Former UofL men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the University of Louisville Athletic Association, alleging that the organization breached the terms of his contract when he was fired in October and owes him over $38 million in damages.
The Hall of Fame coach was fired by a unanimous vote of the UofL Athletic Association board on Oct. 16, weeks after UofL’s program was caught up in alleged illegal scheme to bribe recruits, according to the FBI and federal prosecutors in New York in a wide-ranging sting of college basketball programs, agents and apparel company executives.
In a press release announcing the lawsuit, Pitino’s attorney Steve Pence stated that ULAA breached the contract first by placing him on administrative leave without proving a 10-day advance notice and opportunity to be heard, and then by later firing him for “cause” without legal justification.
“As Coach Pitino detailed in his written and oral response to the ULAA Board in October, and as his federal lawsuit recites, he had no part whatsoever in any scheme to pay the family of a UL recruit, or to otherwise improperly provide benefits to any recruit, as an inducement to join the basketball program,” stated Pence.
Pence went on to state that Pitino “did everything reasonably possible to maximize his diligent supervision of assistant coaches and staff,” though adding that diligent supervision “is not a guarantee of compliance.”
“As the complaint details, in order for ULAA to find ’cause’ resulting from an assistant coach’s misconduct, it must have proof that Coach Pitino failed to diligently supervise its staff; it is not enough that an assistant coach engaged in that misconduct,” stated Pence. “And, according to the complaint, ULAA had no such proof here, and thus no legal right to fire Coach Pitino for ‘cause.’ ”
Due to the alleged breach, Pitino’s complaint states that ULAA must pay him the balance of sums due under his contract, as the former coach seeks liquidated contract damages of $4,307,000 per year through June 30, 2026 — amounting to over $38 million.
UofL spokesman John Karman told IL in an email that they are aware of the lawsuit, but “as a matter of policy, the university does not comment on pending litigation.”
Pitino’s full complaint can be read below:
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