The first basketball practice was just days away, and in Louisville the expectations were high. Although the University of Louisville Cardinals had lost several top players, they had an influx of new talent, especially Brian Bowen, a highly regarded prospect from Saginaw, Mich. In the preseason polls, the team was ranked in the top 20. Two years earlier the basketball program had suffered an awful scandal—an assistant coach had been exposed for hiring strippers to entertain recruits and players—but the furor had died down. Now the fans were mostly concerned with whether the NCAA would lessen the sanctions it had initially imposed.

At the KFC Yum! Center, the city-owned arena where the Cardinals play, ticket sales were brisk. Lacking a professional sports team, Louisville was all in for the Cardinals, as always. Three days before the team’s first practice, however, disaster struck.

On Sept. 26, the FBI arrested four assistant coaches from some of the nation’s top college basketball programs and a handful of others, charging them with bribery and other crimes. One of those arrested, James Gatto, was a marketing executive for Adidas. In competing with Nike, Under Armour, and other athletic wear companies for branding opportunities and bragging rights, Adidas AG had made Louisville its marquee university. Just a month earlier, in a deal Adidas negotiated with Louisville’s hard-charging athletic director, Tom Jurich, the company had agreed to pay a staggering $160 million over 10 years to supply uniforms and shoes to the school’s 23 teams. This was Adidas’s largest shoe deal ever. Obviously, for that kind of money, Adidas expected Louisville’s basketball team to go deep into the NCAA tournament, year after year, so that tens of millions of basketball fans would see the Cardinals wearing its sneakers.

According to the government, Gatto had agreed to pay Bowen’s father $100,000 if the high schooler would attend Louisville for at least one year before jumping to the National Basketball Association. The feds also claimed that at least one unnamed Louisville coach knew about this blatant violation of NCAA rules. The government was calling it a bribe. Gatto has pleaded not guilty. Bowen’s lawyer didn’t respond to requests for comment and has said his client was cleared by federal investigators.

Rick Pitino, the team’s $7.7 million coach, professed to be shocked by the allegations. Within 24 hours he was reported to be one of the unnamed coaches who was alleged to be helping with the scheme. Although he continued to protest his innocence and hasn’t been charged, he was placed on leave without pay and soon fired.

It’s a decent bet that five or six years ago the trustees would have kept their Hall of Fame coach despite the scandal. After all, he’d brought a national championship and helped make the Cardinals the most profitable team in all of college basketball. And the university had looked the other way twice before: when Pitino acknowledged in 2009 that, after a one-night stand, he’d paid for a woman to have an abortion (she eventually went to jail for extortion); and when Louisville decided to absolve him of blame for the stripper scandal, after he claimed ignorance.

But this time the university was in no mood to be lenient. A few days after Pitino’s firing, the board of trustees fired Tom Jurich, the school’s athletic director who turned Louisville into an athletic powerhouse, with nationally ranked teams in half a dozen sports and state-of-the-art facilities up and down the campus. Jurich hasn’t been accused of knowing about the bribery scheme, and his lawyer called his termination “a character assassination of a man who has done so much for Louisville.”