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The news coming out of the FBI investigation into corruption within NCAA basketball is far from over, but the scandal has already affected the top-tier of college athletics.
Rick Pitino was put on administrative leave by the University of Louisville for his alleged connection to a plan to funnel $100,000 to the family of a star recruit.
While Pitino’s contract reportedly gives him the chance to plead his innocence, all signs point to Pitino’s tenure as the coach that brought the Cardinals four Final Four appearances and one national title being over.
Complicating matters is another clause in Pitino’s contract that could mean the school is still on the hook to pay the coach the $44 million still left on the deal.
As Matt Bonesteel at the Washington Post explains, according to a letter sent to Pitino by the school, the allegations against him “constitute material violations of your Employment Contract.” Were the courts to agree, Louisville would only owe Pitino for his ten days worth of administrative leave, an amount just over $10,000.
But as Pitino and his lawyers will likely argue, the coach’s contract cannot be voided so easily, given that he was never formally accused of an NCAA violation.
The “morality clause” in Pitino’s contract states that the school can fire him for just cause for “Disparaging media publicity of a material nature that damages the good name and reputation of Employer of the University, if such publicity is caused by Employee’s willful misconduct that could objectively be anticipated to bring Employee into public disrepute or scandal, or which tends to greatly offend the public.”
Additionally, Pitino could be fired for a “Major violation of any rule, or bylaw of Employer, the athletic conference with which the University is then affiliated or the NCAA.”
While these thresholds would be easily met had the FBI’s investigation involved Pitino’s arrest, as it did the assistant’s at numerous other schools across college basketball, without a specific charge put to Pitino, it will likely be up to the courts to decide whether or not Pitino’s relationship to the case constitutes a violation of his contract.
For Pitino, the decision could be worth $44 million.