Suspended University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino could become a key figure in the U.S. Department of Justice’s college hoops prosecutions. Brian Bowen, a Louisville freshman, is widely assumed to be the unnamed person identified in a criminal compliant filed against Adidas executive James Gatto and others. Bowen—who in June Pitino said, “fell into our lap” due to “luck”—allegedly received $100,000 in a bribe to enroll at Louisville. Any emails, texts or other digital and written communications that potentially link Pitino to defendants and witnesses in the college basketball criminal prosecutions could turn Pitino into a key witness or even a defendant himself. This backdrop sets the stage for a related legal controversy involving Pitino: whether Louisville owes him as little as $10,000 or as much $44 million on the remainder of his contract. Although Pitino’s contract is currently set to expire in 2026, it could be terminated when the Board of Directors of the University of Louisville Athletic Association (ULAA) meets on Monday. Louisville placed Pitino on an unpaid disciplinary suspension on Sept. 26, a day after the sealed criminal complaints went public. Since then, Pitino has been notified that the university intends to fire him “for just cause” meaning due to a material breach in his employment contract. Importantly, such a firing would relieve Louisville of its contractual obligation to pay out the remainder of Pitino’s contract. Firing Pitino for cause cannot be done instantly; Pitino’s contract requires that he receive 10 days’ prior written notice and an opportunity to be heard. It is critical that Louisville comply with the procedural safeguards stipulated in Pitino’s contract. If the university fails to do so, Pitino and his attorneys would gain a compelling legal argument that the university breached the contract and therefore must pay him the entire amount. On Oct. 3, Pitino received a letter from Gregory Postel, interim president of the university and chair of the ULAA Board of Directors. The letter provided Pitino with formal notice of the charges. The letter further explained that the ULAA Board of Directors is scheduled to meet on Oct. 16 at 9 a.m., at which time they will discuss terminating Pitino’s contract. By waiting to act on Pitino’s contract until Oct. 16, the university, through the ULAA, satisfies the 10-day notice requirement. Postel has also invited Pitino to appear either in person or by video in order to explain his perspective and offer exonerating evidence. This invitation arguably satisfies the university’s contractual obligation to Pitino to be heard.
Rick Pitino’s Contract Dispute and its Potential Impact on Larger NCAA Scandal
SI | Oct 16