UofL’s interim athletic director Vince Tyra

In just the third full day of his new position as the University of Louisville’s interim athletics director, Vince Tyra announced in a press release Friday that two assistant coaches of the UofL men’s basketball team had been placed on administrative leave, citing the federal corruption and fraud investigation that has rocked the program.

Associate coach Kenny Johnson and assistant coach Jordan Fair have been placed on paid administrative leave, effective immediately, joining the suspended Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino and athletics director Tom Jurich.

“We are in the process of executing our due diligence as it relates to an ongoing investigation and feel that this an appropriate step at this time,” stated Tyra. “Our university will continue to fully cooperate with federal authorities in their investigation.”

UofL’s men’s basketball programs and the athletics department was thrown into chaos last Tuesday, when federal prosecutors in New York announced a series of indictments related to a FBI fraud and corruption sting targeting several NCAA basketball programs. Assistant coaches at several schools were indicted for allegedly taking bribes in order to steer recruits to certain agents, but at least two coaches at UofL were alleged to have engaged in a scheme to help criminal defendants bribe recruits to attend the school and later sign with Adidas when they turned pro.

Pitino has claimed no knowledge of these alleged activities nor any wrongdoing, but was placed on unpaid administrative leave the following day — along with Jurich, whose leave is paid — and on Monday the board of trustees voted to initiate a 10-day process under his contract to terminate his employment for cause. Assistant coach David Padgett was named the interim head coach last Friday, asserting — along with interim UofL President Greg Postel — that he was not involved in or aware of any scheme to bribe recruits.

After the federal criminal complaints were announced, media reports began to speculate that assistant coaches Fair and Johnson could be the unnamed “Coach-1” or “Coach-2” from the indictment, while several outlets cited anonymous sources claiming that Pitino was “Coach-2.” At the press conference announcing the hire of Padgett, the interim coach and Postel said they did not know if Fair or Johnson would participate in the first team practice two days later, but said their job status would likely depend on the interim athletics director once one was hired.

When Tyra was named the interim AD this Tuesday, he said he did not know any details about the federal investigation beyond what had been reported, but he would soon discuss the status of Fair and Johnson with Padgett. In a press conference Wednesday, Tyra said that Padgett was “a one-man band” in the team’s practices so far, as he was the only coach that was still participating.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]