Louisville interim president Greg Postel announced Wednesday morning that head basketball coach Rick Pitino has been put on unpaid administrative leave, though Pitino’s lawyers referred to their client as being “effectively fired.” Athletic director Tom Jurich was also announced to be on paid leave, effective immediately.
The bombshell news, coming just days before the Cardinals are set to begin practice for the 2017-18 season, is in response into a bribery scandal that broke on Tuesday. The school is accused of funnels payments from apparel partner Adidas to a five-star recruit in exchange for a commitment to the program and for that player to sign with the company once he goes pro.
The coach, player and school are unnamed in the report, but using the information available it became very clear that the school was the University of Louisville and that the player is likely Brian Bowen (committed to UL in June 2017). An unnamed player was removed from team activities Wednesday, per the school.
Pitino released a statement via his lawyers Tuesday claiming to be in “complete shock” and inferring that was unaware of the accusations. The timing of this news is especially damaging for Pitino and Louisville, as the program is already on NCAA probation following an escort scandal that occurred between 2010 and 2014. Though Pitino was not linked to the scandal directly, it was recently announced by the NCAA that he would be suspended for the first five games of the season for failing to monitor the program.
Still in the air is the fate of the Cardinals’ 2013 NCAA Championship victory, as the NCAA had ordered the program to vacate all wins and records from games in which ineligible athletes competed.
Pitino still has eight years remaining on a ten-year contract with Louisville that pays him more than $5 million annually. He is also reported to be earning more than $2 million per year as part of his personal contract with Adidas.
Reports indicate that Jurich refused to fire Pitino on Wednesday and also refused the opportunity to resign, maintaining that neither had done anything wrong.