Sidelines with John Clay

Rick Pitino made out like a bandit ($$$) in Louisville’s Adidas deal

Rick Pitino walks with University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich (left) as they tour the U of L campus during a visit Wednesday, March 14, 2001. Pitino coached the Cardinals for 16 seasons before being placed on administrative leave Sept. 27, 2017.
Rick Pitino walks with University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich (left) as they tour the U of L campus during a visit Wednesday, March 14, 2001. Pitino coached the Cardinals for 16 seasons before being placed on administrative leave Sept. 27, 2017. Lexington Herald-Leader

When the University of Louisville announced recently it had signed a new contract with its athletic apparel partner Adidas, it was just naturally assumed that the entire athletic department benefited from the deal.

Turns out the one entity that benefited by far was head basketball coach Rick Pitino. According to the Courier-Journal, Pitino received 98 percent of U of L’s current contract with Adidas, which expires July 1.

Of course, Pitino is now on administrative leave and will soon be the former U of L coach in part because of the school’s relationship with Adidas. A federal investigation into college basketball, announced last week, issued a criminal complaint that allegedly implicated the Louisville basketball program.

[Courier-Journal: Louisville athletics wins games but loses money]

Last Wednesday, Sept. 27, the school placed Pitino on unpaid administrative leave and athletics director Tom Jurich on paid administrative leave. On Monday, U of L’s Board of Trustees voted to begin the process of firing Pitino with cause. Pitino’s attorney has said the coach will fight that decision.

On Aug. 25, U of L announced that it had agreed to a new 10-year, $165 million deal with Adidas. Under the old deal, still in place, the C-J found that Pitino received $1.5 million in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Athletic apparel deals with major college sports programs is accepted practice, of course. As Linda Blackford of the Herald-Leader reported on Thursday, the University of Kentucky has a $47 million deal with Nike, its partner since 1997, that lasts through the 2024-25 school year.

Reports Blackford:

“Men’s basketball Coach John Calipari also has a long relationship with Nike; he has a separate personal contract with Nike that gives him $45,000 worth of apparel for his basketball camps and the coaches who work at them. As part of that contract, he also received a one-time bonus of $100,000 from Nike for winning the 2012 NCAA championship. That contract is reviewed by UK annually as part of Calipari’s outside income report, said UK spokesman Jay Blanton.”

She also goes into great detail about what exactly the university receives from Nike, where the money goes, the restrictions under the contract — UK cannot enter into a separate deal with Adidas, Reebok, Puma or Under Armour, for example — and how a termination clause can be invoked.

As Blackford points out, UCLA recently signed a record 15-year, $280 million deal with Under Armour.

The Courier-Journal also reports that Jurich is the highest paid AD in the nation. Last year, Jurich’s taxable income, including an annuity from the school, was listed at $5.3 million.

Reports Andrew Wolfson:

“Although the annuity was earned over several years and will be paid out in $200,000 installments, his listed income last year was more than the university budgeted for its departments of Biology ($3.3 million), English ($4 million), History ($2.4 million) or Mathematics ($3.5 million).”

This can’t be comforting for Louisville basketball fans who have seen their program first entangled in an “entertainment” scandal involving hookers and recruits — U of L is currently working on appealing NCAA penalties in that case — and now caught up in a federal investigation involving Adidas that has cost the head coach his job and put the program in peril.

As Ben Roberts reported Tuesday, Louisville Trinity guard David Johnson has backed off his commitment to the Cards which “marked the final blow to the Cardinals’ once-promising recruiting prospects.”

Johnson’s decision followed decommitments from Anfernee Simns and Courtney Ramey.

And Pitino wasn’t the only person with U of L connections personally benefiting from the school’s relationship with Adidas.

Last spring, Jurich’s daughter, Haley Marie, announced she had joined Adidas as its brand communication manager for U of L.

“She was in a good position at the Air Force Academy athletics department prior, applied for and earned the position on her own merits,” U of L spokesman Kenny Klein told WDRB in an email. “The contract discussions with adidas were over a long period and unrelated to her position.”

And Jurich’s son, Mark, is a senior associate athletic director at Louisville.

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