LOUISVILLE, Ky. >> Louisville’s interim president was authorized today to fire Rick Pitino because of a federal bribery investigation, a scandal that has shaken the university and brought down one of the most prominent coaches in college basketball.
The school’s Athletics Association, a separate body of officials that oversees Louisville’s sports programs, unanimously approved a resolution to fire Pitino after meeting for more than two hours today.
Pitino was placed on unpaid administrative leave last week after law enforcement officials announced the probe and the school acknowledged its inclusion in the investigation. Though Pitino is not named in court complaints, Postel says the allegations violated his contract and provided just cause to be placed on unpaid leave.
Postel’s next move after the vote is notifying the Hall of Fame coach of Louisville’s plan to fire him after 16 seasons.
“The letter that the board has asked me to write will go through in detail and explain the logic,” Postel said, “and that letter will be crafted as soon as possible.”
Pitino’s attorney, Steve Pence, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Athletic director Tom Jurich was placed on paid administrative leave and Postel said he plans to announce an interim replacement Tuesday.
Today’s vote came exactly two years after the revelation of a sex scandal that led to NCAA penalties for Pitino and Louisville this summer. Pitino and the university are appealing those sanctions, which could end with the vacating of the school’s 2013 national championship.
Pitino pulled through that scandal but now must deal with the official end of his storied career with the Cardinals.
During a trustee board meeting, Postel released Sept. 27 disciplinary letters to Pitino and Jurich in which he called the allegations “disturbing and unprecedented.”
David Padgett was named as Pitino’s interim replacement Friday. The letters were released today as Postel and university trustees discussed the scandal for the first time.
Jurich is on paid leave pending review. Postel said he has talked with four department coaches and planned to meet with all of them Tuesday to explain the process of replacing Jurich.
“Very little time has passed since we all learned about these events, and last week my focus had to be on working with the acting men’s basketball coach,” Postel said.
“There needs to be acting leadership in place during this interim period, and we’re intending to be very quick about that,” Postel said. “I still have to do some interviews and do some due diligence.”
The letter to Pitino states that the allegations in the complaint “insinuate a scheme of fraud and malfeasance” in recruiting — a contract violation providing just cause for his unpaid leave.
Postel said there was “vigorous” discussion among the athletic board about Pitino. He said the coach’s profile weighs the same as any other university employee when it comes to discipline.
“I would have just as much angst and just as much need to do it correctly, no matter who it was,” Postel said. “The fact that he has the accomplishments he does is really unrelated.”
The president criticized Jurich for failing to update or consult the athletic board about his negotiation of the department’s sponsorship extension with Adidas. Postel also called “unacceptable” the level of misconduct and alleged criminal activity, as well as the negative attention brought to Louisville.
Jurich’s lawyer, Alison M. Stemler, disputed Postel’s allegations in a Sept. 29 letter to him and emailed to media late today.
Stemler pointed out Jurich’s Sept. 1 memo to university attorney Becky Strohm that said several university officials and attorneys participated in negotiations with the sportswear maker and assisted in at least 11 meetings. Jurich also wasn’t aware of misconduct or criminal activity, the letter added, and did not “cause or contribute” to negative publicity for the university.
Louisville’s intention to name an interim replacement for Jurich also suggests the school doesn’t plan for him to return to work “in the foreseeable future.” That would violate a contract clause requiring that Jurich receive 90 days’ notice of termination without cause.
Pitino maintains he has done nothing wrong, saying in a statement Wednesday through his lawyer that the “rush to judgment is regrettable.”