaches and programs on Sept. 26.

In the polygraph submitted by his counsel, Pitino denies any knowledge of payments to one of his players, Brian Bowen. And the polygraph report indicates his answer “is not indicative of deception.”

The report also include what are purported to be texts between Pitino and some of the parties involved in the investigation.

Pence maintained that Pitino not only could not have known about the scheme, he should not be held responsible for the alleged illicit activities of those that did.

“If this happened on Coach’s watch, it happened on President (Gregory Postel’s watch,” Pence said. “It happened on Chairman (J. David) Grissom’s watch. You cannot guarantee the conduct of other people. You can do your very best to make sure they comply. Coach did that. You can do your absolute very best to monitor what they do, you can do your very best to instruct them to do the right thing, and that’s what Coach Pitino did.”

The submission also acknowledged that Pitino was, in fact, the “Coach-2” listed in the criminal complaint. But Pence noted their is no specific evidence that “Coach-2” did anything improper. The complaint includes accounts of what other parties said “Coach-2” did or would do, but it has no direct evidence that “Coach-2” actually committed wrongdoing.

Pitino was suspended without pay on Sept. 27. Monday was the end of the 10-day notice stipulated in Pitino’s contract for being fired with cause.

While Louisville and its basketball coaches were not named in the criminal complaint, Justice Department officials left little doubt Louisville was one of the schools at the center of a pay-to-play scheme, and the university has acknowledged it has been told it is part of the investigation. Pitino has denied any wrongdoing.

In the affidavit submitted by Pitino, the coach takes issue with the university’s “about-face” in reference to the escort scandal and attempts to refute any involvement in the pay-for-play scheme. Pitino notes the university and its interim president, Gregory Postel, sided with him against the NCAA sanctions until the FBI case revelations came out. The escort scandal was mentioned in Pitino’s Sept. 27 suspension letter.

As to the FBI case, Pitino stated: “I had no part — active, passive or willful ignorance — in the conspiracy described in the complaint.

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Pitino and Athletics Director Tom Jurich were suspended the day after the allegations came out. Associate head coach Kenny Johnson has also been placed on administrative leave and his status remained unchanged Monday. Last week Louisville announced the firing of assistant coach Jordan Fair. Postel said Jurich’s status would be discussed Wednesday.

Later Monday, the Courier-Journal reported Adidas, the apparel company at the center of the FBI allegations, has terminated its personal service contract with Pitino.

 

Before going into closed session, the ULAA approved the hiring of Vince Tyra as the interim athletics director and David Padgett as the acting head men’s basketball coach.

The terms of Padgett’s one-year contract included $400,000 base compensation, plus $400,000 for obligations related to promoting the program, including a radio show, plus various incentives that could total $1 million. The terms of Tyra’s deal were not announced.

University of Louisville interim president Dr. Greg Postel announces that athletic director Tom Jurich and basketball coach Rick Pitino have been placed on administrative leave.

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