LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville‘s athletic board voted unanimously to fire Rick Pitino despite arguments earlier Monday from his lawyers that the Hall of Fame basketball coach had no knowledge of activities alleged in an FBI investigation.
The University of Louisville Athletic Association met for more than five hours Monday before making the decision. Pitino did not attend the meeting, but his lawyers submitted an affidavit on his behalf that said the coach disputes the board’s right to fire him “for cause.”
“We listened carefully to what they said,” Louisville interim president Greg Postel said after the announcement. “We read carefully everything they gave us in the booklet of materials, and at the end of the conversation, we felt that our initial decision to begin the process of termination for cause was still in the best interest of the university, and that’s why the resolution was put forward and passed.
“There isn’t just a single reason. There were a number of issues that, over time, were brought to our attention. And we simply felt that this was in the best interest of the university, and make the decision at this point in time.”
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.”
Pitino has $44 million remaining in salary and bonuses in a contract extension through the 2025-26 season. Postel said the board did not discuss a buyout or settlement.
Pitino was placed on unpaid administrative leave on Sept. 27 after the program was linked to the FBI’s investigation into fraud and corruption in college basketball. On Oct. 2, the ULAA began the process to terminate Pitino for cause.
The FBI announced last month that 10 men — including four assistant coaches and top Adidas executive James Gatto — were charged with crimes relating to the investigation. Louisville was not explicitly named in court documents, but Postel confirmed the school was part of the investigation.
The allegations against Louisville include payments of $100,000 to the family of an unnamed player to sign with the Cardinals. The player is believed to be five-star freshman Brian Bowen, who committed to Louisville in early June. Bowen was suspended indefinitely shortly after the FBI news broke.
“I had no part — active, passive, or through willful ignorance — in the conspiracy described in the complaint,” Pitino said in the affidavit. “I had no reason to know about the conspiracy described in the complaint, and no reason to know about the complicity of any UL assistant coach or staff member in any bribery conspiracy. I never have had any part — active, passive, or through willful ignorance — in any effort, successful or unsuccessful, completed or abandoned, to pay any recruit, or any family member of a recruit, or anyone else on a recruit’s behalf, as an inducement to attend UL.”
Steve Pence, one of the attorneys representing Pitino, entered the morning meeting holding a poster board for presentation to the ULAA. Pence later distributed the detailed 55-page document that includes letters of support for Pitino, including one from David Padgett, who was named as Pitino’s interim replacement on Sept. 29.
Pence’s statement included a polygraph result indicating that Pitino was not deceptive in answering that he did not pay Bowen’s family and did not know that Bowen’s family was paid.
Pitino admitted he has communicated with Gatto, the director of global sports marketing for Adidas, but never discussed providing improper benefits to a player or recruit.
Pitino testified in a federal extortion trial in 2010, when Karen Sypher tried to get money and gifts from him in exchange for staying silent about their affair. Pitino, who is married, admitted to having sex with Sypher in a Louisville restaurant in 2003.
More recently, Louisville self-imposed a postseason ban in 2015-16 after an investigation into a sex-for-pay scandal organized by former Louisville staffer Andre McGee. Pitino was suspended for the first five ACC games of the upcoming season, and Louisville’s 2013 NCAA title could be vacated as a result.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.