Pitino ousted amid latest scandal

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor

Story by Bryan Edwards, Sports Editor

The University of Louisville has placed men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich on administrative leave just one day after a federal investigation found evidence of recruiting fraud and corruption within the program.

The university’s interim president, Greg Postel, announced during a press conference Wednesday that Pitino was put on unpaid administrative leave, although his attorney said he was “effectively fired.” Pitino’s contract states he cannot be fired for “just cause” until he’s received 10 days notice.

Postel also announced that Jurich, who has been the athletic director at the school for nearly 20 years, will be on paid administrative leave in wake of the FBI’s allegations. Trustees at the university will make their final decision on Pitino and Jurich when they meet on Oct. 18.

Pitino and Jurich’s inevitable departures will surely serve well for the university’s payroll, as the two were among the highest paid in college athletics. Pitino’s contract is valued at $7.4 million, while Jurich was paid an average salary of $2.76 million per year.

Postel said in Wednesday’s press conference that Louisville acted proactively to guard from any potential suspicion of wrongdoing.

“The allegations are serious,” Postel said. “It is vital for this university to strictly adhere to NCAA rules and, of course, federal law. Doing nothing would be a tacit endorsement of potential criminal and unethical behavior.”

On Tuesday morning, four assistant coaches from four schools were arrested by the FBI on fraud and corruption charges [Lamont Evans – Oklahoma State University, Chuck Person – Auburn University, Emanuel Richardson – University of Arizona and Tony Bland – University of Southern California].

All four coaches arrested have been either suspended or placed on administrative leave from their respective programs.

Along with the four coaches, James Gatto, the now former director of global sports marketing for Adidas, and Merl Cole, the former head of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League were also arrested for their involvement.

Others charged in the case are NBA agent Christian Dawkins, financial advisor Munish Sood, former NBA official and founder of Thompson Bespoke Clothing Rashan Michel and Jonathan Brad Augustine, the former president of The League Initiative.

The FBI report listed seven different universities involved in the scandal. The four assistant coaches were caught taking bribes to convince high school athletes to sign with their respective agencies.

The remaining schools used their sponsorship deals with the sportswear company the school has an agreement with. The sportswear companies gave the athletes money to convince them to commit to a school that specific brand has a sponsorship deal with.

Louisville is currently sponsored by Adidas and the two just recently signed a 10-year, $160 million contract.

Jurich’s daughter Haley was hired at Adidas in March 2017 to become the brand manager of the company; the new deal with the University was finalized in August of this year.

Louisville’s decision to cut ties with their hall of fame coach has trickled down to the basketball team itself. Several highly touted incoming recruits have decommitted from the program, including Anfernee Simons and Courtney Ramey, ranked as the No. 9 and No. 37 recruits in the class of 2018 by the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, respectively.

This scandal isn’t the first time Pitino and the University of Louisville have found themselves in the crosshairs of controversy.

Pitino was involved in an extortion case in 2009. He went on trial against Karen Sypher, who he claimed to have a relationship with in 2003. Following the affair, Pitino paid Sypher $3,000 to have an abortion because she claimed she was pregnant. Pitino later filed charges of extortion against Sypher and she was found guilty. She was sentenced to seven years in prison.

In 2015, Pitino and his program came under fire after an investigation by the NCAA found that former assistant coach Andre McGee paid strippers and prostitutes to provide their services for visiting recruits and Louisville players. As a result of the scandal, Pitino would’ve been suspended from Louisville’s first five ACC games of the 2017 season.

Postel added that the school will begin their search for an interim head coach and athletic director immediately, with a potential candidate potentially coming within the next two days.

The unprecedented staff changes come just days before Murray State’s football team prepares to head to Louisville to take on the Cardinals.