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Rick Pitino's career at the University of Louisville is over.

The school's athletics board voted unanimously Monday to fire Pitino as head coach of the Louisville men's basketball team three weeks after the university confirmed it is included in the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting.

University interim President Greg Postel made the announcement after a University of Louisville Athletic Association special meeting that lasted more than five hours, saying Pitino's "actions and inactions" warranted his termination for cause.

"We felt our initial decision ... was still in the best interest of the university," Postel said, referring to the board's unanimous vote last week to move forward with Pitino's dismissal. "That's why the resolution was put forward and passed."

The board was in closed executive session for the full five hours and evaluated arguments from Pitino's lawyer, Steve Pence, but ultimately voted in favor of his firing.

Louisville's termination of Pitino's contract did not include any parting pay, Postel confirmed. The Hall of Fame coach would have received $46 million in salary over the remainder of his contract, which ran through the 2025-26 season.

"One of the reasons the meeting was so long is we wanted to have a chance to sit down and thoughtfully go through the materials even after (Pence's team) left," Postel said. "Obviously we were very thoughtful in our discussion about it."

After his presentation and before the ULAA board's vote, Pence said he hoped the ULAA board "does the right thing" and would retain Pitino.

"He should be brought back," Pence said. "If the university wants to negotiate for him to leave at a later time, we can talk about that. But this is not the right way to do this. Coach did not engage in any of this activity, (and) he didn't know about any of this activity."

Pitino had been suspended since Sept. 27 after an FBI investigation into pay-to-play recruiting schemes became public.

Pitino's name is not included in the federal criminal complaint that was released Sept. 26, but a law enforcement source confirmed to The Courier-Journal and USA TODAY that Pitino was the "Coach 2" listed in the report.

In an Oct. 3 letter that Postel sent to Pitino, the school listed eight reasons it was pursuing the termination of his contract.

Among them was an escort scandal in 2015 that could cause the team to lose its 2013 title. The NCAA's Committee on Infractions ruled in June that Louisville must repay shared NCAA tournament revenue from the 2012-15 tournaments and vacate 123 wins. Louisville is appealing that decision.

"There were a number of issues that, over time, were brought to our attention," Postel said, "and we simply felt this was in the best interest of the university to make this decision at this point in time. We try to do that with all decisions — we weight a lot of factors.

"These aren't easy conversations, but we have to do what's best for the university."

Pitino is the highest-paid coach in college basketball this year at $7.8 million, which includes a retention bonus and his personal Adidas contract, according to a USA TODAY salary database.

Pitino, 65, has coached at the collegiate level at Boston University, Providence College, the University of Kentucky and Louisville.

He also coached the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics in the NBA.

During a 40-plus-year coaching career, Pitino has won 769 games at the college level and two national championships, and his teams made seven Final Fours. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

"He won all sorts of games and titles," Postel said, "and created a powerful program for many years at U of L."

Greer and Sayers write for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, part of the USA TODAY Network.

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October 17, 2017
 
 
 

 

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