LOUISVILLE, Ky (LEX 18) Former UofL Coach Rick Pitino filed a breach of contract lawsuit in federal court in Louisville against the University of Louisville Athletic Association (ULAA) on Thursday.
The 19 page complaint alleges that ULAA breached the parties' employment contract in two ways, saying that first, "ULAA effectively fired Coach Pitino in September 2017 — by placing him on indefinite administrative leave, locking him out of his office, relieving him of all duties, and blocking his access to email — all without providing the 10-day advance notice, and opportunity to be heard, required by the contract. ULAA then failed to remedy its material breach of contract after Coach Pitino provided ULAA with written notice of that breach."
Second, "ULAA purported to fire Coach Pitino for “cause” in October 2017, even though it had no legally justified “cause” under the employment contract. As Coach Pitino detailed in his written and oral response to the ULAA Board in October, and as his federal lawsuit recites, he had no part whatsoever in any scheme to pay the family of a UL recruit, or to otherwise improperly provide benefits to any recruit, as an inducement to join the basketball program."
A press release from Steve Pence, Pitino's attorney, stated that "Pitino fully implemented, and faithfully adhered to, all suggestions by former Athletic Director Tom Jurich, and Interim UL President Greg Postel, in the wake of the escort matter. He diligently supervised his staff and insisted on their compliance with the rules. He routinely drilled compliance into his coaches and assistants at meetings. He thus did everything reasonably possible to maximize his diligent supervision of assistant coaches and staff."
His complaint states “’Diligent supervis[ion]’ is not a guarantee of compliance.” Indeed, “any non-compliant subordinate — like any employee engaging in willful misconduct in any employment setting — likely will seek to avoid detection despite diligent supervision.” The complaint goes on to say, "in order for ULAA to find “cause” resulting from an assistant coach’s misconduct, it must have proof that Coach Pitino failed to diligently supervise its staff; it is not enough that an assistant coach engaged in that misconduct." And, according to the complaint, "ULAA had no such proof here, and thus no legal right to fire Coach Pitino for “cause.” The employment contract between ULAA and Coach Pitino allowed him to terminate the agreement if ULAA failed to remedy its material breach within thirty days after receiving notice. That time has passed. Coach Pitino therefore exercised his contractual right to terminate the agreement, and notified ULAA in writing of his action."
The press release states that under the contract, if Pitino terminated the agreement because of ULAA’s material breach — as he alleges he had done, — ULAA must pay Coach Pitino the balance of sums due under the contract.
The federal lawsuit is seeking liquidated contract damages of $4,307,000 per year, through June 30, 2026.
You can read the verified complaint below.