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Ex-Louisville Basketball Coach Sues Adidas Over Recruit Scandal

Updated on
  • Pitino accuses Adidas in lawsuit of harming his reputation
  • Former coach entangled in college athletics corruption probe

Former University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino sued Adidas AG, saying he was unaware that the sportswear company allegedly funneled money to the family of a recruit, as prosecutors claimed last month.

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 08:  Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates with the net after cutting it down following their 82-76 win against the Michigan Wolverines during the 2013 NCAA Men's Final Four Championship at the Georgia Dome on April 8, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Rick Pitino

Photographer: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Pitino, who was fired this week by the university, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court in Louisville, accusing Adidas America Inc. of inflicting "grave damage" to his reputation through the alleged conspiracy. News of the suit was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

Last month, federal prosecutors in Manhattan unveiled charges against a sports marketing executive at Adidas as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe into college athletics, including the Louisville basketball program.

"Adidas knew or recklessly avoided knowing that” it would appear Pitino knew about, participated in, acquiesced in or condoned “outrageous practices," lawyers for the coach said in the complaint. "That could not be further from the truth."

Maria Culp, an Adidas spokeswoman, said by email, “Mr. Pitino’s lawsuit is clearly a reaction to his termination and is without merit.”

At NCAA Scandal’s Core, a Tainted Adviser With Hollywood Dreams

National Collegiate Athletic Association regulations forbid college athletes and their families from receiving payment as an inducement to attend a particular school.

Earlier this year, Adidas and Louisville entered into a 16-year, $160 million deal that Mark King, president of Adidas North America, called one of the company’s largest ever investments into sport in the U.S. Pitino had a side agreement with Adidas that was severed this week.

Pitino worked with rival shoemaker Nike Inc. until he was hired at Louisville in 2001. Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich, who was also placed on administrative leave after the Justice Department complaints, has said that Pitino agreed to sign with Adidas over more lucrative offers from other companies in order to keep the school’s apparel partner consistent.

The case is Pitino v. Adidas America Inc., 17-cv-639, U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky (Louisville).

— With assistance by Eben Novy-Williams

(Updates with comment from Adidas.)
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