The stage is set for a fierce legal battle between Rick Pitino and Louisville.
The University of Louisville Athletics Association board voted unanimously on Monday to terminate Pitino with cause. Pitino had been on unpaid administrative leave since Wednesday in the wake of news that the Louisville men’s basketball program is among the schools at the center of an FBI investigation into bribery and fraud in college basketball recruiting.
An attorney for Pitino previously delivered a breach of contract notice to the university, WDRB-TV in Louisville reported. The breach of contract notice alleges that Louisville failed to properly notify Pitino or give him sufficient opportunity to respond when it placed him on administrative leave him last Wednesday.
Pitino’s contract stipulates that in order for Louisville to fire him, the university must first give him a minimum of 10 days written notice of its reasons and afford him the chance to defend himself. In a letter given to Pitino on Wednesday, the university informed him he was being placed on unpaid leave because the FBI’s allegations “constitute material violations” of his contract. The letter also promised Pitino the chance to respond and discuss the matter further with interim school president Greg Postel.
The federal complaint alleges that at least one unnamed member of Louisville’s coaching staff was complicit in a scheme to funnel $100,000 from Adidas to the family of a prized recruit. In return, the prized recruit, believed to be McDonald’s All-American Brian Bowen, would attend Louisville, one of the most prominent college athletic programs that Adidas sponsors.
Also mentioned in the complaint are three phone calls between a coach since identified as Pitino and James Gatto, the since-arrested and former head of global sports marketing for Adidas. The complaint does not indicate what was discussed, but the calls took place the week Bowen committed to Louisville in June.
In a series of statements released last week, Pitino called the allegations a shock and insisted he knew nothing about any payments between Adidas and a Louisville recruit. It was reminiscent of his reaction when it was revealed that former Louisville staffer Andre McGee had hired strippers and escorts to entertain Louisville players and recruits.
Louisville on Saturday hired assistant David Padgett to succeed Pitino as interim coach. The university has not yet hired an athletic director to replace Tom Jurich, who was also placed on leave last week.