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NCAA issues notice of allegations to Pitino, Louisville in corruption investigation

Former Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino talks to

Former Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino talks to reporters on Feb. 21, 2018. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino could be facing disciplinary action as he takes over the basketball program at Iona after the NCAA on Monday handed down a Notice of Allegations against his former program at Louisville.

The notice resulted from a 2017 FBI investigation into college basketball corruption that unearthed a six-figure payment from shoe giant adidas to top recruit Brian Bowen for a commitment to the Cardinals. Louisville fired Pitino that fall and the Long Island product coached professionally in Greece the past two seasons before Iona hired him.

In the NOA, Pitino is cited in a Level II allegation that states he “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the men’s basketball program.” It alleges Pitino spoke with an adidas executive — though it doesn’t specify the content of the conversation — and should have reported it to Louisville compliance officers.

A Level II violation could result in a suspension of 10-to-50% of a season and/or include restrictions on activities in the recruiting process. A severe show-cause order seems less likely. However, his Louisville program was on probation in the wake of the 2015 scandal where escorts were used by former Pitino assistant Andre McGee as a recruiting inducement. The scandal resulted in the Cardinals vacating the 2013 national championship.

“Today the NCAA released an NOA and alleges a Level II violation against me. I firmly disagree with this allegation and will follow the protocols in addressing this allegation through the administrative process,” Pitino said in a statement. “Due to NCAA bylaws on public disclosure on enforcement issues, I will have no further comment on this matter until it is resolved.”

Two former Pitino assistants — Jordan Fair and Kenny Johnson — were allegedly involved in the pay-for-play scheme and face more severe Level I allegations. Louisville is given up to 90 days to respond to the NOA and then the NCAA up to 60 more to get back to it.

It is possible that a decision on a possible Pitino penalty might not come until after the start of the 2020-21 season.

Iona was fully aware when it hired Pitino about the reasons he was fired from Louisville as well as the details of the 2015 scandal. The New Rochelle school said in a statement that it was aware of the report and “prior to hiring coach Pitino, we conducted extensive due diligence.”

“We support Coach Pitino and expect him to respond within the process,” the school statement concluded.

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