LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rick Pitino couldn’t survive another scandal, as an angry interim Louisville president Wednesday placed the head men’s college basketball coach and his boss on administrative leave amid a nationwide federal bribery investigation that has rocked the sport.
President Greg Postel’s decision comes after the school acknowledged on Tuesday that the men’s program is part of a federal investigation into alleged bribery of recruits. The 65-year-old coach was not named in the indictment that resulted in the arrest of 10 people including four assistant coaches at other schools and an Adidas executive.
Postel didn’t stop with Pitino, he also sidelined athletic director Tom Jurich, putting him on paid administrative leave. And though Pitino isn’t officially out of a job — he was placed on unpaid leave — the coach’s attorney, Steve Pence, told the Courier-Journal that Louisville has “effectively fired” Pitino.
“I’m more angry than embarrassed,” Postel said Wednesday at a news conference, adding that an interim coach would be announced within 48 hours. “We will be looking for someone with integrity. ... There’s no reason this team can’t have a good season.”
The Cardinals have been winning under Pitino, who has a 416-143 record over 16 years at Louisville, including a 2013 NCAA championship. But there have been continuing off the court issues.
Jurich, who has been at the school for nearly 20 years, has always supported Pitino through many embarrassing transgressions.
But Postel said, “It is vital for this university to strictly adhere to the NCAA rules and of course federal law. Failure to do that would be a tacit endorsement of criminal behavior.”
The recent federal investigation is the latest black eye for the Cardinals program, which is already reeling from a sex scandal. It is unclear where the marquee program goes from here.
Pitino and Louisville are in the middle of appealing NCAA sanctions handed out in June following a sex scandal that unfolded nearly two years ago — which could cost the school its 2013 national title.
In the latest investigation, federal prosecutors say at least three top high school recruits were promised payments of as much as $150,000, using money supplied by Adidas, to attend two universities sponsored by the athletic shoe company. Court papers didn’t name the schools but contained enough details to identify one of them as Louisville, the other was Miami.
Postel also said Wednesday that one student-athlete has been informed he will not practice or play for the university until the investigation is resolved. He did not name the athlete allegedly involved in the investigation, which federal documents list as a high school All-American.
The player’s name also was not released by federal prosecutors, but details in the criminal complaint make it clear investigators were referring to 6-foot-7 Brian Bowen. The freshman has yet to play in a game with the Cardinals.