Pitino settles with Louisville, ready for 'new chapter'

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- After nearly two years of legal squabbling and various maneuvers, this is what Rick Pitino has to show for his long battle with the University of Louisville: Zero. Zilch. Nada.


In what surely comes as a surprise -- as well as puzzling -- to most observers, U of L will pay no money to the former U of L men's basketball coach as the result of a settlement announced Wednesday morning.


Pitino was fired in October 2017, after U of L's involvement in a college basketball pay-for-play scandal was revealed following an FBI investigation. Pitino had sued UofL for the remainder of his contract, worth approximately $44 million.


After a judge ordered a settlement conference and one was held in federal court last week,  there was no word on an agreement.
But Wednesday, the U o fL Athletic Association approved a settlement that required no financial renumeration. Instead, Pitino walked away only haven't gotten a guarantee that the school will change his personnel file to note that his departure was considered a resignation. The parties will each pay their own legal bills.


"It's an exciting day for the university," athletics director Vince Tyra said. "It's a terrific day for us to get this behind us and I'm sure that the other side feels the same."


The parties issued a joint statement that read:


"For 17 years, Coach Pitino ran a program that combined excellence on the court with a commitment to the program's student athletes, their academic achievement, and their futures in and out of basketball. Nevertheless, there were NCAA infractions during his term which led to serious consequences for the University. Although these infractions may not have occurred at Coach Pitino's direction or with his knowledge, the problems leading to the NCAA infractions happened under his leadership. We thank Coach Pitino for his years of service to the University of Louisville basketball program and wish him well. Coach Pitino and the University of Louisville have mutually agreed to dismiss their legal claims against each other, designate his departure as a resignation, and move forward."


In a statement released by his attorney, Steve Pence, Pitino had this to say:


"Today I move on to a new chapter in my life. Against my lawyer's advice I'm dropping my lawsuit with ULAA. I am very proud of the many accomplishments my teams achieved at Louisville. I'm also thankful and honored to coach such dedicated athletes.


"I'm also disappointed in how it ended. But as head coach I am held responsible for the actions of all team members. I still have so much passion for the game and so many goals I want to achieve. From this day forward I start my climb."


Pitino, who coached in Greece this past season, had previously expressed a desire to coach  college or professional basketball again in the U.S. But UofL's NCAA violations are thought to be a barrier to his returning to coaching a college team, so engaging in revisionist history to designate his exit as a resignation, when everyone knows he was fired, doesn't seem to carry much impact or even minimal benefit.


In 17 seasons at Louisville, Pitino guided the Cardinals to two NCAA Final Fours and six Elite Eights. However, NCAA sanctions forced the school to vacate 123 wins and its 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four. With the vacated victories, his record at UofL dropped to 647-392 (.623).


"Rick accomplished a lot here as head coach and our record books do show that," Tyra said. "And although there will be asterisks there at times, he's done quite a bit."


In his lawsuit, Pitino argued that he was owed the salary remaining on his contract that ran through June 2026 because U of L had no right to fire him for "just cause." He also denied responsibility for the escort/stripper scandal that led to the NCAA sanctions. The ULAA contended that the NCAA's ruling that Pitino failed to monitor his program was evidence that he had violated his 2015 employment contract.


"I think we were solid in our stance from the very beginning that this was zero liability for us," Tyra said. "I think it's one less thing we have to worry about and I'm just happy to get to this point. We've been working through a number of projects we've completed in the last two years I've been here and we've got big plans going forward."


Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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