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Pitino 'fired' amid fallout from college basketball corruption scandal

September 27, 2017

Rick Pitino's attorney has told the Courier-Journal that the University of Louisville has put the school's men's basketball coach on administrative leave, but has "effectively fired" Pitino amid a federal bribery investigation.

Steve Spence told the paper Tuesday the coach was out before a scheduled news conference at the school.

Pitino's apparent exit 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.

But it is the latest black eye for the Cardinals program. Pitino and Louisville are in the middle of appealing NCAA sanctions handed out in June following an escort scandal.

In one of the biggest crackdowns on the corrupting role of money in college basketball, 10 men—including a top Adidas executive and four assistant coaches—were charged Tuesday with using hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to influence star athletes' choice of schools, shoe sponsors, agents, financial advisers, even tailors.

Some of the most explosive allegations appeared to involve the Louisville, one of the college basketball's biggest powerhouses.

The crackdown also heavily involves former Indiana Pacers Rookie of the Year Chuck Person, who played six NBA seasons in Indianapolis.

Court papers 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 clothing company. Court papers didn't name the schools but contained enough details to identify them as Louisville and Miami.

"The picture of college basketball painted by the charges is not a pretty one," said acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, adding that some the defendants were "circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes."

Federal prosecutors said some of the bribe money went to athletes and their families, and some went to coaches, to get them to use their influence over their potentially NBA-bound players.

The coaches were identified as Chuck Person of Auburn, Emanuel Richardson of Arizona, Tony Bland of Southern California and Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State.

Those charged also included James Gatto, director of global sports marketing for basketball at Adidas; Rashan Michel, a maker of custom suits for some of the NBA's biggest stars; and various advisers and managers.

Mark Emmert, president of the Indianapolis-based NCAA, condemned the alleged misconduct, saying, "Coaches hold a unique position of trust with student-athletes and their families, and these bribery allegations, if true, suggest an extraordinary and despicable breach of that trust."

Since 2015, the FBI has been investigating the influence of money on coaches and players in the NCAA. Kim noted that a special FBI hotline has been set up and invited anyone aware of additional corruption to come forward.

Prosecutors said the coaches took bribes to use their "enormous influence" to steer players toward certain financial advisers and agents.

He said those charged "exploited the hoop dreams of student-athletes around the country, allegedly treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves through bribery and fraud schemes."

Adidas said it was unaware of any misconduct by an employee and vowed to fully cooperate with authorities.

Among other things, Gatto and others were accused of bribing high school athletes and their families at least three times this year in exchange for a commitment by the players to play basketball for two Adidas-sponsored universities.

In one cased, Gatto and others funneled $100,000 to the family of a high school athlete to gain his commitment to play at Louisville, and to sign with Adidas once he became a professional.

The player's name was not released, but details in the complaint, including references to news coverage of his signing, make it clear that investigators were referring to Brian Bowen, who played high school basketball in Indiana, at LaLumiere School in La Porte. The university did not make Bowen available for comment.

Rick Pitino said Tuesday that the allegations "come as a complete shock to me."

The development comes as Louisville is appealing NCAA sanctions handed out in June following an escort scandal that unfolded nearly two years ago. The scandal, brought to public light by a book published by IBJ Book Publishing LLC, could cost the school its 2013 national championship.

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