Rick Pitino, Tom Jurich placed on leave after latest University of Louisville basketball scandal
University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino and athletics director Tom Jurich have been placed on administrative leave until the next athletics association board meeting in October, a source close to Jurich told WDRB News.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino and athletics director Tom Jurich were placed on administrative leave Wednesday, U of L interim President Greg Postel said in a news conference.
While Postel left open the possibility that both men could end up keeping their jobs, the announcement appears to mark the end of each's long tenure at U of L.
Postel said the university would name interim replacements for both positions within two days.
The moves come a day after the university was tied to a federal bribery investigation into college basketball recruiting. Federal prosecutors allege that at least one U of L basketball coach helped funnel money to the family of a prospective recruit this summer.
The federal investigation follows a 2015 NCAA probe that led to sanctions against U of L in a separate scandal involving stripper parties held for players and recruits in a campus dorm.
Upon learning of the latest allegations, "I came home last night and said, once again, to my wife, you can’t make this up," U of L board of trustees chairman J. David Grissom said during the news conference. "It was (a) terrible disappointment."
Postel said the conduct alleged in the indictments is "serious" and it is vital that U of L follow NCAA rules and federal law.
"Doing nothing would be tacit endorsement of unethical and criminal behavior,” Postel said.
Postel said Pitino was placed on unpaid leave and his employment will be reviewed "at a later date."
Pitino's attorney, Steve Pence, called the move an "effective discharge" of the coach in a brief phone interview Wednesday.
Jurich, meanwhile, was place on paid leave pending until the university's board of trustees can evaluate his employment on or before its next meeting in October*, Postel said.
In a statement issued through an attorney, Jurich said he dedicated the last 20 years of his life to the university and was heartbroken by the latest allegations.
"Disappointment does not even come close to describing my feelings surrounding the allegation that any member of the UofL basketball staff could be involved in the criminal conduct announced yesterday. My intent has always been to run every athletic program at the University in an honest and compliant manner. It is heartbreaking to me that the alleged intentional and secret criminal acts can bring such harm to our school. I love this University, the Louisville community and all of our fans. I plan to continue to help UofL overcome the challenges it faces and work cooperatively with the University with the support of the UofL Board of Trustees following their meeting on October 19th."
Postel also said a student athlete is being withheld from practices and games indefinitely, while not naming the athlete or the sport.
The details of one of the indictments match the recruiting timeline of incoming basketball freshman Brian Bowen, who surprised observers when he committed to U of L on June 3.
Pitino’s contract calls for written notice of the reasons for his termination and a chance for him to present evidence to the athletics board in his favor, as WDRB reported earlier Wednesday.
Under Jurich’s contract, he could be entitled to a 30-day window to “cure” a potential reason for his firing, depending on the reasons cited.
"Our goal at all processes is to honor the contracts of our employees and to honor the university’s HR policies," Postel said.
Asked what Pitino will do next, Pence said, "I can only tell you to stand by. It will not be nothing."
Through his attorney, Pitino released a statement Wednesday evening, saying he had no prior notice of Postel's decision to place him on leave:
"The University of Louisville placed Coach Pitino on indefinite unpaid administrative leave today. It did not give him prior notice of the disciplinary action or an opportunity to be heard, as required by University policy and Coach Pitino's employment contract. Coach Pitino has, in effect, been fired. The matter will now follow its legal course.
Coach Pitino stands by his previous statement -- and that of the U.S. Attorney's Office -- that named and unnamed people perpetrated a fraudulent scheme on the University and its basketball program. The information disclosed thus far in the investigation is clearly insufficient to implicate Coach Pitino in any type of misconduct or any other activity that would violate the terms of contract. In sum, Coach Pitino has done nothing wrong and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. The rush to judgment is regrettable.
Moving forward, Coach Pitino's primary concern is for the well-being of the student-athletes on the University's basketball team, and in getting complete and accurate facts in the ongoing investigation. Those facts will inevitably exonerate him.
Coach Pitino is represented by Steve Pence, Kurt Scharfenberger and Bryan Cassis."
Once a hated coach at the rival University of Kentucky, Pitino was hired by U of L in 2001 and led the Cardinals to three Final Four appearances and a national championship in 2013. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
During a two-decade tenure leading the U of L athletics department, Jurich has overseen the departure of Hall of Fame basketball coach Denny Crum and hired Pitino after he was fired as head coach of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Jurich helped steer U of L football to national prominence and the school into the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Indictments alleges coaches had role in sending cash to players
The federal indictments unveiled Tuesday claim at least two U of L coaches had roles in schemes to pay prospective recruits, although they are only described as “Coach-1” and “Coach-2” in federal documents.
Prosecutors allege that one plan, “at the request of at least one coach” from U of L, would funnel about $100,000 from the Adidas apparel company to an All-American high school player that Louisville was recruiting.
In another case, an assistant coach known as “Coach-1” was videotaped during an undercover FBI operation at a Las Vegas hotel in July discussing payments for a second recruit who is still in high school, according to the criminal complaints.
The coach, who is not named, acknowledged that his school was on probation at the time and said, 'we gotta be very low key," according to court documents.
At that same meeting, after the U of L coach left the hotel room, the men allegedly orchestrating the scheme mentioned the role of “Coach-2” in “securing funding” from Adidas for the player believed to be Bowen, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit.
One defendant facing criminal charges said during an undercover FBI recording that “Coach-2” wielded great influence with the Adidas sports apparel company.
One defendant said that “no one swings a bigger d**k than [Coach-2]” at Adidas.
Asked if Pitino is “Coach-2,” his attorney, Steve Pence, said, “Quite honestly, I don’t know.”
Pence said he has reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York to find out the identities of “Coach-1” and “Coach-2.”
*This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Postel misspoke about the date of the meeting. It is Oct. 19, not Oct. 18.
Reporters Marcus Green and Jason Riley contributed. Copyright 2017 WDRB News. All rights reserved.