Sunday, November 19, 2017

Former University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is suing Adidas in federal court

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Louisville interim president on Tom Jurich, Rick Pitino’s mandatory administrative leave from the athletic program after the adidas basketball scandal came to light Sept. 26.
Matt Stone, The Courier-Journal

This story is developing and will be updated.

Former University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino filed a federal lawsuit against Adidas on Tuesday, alleging that the apparel company deliberately damaged his reputation.

Adidas terminated its personal services contract with Pitino on Monday, mere hours after he was fired by the University of Louisville Athletic Association as the school looks into its role in the college basketball fraud investigation.

The FBI complaint accuses Adidas of attempting to funnel money to a Louisville recruit’s family in return for him to attend the university, sign with Adidas and hire certain advisers when that player turned pro.

“In today’s lawsuit, Coach Pitino swears that he had nothing to do with, and no knowledge of, the Adidas conspiracy,” Steve Pence, Pitino’s attorney, said in a statement.

Adidas spokeswoman Maria Culp said in a statement that, “Mr. Pitino’s lawsuit is clearly a reaction to his termination yesterday and is without merit.”

Pence’s statement also said that although the lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, this case is about more than just money. Pitino, “wants to use this forum to prove that he had nothing to do with Adidas’ outrageous, wrongful and illegal conspiracy,” he said.

Pitino claims he’s been vilified in local and national media, making it “difficult and painful” for him and his family to appear in public, especially in Louisville. He put his 5,100-square-foot home up for sale this month and the suit said Pitino is now a Florida resident. 

In the suit, Pitino points the finger at Adidas while acknowledging a relationship with suspended executive James Gatto, who was arrested in September as part of the FBI investigation. The suit blames the scandal squarely on Adidas employees and their “outrageous and unlawful conspiracy” to bribe the family of a basketball recruit and attend the University of Louisville.

“Adidas knew, or recklessly avoided knowing, that Coach Pitnios’ reputation for honesty and integrity would be seriously damaged by the perception — even if unfounded — that he was involved with the illegal and wrongful payment of money to recruits, or on their behalf,” the suit alleges.

The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, was provided to the Courier-Journal by Pence. Claims in a civil suit represent one side of a case.

The Courier-Journal reported this month that Pitino received 98 percent of the $39 million Adidas owed to Louisville on the university’s current deal signed in 2014 – including $1.5 million in 2015-16 – under his personal-services agreement with the apparel company. 

More: Lawyer: Tom Jurich updated Louisville administration on Adidas negotiations

More: Louisville basketball scandal: Adidas exec Jim Gatto appears in court

The University of Louisville recently negotiated a new contract with Adidas worth $160 million over 10 years. Interim President Greg Postel said the university is reviewing whether the Adidas money is tainted in the wake of a federal criminal complaint alleging that Gatto, a sports agent and Louisville coaches conspired to pay top recruits to play for the team.

Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at 502-582-4475 or pbailey@courier-journal.com. Reporter Justin Sayers can be reached at 502-582-4252 or jsayers@gannett.com.

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