Ex-Louisville assistant Dino Gaudio faces federal extortion charge for alleged threat to expose basketball program

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ATLANTA, GA  FEBRUARY 12:  Louisville assistant coach Dino Gaudio gestures from the sideline during the NCAA basketball game between the Louisville Cardinals and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on February 12th, 2020 at Hank McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, GA.  (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Dino Gaudio allegedly demanded 17 months salary in exchange for silence over alleged recruiting violations. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Former Louisville basketball assistant coach Dino Gaudio faces a federal extortion charge for allegedly threatening to go public with alleged recruiting violations in an effort to recoup salary when he lost his job in March.

Acting United States Attorney Michael J. Bennett filed the charge in a U.S. District Court in Louisville on Tuesday. According to the court filing, Gaudio threatened in a meeting with Louisville personnel to share recruiting videos with media that allegedly demonstrated NCAA violations. He allegedly made the threats a day before news broke that he lost his job.

Per the charge, Gaudio demanded 17 months of salary in order to keep silent. From the court filing:

"On March 17, 2021, during an in-person meeting with University of Louisville personnel, defendant Dino J. Gaudio threatened to report to the media allegations that the University of Louisville men’s basketball program had violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules in its production of recruiting videos for prospective student-athletes and in its use of graduate assistants in practices, unless the University paid defendant Dino J Gaudio his salary for an additional 17 months or provided the lump sum equivalent of 17 months salary."

Text message led to intestate extortion charge

According to the court filing, Gaudio also sent a text message with the threat to a Louisville staff member. The alleged threatening text traveled from Kentucky to another state, resulting in the federal charge of interstate communication with intent to extort.

The content of the videos and whether they demonstrated NCAA recruiting violations is not clear.

On March 18, news broke that Gaudio and fellow assistant Luke Murray had both lost their jobs under head coach Chris Mack following a disappointing season that fell short of an NCAA tournament berth. Gaudio had worked on Mack's staff since he was hired at Louisville in 2018.

Louisville, Chris Mack respond

Louisville and Mack both released statements shortly after news broke of the extortion charge. Louisville confirmed the allegation against Gaudio:

"As detailed in the charging document, after Gaudio was informed that his contract would not be renewed, he threatened to inform members of the media of alleged NCAA violations within the men's basketball program unless he was paid a significant sum of money."

The university acknowledged the alleged recruiting violations cited in the charge but declined further comment other than to note that it's cooperating with the NCAA and federal authorities.

Mack described himself as a victim in the ordeal.

"The university and I were the victims of coach Gaudio's conduct and I will continue to fully cooperate with authorities in their investigations," Mack said, per the statement. "We take seriously any allegation of NCAA violations within our basketball program and will work within the NCAA processes to fully review the allegations."

More trouble for Louisville

Louisville has remained in the NCAA and federal spotlight for a string of violations and allegations stemming from the Rick Pitino era, including a staffer paying for strippers and escorts in the players' dorm and an alleged pay-for-play scandal involving Adidas and former five-star recruit Brian Bowen.

The violations led to Pitino being fired and the NCAA vacating the program's 2013 national championship. The NCAA also charged Louisville with a Level I violation last May which has yet to be resolved. Any further allegations would intensify the NCAA's spotlight on the program.

Gaudio had been out of college coaching since 2010 before he joined Mack's staff. Previously he worked as an assistant and head coach at Wake Forest, an assistant coach at Xavier and head coach at Army and Loyola-Maryland. During his coaching hiatus, he worked as a college basketball analyst at ESPN.

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