The University of Louisville officially fired embattled men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino on Monday during a meeting between Pitino’s attorneys and the school’s athletic association board.
Pitino had been placed on administrative leave on Sept. 27 following news that Louisville was one of a handful of universities involved in a scheme that funneled top athletes to their schools in exchange for payments and future contracts with apparel companies associated with the schools.
Per Pitino’s contract, the university had to provide written notice of the charges against Pitino and wait a minimum of 10 days before they could officially fire Pitino in order to allow the coach to have his say on the situation. Despite statements from Pitino’s lawyer, Steve Pence, that suggested that Pitino would definitely keep his job, the school had already offered David Padgett the job as the interim basketball coach for the 2017-18 season. Louisville held its first season scrimmage on Friday and is slated to begin its season on Nov. 12 when it hosts George Mason.
With the board set to meet, college basketball announcer Dick Vitale took to Twitter to defend Pitino, focusing most of his defense on the belief that Pitino did not know what had taken place and the scandal was the work of assistant coaches rather than the head coach.
Pence left the meeting at approximately 12:25 p.m. Eastern and gave a statement calling on the Louisville board to do “the right thing”, which he claimed was to say that Pitino did not know and could not have known what was going on with his assistants in the scandal. Pence further compared this case to the famous Duke lacrosse scandal, which saw the Duke players exonerated after their season was cancelled.
Pitino has been the coach for Louisville since 2001 and has helped oversee the Cardinals’ transition from Conference USA to the Big East and finally to their current home of the Atlantic Coast Conference. However, despite bringing the school a national championship in 2013, Pitino’s tenure at Louisville has been anything but scandal-free. Pitino released an affidavit saying that he had not given Louisville just cause to fire him and would continue to “fight tirelessly to defend my reputation.”
However, his reputation has struggled throughout his career, dating back to a scandal at Hawaii that nearly cost him the Kentucky job in 1989. Pitino overcame that and was at Kentucky long enough to win a national title in 1996, but his career has been marked by off-court issues since coming to Louisville.
Left undecided by Monday’s meeting was the fate of Louisville’s athletic director, Tom Jurich. For his part in failing to oversee the scandal, Jurich was placed on administrative leave at the same time as Pitino. His fate is scheduled to be decided Wednesday by the same board that fired Pitino. Like with Pitino, Jurich’s replacement has already been selected, as Vince Tyra was named the school’s interim AD.