Louisville Denies Allegations Against Rick Pitino, More in NCAA Corruption Probe

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2020

File-This Jan. 4, 2019, file photo shows Panathinaikos coach Rick Pitino looking on during a Euroleague basketball match between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos in Piraeus near Athens. Former Louisville basketball coach Pitino has reached a settlement with Adidas, the Hall of Fame coach and the global sportswear company said in a joint statement Monday, Dec. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)
Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press

Louisville made its formal response to the NCAA's notice of allegations, disputing whether its men's basketball program was guilty of violations laid out by the organization. 

The Associated Press reported Louisville is contending it can't be held accountable for the actions of people implicated in the FBI's investigation into college basketball corruption because those guilty weren't officially acting on behalf of the school.

"This argument is as novel as it is wrong," Louisville wrote. "Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself."

In May, the NCAA alleged Louisville had committed a Level I violation stemming from the recruitment of Brian Bowen II. The NCAA's Notice of Allegations also outlined Level II violations as well, including one for former head coach Rick Pitino for "failing to adequately monitor the recruitment of an incoming, high-profile student-athlete."

The Courier-Journal reported in September 2017 Bowen committed to the Cardinals after Adidas executives conspired to funnel $100,000 to his family. Brian Bowen Sr. testified to corroborate the claims in October 2018, adding that he had been told of other offers from Arizona, Oklahoma State, Texas and Creighton.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York summed up the general thrust of the scheme:

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Christian Dawkins, Adidas executive James Gatto and former Adidas consultant Merl Code conspired to get top recruits to Adidas-sponsored schools. Dawkins would then represent the players when they entered the professional ranks.

Louisville attempted to distance itself from Gatto and Code in its response to the allegations:

"The enforcement staff's remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

"For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation."

Dawkins was sentenced in October 2019 to one year and one day in prison for each bribery charge for which he was convicted. Gatto and Code also were found guilty and sentenced to nine and six months, respectively.

The FBI investigation brought swift fallout for the Cardinals, who fired Pitino, athletic director Tom Jurich and assistant coach Kenny Johnson in the immediate aftermath. Iona hired Pitino in March.

Bowen never played a game for the Cardinals, either, heading instead to Australia's National Basketball League before signing with the Indiana Pacers.

According to the AP, the NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond to Louisville's most recent filing.