Louisville Places Head Coach Rick Pitino on Unpaid Administrative Leave
ESPN reported on Wednesday that Rick Pitino has been removed as the head basketball coach at the University of Louisville. The school said that Pitino is officially on unpaid administrative leave. Athletic director Tom Jurich was also dismissed in light of the program’s involvement in a federal investigation surrounding fraud and potential recruitment corruption.
Pitino and Jurich met on Wednesday morning with the school’s interim president, Greg Postel. Postel told reporters after the meeting that the school would hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon and that neither Pitino nor Jurich would be in attendance.
On Tuesday, 10 people, including an Adidas executive and four current college basketball assistant coaches, were charged by the FBI with paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to help recruit star players to their respective schools. They additionally used the bribes to convince players which shoe deals to take and whom to hire as agents.
The FBI says that at least three top recruits were issued payments up to $150,000 using money supplied by Adidas to attend a pair of schools linked to the huge shoe manufacturer.
Louisville Scandal History
Postel confirmed that Louisville is one of the schools linked to the investigation. This certainly isn’t the first time Pitino’s program at Louisville has been on the wrong side of the law. Back in 2010, Pitino testified as a part of a federal extortion trial involving a woman named Karen Sypher, who attempted to extort money and gifts from Pitino after the two were involved in an extramarital affair.
Back in 2015, the NCAA launched a probe into a sex-for-pay scandal involving former Louisville assistant coach Andre McGee. That investigation forced Louisville to vacate their 2013 national championship as well as a number of victories. Pitino was scheduled to be suspended for five games during the upcoming season in connection with that scandal. The school also self-imposed a tournament ban last season as a result of that investigation.
The FBI has been investigating the current allegations for the last three years, according to federal prosecutors. The 10 men named in the charges are:
- Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person, Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson and Southern California assistant Tony Bland.
- Director of global sports marketing for Adidas, James Gatto and Adidas employee Merl Code.
- Financial advisor Munish Sood
- Former NBA agent Christian Dawkins
- President of The League Initiative and Adidas AAU sponsor Jonathan Brand Augustine
- Former NBA official Rashan Michel
The initial allegations cited an unnamed Kentucky school that was later revealed to be Louisville. Louisville paid $100,000 from Adidas to an unnamed player to ensure that he signed on with the program.
The complaint said that Gatto, Dawkins, Code and Sood worked in conjunction in order to get $100,000 to the player’s family in June of this year. Dawkins said that he was instructed to do so by a member of the Cardinals coaching staff. The player is unnamed, but it is believed to be Brian Bowen, a five-star swingman who signed with the school on June 5.
The FBI claims that phone records indicate that Gatto spoke to the player directly over the phone on several occasions in the days leading up to the player’s formal decision to sign with Louisville. The complaint also said that another player was paid to sign with the school, as well.
Earlier Pitino Statement
Before being put on administrative leave on Wednesday, Pitino issued a statement on Tuesday:
“These allegations come as a complete shock to me. If true, I agree with the U.S. Attorneys 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. Our fans and supporters deserve better and I am committed to taking whatever steps are needed to ensure those responsible are held accountable.”
These allegations come just three years after Pitino publicly complained that the recruiting process is negatively affected by big-money shoe corporations like Adidas and Nike. Pitino said it’s a tough problem to address “because our pockets are lined with their money.”
Pitino has won two national titles during his lengthy and decorated college coaching career. He was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Louisville hoops will begin their season on October 30 against Kentucky Wesleyan.
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