A day after an NCAA appeals committee stripped Louisville of its men’s basketball national championship in 2013 and its Final Four appearance in 2012, former coach Rick Pitino said the university should fight the ruling in court.
Pitino, 65, speaking Wednesday afternoon at a news conference held at his attorney’s office in New York, said his “heart breaks” for his former players and Cardinals fans. He maintained, as he has since the NCAA launched its investigation in October 2015, he was unaware that a member of his coaching staff had provided prostitutes and strippers to players and recruits.
“I had no knowledge of the reprehensible things that were going on in that dormitory,” he said. “The 2012 Final Four team received room, board, books and tuition and that’s it. The 2013 team received the same, and that’s the championship team.”
“I hired the wrong person for the job,” he said of Andre McGee, who as Louisville’s director of basketball operations paid for strippers and escorts at dorm parties.
Louisville is the first program in modern NCAA history to vacate a national championship. The program will also vacate a total of 123 victories between 2012 and 2015 and pay approximately $600,000 in penalties as part of NCAA punishments first announced in June and upheld by the NCAA Infractions Appeal Committee in an eight-page decision released Tuesday.
The NCAA committee’s decision is unrelated to an ongoing FBI corruption probe of college basketball programs, including Louisville, which led to Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich’s firing in October.
Pitino has since filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging the firing constituted a breach of contract and seeking $35 million remaining on his contract; Louisville countersued, asking Pitino to repay financial losses from the NCAA investigation. Pitino has also sued Adidas, alleging that the athletic apparel company deliberately damaged his reputation. Pitino did not discuss those suits Wednesday.
“It looks bad,” Pitino said of the scandals at Louisville. “But I’ve coached 41 years, and for 35 as a head basketball coach, nothing has come up. I’ve run into two bad situations right now, and I have to take full accountability for it.”
That shouldn’t cost Louisville its wins, though, he maintained, asserting the parties with escorts “did not enhance our players ability to win a national championship or go to a Final Four.”
Greg Postel, Louisville’s interim president, and Vince Tyra, its interim athletic director, strongly disagreed with the NCAA ruling Tuesday. Tyra did not definitively rule out further litigation against the NCAA, but said “I think it would be a difficult case” for the school to take to court.
But Pitino said he would challenge the NCAA’s ruling in court if he had the standing.
“How do you take down the championship?” he said. “They’ve earned it. You need to get an injunction.”
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