By Shelby Brown–
Former men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino was fired after a unanimous vote by the U of L Athletics Association Oct. 16.
After hours in closed session, the board presented a resolution to fire Pitino within the guidelines of his employment contract, citing Just Cause. The resolution states that Pitino violated his contract, justifying the termination.
Despite a case made by Pitino’s legal counsel, Steve Pence, firing procedure continues. The board examined the case at length before coming to a decision.
“At the end of the conversation we felt that our initial decision to begin the process of termination for cause was still in the best interest of the university,” Interim President Greg Postel said.
Postel said many factors were weighed before deciding to end Pitino’s employment.
“These aren’t easy conversations but we have to do what’s best for the university,” he said.
Postel said the board tried to give the benefit of the doubt, but as more allegations came to light, the situation changed.
“We don’t make decisions based on one instance, but when there’s more than one instance, it’s important to look at the context of the whole discussion,” Postel said.
Postel said a lawsuit for breach of contract is a possibility, though suits regarding personnel matters are not uncommon.
According to Postel, Pence’s presentation didn’t provide any reason to reconsider the decision, resulting in a unanimous vote.
Pence arrived during the meeting to make the case against Pitino’s termination. The case file said the board sought to fire Pitino for Just Cause, citing disparaging media coverage, contract violations, failing to supervise the assistant coaches and failing to promote compliance. Pence argued against these claims in the file saying that Pitino couldn’t be held liable.
“The coach did not engage in any of this activity, he didn’t know about the activity,” Pence said.
Pence said the counsel presented their case as if Pitino was Coach 2, though Pence said there’s no way Coach 2 could’ve known about the scam.
The file points out that no one can guarantee the activity of those they oversee.
“If that’s the case (and) this happened on coach’s watch, it happened on President Postel’s watch, it happened on Chairman Grissom’s watch. You cannot guarantee the conduct of other people. You can do your very best to make sure they comply and coach did that,” Pence said.
The file details Pitino voluntarily submitted himself for a polygraph test Oct. 6 where he was asked if he participated in the payment to Brian Bowen’s family. Pitino said no and the results showed no indication of deception.
An affidavit from Pitino was included in the case saying he rejects ULAA’s decision to fire him for Just Cause. He denied knowledge of the escort scandal and the bribery scheme.
“ULAA is rushing to judgment, condemning me for actions that the NCAA is only beginning to investigate,” Pitino said.
Pitino concluded his statement vowing to defend his reputation.
Following ULAA’s decision, adidas released a statement saying they are terminating their personal service agreement with the coach. Pitino filed suit against adidas for damage to his reputation in retaliation.
Currently Assistant Coach Kenny Johnson is still on leave, with his contract running through June. Former Athletic Director Tom Jurich’s employment will be discussed at the Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday.
Updated 10/17/17, 9:21 p.m.