Louisville Ejects Coach Rick Pitino Following FBI Bribery Investigation
Amid a federal bribery scandal, on Wednesday, September 28, 2017, the University of Louisville placed head basketball coach Rick Pitino on unpaid administrative leave, which, according to his lawyer, means he has “in effect, been fired.” Federal prosecutors allege Pitino and executives at Adidas funneled $100,000 to the family of a recruit to play basketball at Louisville – a program Adidas sponsors. Louisville’s athletic director, Tom Jurich, was placed on paid leave. Neither Pitino nor Jurich were specifically named in the criminal complaints that were filed the day before. A poll showed 81 percent of respondents endorsed Pitino’s removal.
Pitino is the nation’s highest paid college basketball coach, with a 2017-18 salary of nearly $7.8 million, and the reason he was not fired outright could be financial. Pitino’s contract states he is owed 10 days’ written notice and an opportunity to be heard before being fired for “just cause,” which would allow the university to not pay him any additional money after he is officially terminated. Pitino has nearly nine years left on his contract, and $37.7 million left in salary. Pitino’s attorney stated he will fight to have the full contract paid and he may try to argue that, just because Pitino was named, does not mean he was involved. On Tuesday evening, Pitino denied any knowledge of, or responsibility for, the accusations detailed in the federal charges, saying in a statement: “These allegations come as a complete shock to me. If true, I agree with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that these third-party schemes, initiated by a few bad actors, operated to commit a fraud on the impacted universities and their basketball programs, including the University of Louisville.”
Pitino had been head coach at Louisville since 2001 and led the Cardinals basketball team to the national championship in 2013. But this isn’t the first scandal at Louisville in which he has alleged to have been involved. In 2009, he admitted to having sexual relations with the wife of his team’s equipment manager. In June, Pitino was suspended for five games after allegations that in 2015, a former staffer had supplied strippers and prostitutes to recruits and players. Louisville was ordered to return money received for NCAA tournament appearances from 2012 through 2015 and to vacate 123 wins during that period, including the 2013 national championship. The university has appealed the ruling.
Two high-school players who had committed to Louisville for next year announced they were looking elsewhere. The unidentified player who allegedly enrolled at Louisville after bribes were paid to his family was removed from team activities.