Louisville puts Rick Pitino on unpaid leave, is 'effectively fired' his lawyer says
The latest Louisville scandal could soon cost Pitino his job
Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was placed on unpaid leave by the university on Wednesday in a move that means the Hall-of-Fame coach has been "effectively fired" his attorney told the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Pitino, 65, was given leave from his post after the latest scandal to rock U of L.exposed a number of programs and assistant coaches working illegally to obtain the services of high school prospects in a conspiracy effort to steer those players to Adidas, plus certain financial advisers and entrepreneurs. Louisville, which is under FBI investigation, is among the schools caught in the case that has quaked college basketball.
No one connected to Louisville has been publicly named or charged in the case, but this latest twist in the winter of Pitino's career could prove to be the one complication he could not wiggle out of.
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, who stood by Pitino and championed him to stay on at U of L despite previous scandals, is being placed on paid leave. Jurich, 61, has been at Louisville for almost 20 years.
"The allegations are serious," Louisville interim president Greg 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 enforcement of criminal behavior.'
Postel said Pitino's status will be determined at a later date while Jurich's future will be addressed by the University of Louisville's Board of Trustees on or before its next meeting on Oct. 18.
A source told CBS Sports' Gary Parrish that Louisville has no intention of ever allowing Pitino to coach the Cardinals again.
In 2011, an out-of-wedlock sex scandal that involved extortion from Karen Sypher, Pitino's mistress, did not cost Pitino his job. Nor did an unprecedented scandal involving escorts entertaining Louisville players and recruits in dorm-room parties sporadically from 2010 to 2014. But this final scandal which, according to the FBI, includes an unnamed Louisville assistant arranging payments as recently as July for the services of a 2019 prospect, has ended Pitino's tenure with the Cardinals.
The escort scandal/NCAA case is currently under appeal by Louisville. The NCAA has levied charges that could include vacating the 2013 national championship. If that happens, it will mark the first time the NCAA has removed a championship from a Division I men's basketball program. Pitino, who has 770 wins to his name, also stands to lose a lot victories on his record because of players who could ultimately be ruled ineligible after the fact.
Concurrently, Louisville is embroiled in an FBI investigation due to illicit recruitment of multiple players, a wide-ranging conspiracy that also includes two Adidas representatives, financial advisors and entrepreneurs. A wiretapped conversation between an unnamed U of L assistant and an undercover agent on July 27 came 42 days afterin the escort case, in June. Louisville was, and remains, on probation.
One high-profile Louisville player, freshman Brian Bowen, a 2017 five-star prospect, is not specifically named in the FBI's complaint but connecting the dots leaves only Bowen as the possible candidate for "Player 10" at "University-6" (Louisville). Accusations by the FBI include $100,000 payments, in four installments, from an Adidas representative to the family of "Player 10." Upon completion of those payments, per the FBI's records, "Player 10" committed to Louisville shortly thereafter. The timeline matches Bowen's commitment to Louisville on June 5.
Pitino's was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. He was the coach at Boston University from 1978-1983, then led Providence from 1985-87 before taking the New York Knicks job. Pitino struggled in the NBA, accumulating a 192-220 record in two seasons with the Knicks and four seasons with the Boston Celtics. His stints with two legendary programs in the state of Kentucky came to define his coaching career -- before the scandals of recent years.
Pitino brought the University of Kentucky back to national prominence after major NCAA sanctions grounded the program in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1996, he coached the Wildcats to a national championship with a roster that's considered one of the most talented in college basketball history. He made another title game in 1997 before taking the Celtics job.
In 2001, Pitino returned to college basketball and took the reins on Louisville's program. Pitino took the program to the NCAA Tournament in all but three of his 16 seasons at U of L. He holds a 416-141 record -- for now. He is the only coach in men's basketball history to win a national title at two programs, and is the only coach to bring three programs (Providence, UK, Louisville) to the Final Four.
Since being hired at Louisville in 1997, Jurich has been responsible for a complete turnaround of the athletic department. Not only was he responsible for hiring Pitino, who brought the Cardinals their first basketball national championship since 1986, he changed the culture of the football program by hiring Bobby Petrino and later Charlie Strong.
Petrino went 41-9 in four seasons during his first stop at Louisville and played a major role in the program moving from Conference USA to the Big East. After three down seasons under Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville and Jurich hired Strong, who went 37-15 in four seasons and helped Louisville regain the football prominence to join first the AAC and then the ACC. It was at that point that Jurich rehired Petrino, who went 67-22 in his first three years back with the program prior to this season.
Cardinal Authority's Jody Demling, who has been covering the program exclusively for 10 years, knows what went on behind-the-scenes leading up to Rick Pitino being placed on leave. He's on-campus right now with the latest impact on recruiting, the next coach, and all of the fallout. If you're a Louisville fan, you won't want to miss it. Visit CardinalAuthority.com now for the very latest.
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