Coach Rick Pitino | Courtesy of UofL Athletics

In his letter on Tuesday to University of Louisville men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino, interim President Greg Postel notified the coach that he was initiating a procedure under his contract to fire Pitino for cause, citing “a pattern and practice of inappropriate behavior” in recent years.

The UofL Athletic Association board authorized Postel to send the letter by a unanimous vote at its meeting on Monday, less than a week after federal prosecutors in New York alleged in an indictment that multiple UofL basketball coaches were involved in a criminal scheme to bribe multiple recruits to attend the school.

Postel’s letter — obtained by IL through an open records request — stated that the termination notice “arises out of your conduct over a period of years,” including the escort scandal that resulted in devastating sanctions being handed down by the NCAA this summer, as well as the bribery scandal that broke last week.

Additionally, Postel cited a previously unreported event from late-May of this year, in which Christian Dawkins — one of the criminal defendants in the federal bribery and fraud case — was “on campus for purposes related to the basketball program.” Referring to Dawkins as “someone known to have acted as an ‘agent’ for athletes,” Postel stated that Pitino’s staff “should have notified Athletics Compliance” but did not do so.

Postel then listed three sections and six subsections of provisions in Pitino’s contract that he is now charged with violating, with several noting a failure to diligently and actively supervise and monitor his staff to make sure that they complied with NCAA rules. One specifically mentions recruit Brian Bowen — who is referred to in the indictment as being bribed with $100,000 to attend UofL — charging Pitino with a “failure to notify compliance staff of concerns or red flags relating to the late surprise commitment” of Bowen and a failure to notify compliance staff about Dawkins’ campus visit in May.

One charge mentioned in Postel’s letter refers to the “disparaging media publicity of a material nature that damages the good name and reputation” of the university that was “caused by Employee’s willful misconduct.”

“Your involvement in these recent scandals cannot be considered isolated events,” wrote Postel. “Instead, they are illustrative of a pattern and practice of inappropriate behavior.”

Pursuant to his contract, Postel stated that Pitino would be given the opportunity to present evidence and defend himself against the charges in the letter at the ULAA board meeting on the morning of Oct. 16, which he could do through either a written statement, his attorney, or by himself in person. Postel added that the board would like to hear Pitino state why he should not be terminated for cause, but if the coach elected not to do so, they would still make a decision.

While Postel’s letter criticizes Pitino’s failure to properly supervise his staff and prevent them from breaking NCAA rules, these comments contrast from what he argued this summer as the NCAA handed down stiff penalties for the program due to the escort scandal. Noting that Andre McGee — the former assistant who is alleged to have orchestrated to supplying of escorts to UofL recruits and players over years — was no longer with the university, Postel said in a statement on June 15 that “this ruling is also unfair to Coach Pitino, who we believe could not have known about the illicit activities.”

Last Friday, Pitino’s attorney Steve Pence sent a letter to Postel asserting that the interim president’s decision to place the coach on administrative leave was “in material breach of the terms” of Pitino’s contract. Unless that breach was remedied by the university within 30 days, Pence wrote that UofL would be required to pay Pitino the balance of compensation left through the end of his contract, which has been reported as roughly $44 million.

Pence’s letter — also obtained through an open records request to UofL — said the university’s remedy to this breach must include “restoring Coach Pitino to his full, active, employment position” until the federal investigation by prosecutors and the FBI concluded.

Pitino has insisted that he is innocent of any wrongdoing in the latest scandal and was unaware of any activities mentioned in the federal indictment. Assistant coach David Padgett was promoted to become the interim head coach last Friday — the same day that Pitino’s attorney sent the letter to Postel — and this Friday assistant coaches Jordan Fair and Kenny Johnson were also placed on administrative leave due to the federal investigation.

Postel’s letter to Pitino on Oct. 3 and Pence’s letter to Postel on Sept. 29 can be read in full below:

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This story has been updated to reflect the correct date in which Pitino could defend himself before the ULAA board.

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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]