Louisville sues Rick Pitino for potential monetary damages from vacated wins

The Dagger
Rick Pitino (Getty Images)
Rick Pitino (Getty Images)

Hours after the University of Louisville made a last-gasp argument to keep its 2013 men’s basketball national title came a sign the hearing may not have gone well.

The university filed a lawsuit against former coach Rick Pitino seeking monetary damages in case the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee doesn’t reverse last June’s ruling that the Cardinals must vacate 123 victories including their 2012 Final Four appearance and their 2013 title.

Louisville would want Pitino to cover the money the university would lose from its appearances in the NCAA tournament from 2012-2015, WDRB’s Jason RIley reported after obtaining a copy of the lawsuit. The NCAA has ordered the university to return the money it received through conference revenue sharing, but the school is arguing that Pitino should cover it since he, “not the University, was the active wrongdoer.”


 

The university would also seek “any bonuses and other compensation wrongly paid” to Pitino for those tournament appearances, according to the WDRB report. Pitino reportedly earned a $425,000 bonus just in 2013 alone for winning the national championship.

Some of Pitino’s greatest achievements at Louisville are in jeopardy as a result of an investigation that began in August 2015 when school officials learned that escort Katina Powell was set to release a tell-all book. Powell’s book alleged that former Louisville basketball staffer Andre McGee paid for strippers and escorts to dance for or have sex with Cardinals players and recruits at parties typically held in the on-campus basketball dorm named for Pitino’s late brother-in-law.

The major disagreement between Louisville and the NCAA has been over what should matter more: the lurid nature of the impermissible benefits provided to recruits or the monetary value. Louisville contended that the sanctions should not be that harsh since McGee spent only $5,400 on strippers and escorts over a four-year period, but the NCAA’s initial ruling clearly took the shock value of the allegations into consideration.

Pitino has long insisted he did not know about the scheme and McGee acted alone, a stance that the university backed at first. Only after a second highly publicized scandal involving Pitino did school officials reverse course and fire him and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Pitino was one of the most high-profile figures ensnared in the FBI investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball.

A federal complaint issued in September alleged 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, 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 same week in June that Bowen committed to Louisville.

Pitino filed a federal lawsuit in October against Adidas, claiming he was damaged by the company’s “outrageous conduct in conspiring to funnel money to the family of a college basketball recruit.” On November 30, Pitino also filed a $38.7 million lawsuit against Louisville, claiming wrongful termination and breach of contract.

“(Pitino) had no part whatsover in any scheme to pay the family of a UL recruit, or to otherwise improperly provide benefits to any recruit, as an inducement to join the basketball program,” Pitino’s lawyer Steve Pence said in a statement.

Louisville also defended itself against that lawsuit in Wednesday’s countersuit, arguing the coach was properly terminated.

The university pointed to the Oct. 18 interview Pitino conducted with ESPN’s Jay Bilas during which he took “full responsibility” for the hiring decisions he made. Louisville also argues that the stripper scandal and subsequent recruiting scandal are evidence of Pitino’s ongoing failure to adequately monitor and supervise his assistant coaches,” as required by his contract.

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Jeff Eisenberg is a college basketball writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

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