The University of Louisville Athletic Association voted unanimously to fire its legendary basketball coach Rick Pitino after the university confirmed it is included in the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting.
The action came nearly three weeks after an Adidas executive and a company associate were were accused of paying bribes to the families of athletes who agreed to attend Louisville or another Adidas-affiliated school. The Adidas defendants, Jim Gatto and Merl Code, were among ten people charged.
Pitino was placed on unpaid administrative leave on September 27. On October 2, the University of Louisville Athletic Association began the process to terminate Pitino for cause.
After the vote, Adidas issued a statement: “In light of the decision by the University of Louisville, Adidas has terminated its personal services agreement with Rick Pitino, effective immediately.”
The University of Louisville is re-evaluating its sponsorship agreement with Adidas following news of the FBI’s investigation.
Pitino’s lawyers on Sunday submitted an affidavit on his behalf that said the coach disputes the board’s right to fire him “for cause.”
“ULAA is rushing to judgment, condemning me for actions that the NCAA is only beginning to investigate,” Pitino wrote. He stated that he “had no part — active, passive or through willful ignorance — in the conspiracy described in the complaint.”
Pitino admitted that he knows and has communicated with Adidas executive Jim Gatto, who was charged as a result of the FBI complaint but wrote that “I have never discussed with him — overtly, covertly, in code, through nuance, or in any other way — the provision of improper benefits to any UL basketball player or recruit.”
Photo courtesy Louisville