Former Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino intentionally failed to notify university officials that a former agent and Adidas executive were involved in the Cardinals’ problematic recruitment of Brian Bowen, according to court records filed by the university athletic association’s attorneys on Wednesday.
Bowen’s family allegedly received $100,000 from Adidas for him to sign with the Cardinals in June 2017.
The school said Pitino also ignored red flags after hearing allegations that DePaul had offered Bowen $200,000 to play basketball there.
In the university’s response to Pitino’s July 11 motion for partial summary judgment in his lawsuit against the school, its attorneys argued that Pitino “engaged in misconduct when he intentionally ignored ‘red flags’ relating to Bowen’s recruitment” and “intentionally hid information” about Adidas executive James Gatto and former agent Christian Dawkins’ roles in his recruitment.
Gatto, Dawkins and Adidas executive Merl Code were among 10 men arrested by federal authorities on Sept. 27 after the FBI’s two-year investigation into bribes and other corruption in college basketball. The three men are charged with three felonies related to conspiring to funnel $100,000 to an unnamed player, later identified as Bowen, to sign with Louisville. Gatto faces an additional felony charge of allegedly conspiring to funnel money to the parents or guardians of players who signed with Kansas.
Gatto, Dawkins and Code are scheduled for a jury trial in New York on Oct. 1.
Pitino sued the University of Louisville Athletic Association in federal court on Nov. 30 for breach of contract and is seeking more than $35 million. He was fired in a unanimous vote by the athletic association board on Oct. 16. He also sued Adidas in October, alleging the apparel company damaged his reputation.
The university filed a countersuit against Pitino in December, in which it claimed he was an “active wrongdoer” in the scandal that led to his firing.
The athletic association’s attorneys argued in Wednesday’s motion that Pitino was “aware of red flags” regarding Dawkins and Gatto, but he “intentionally failed to disclose those concerns to compliance staff rather than risk Bowen choosing a different school.”
According to text messages that were attached to the university’s motion, Pitino texted Dawkins at least a dozen times about Bowen, between April 2015 and September 2017.
On May 23, 2017, Dawkins texted Pitino and asked about Louisville’s interest in Bowen: “Coach — this is Christian Dawkins. I dealt with you on [former Louisville player] Jaylen Johnson. Would you have interest in Brian Bowen or are you done recruiting?”
Pitino responded: “We would love to have him,” and then the men scheduled a telephone call for 15 minutes later.
The next day, Dawkins texted Pitino and wrote, “There is definitely interest to move forward.”
The university motion said Dawkins continued to communicate with Pitino and Louisville assistant coach Kenny Johnson to arrange Bowen’s unofficial visit to campus on May 28-29, 2017. The university said Dawkins accompanied Bowen on the visit and met with Pitino in his office and at dinner.
On May 31, 2017, Dawkins texted Pitino and told him: “Tugs [Brian Bowen] will be home in a couple hours. And we will talk to him then. We will know for sure on his decision tonight.”
In another text message sent two days later, Dawkins asked Pitino to call Bowen’s father, Brian Bowen Sr., because third parties, including “presumably William Wesley, a highly influential sports agent,” according to university attorneys, were trying to influence Bowen’s decision.
“Everything is good,” Dawkins wrote. “The Nike guys, Wes, everyone is hating that tugs chose Louisville. We are 100% good. But I just want him to hear from u. He’s also realizing tugs is leaving and actually going to college so I think there is parental emotions behind it as well. Ive [sic] calmed him down and told him it’s time for tugs to become a man, and u will take care of him.”
On the same day, according to the university, Pitino sent Johnson a text saying, “Coach DePaul trying to pay Bowen 200 k to come there. Crazy world!”
DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman, who was hired in May 2017, coached Bowen for one season at La Lumiere School in La Porte, Indiana. Two players on the Blue Demons’ roster in 2017-18 — guard Brandon Cyrus and Illinois transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands — also played for Heirman at La Lumiere School. Cyrus, a 6-foot-5 guard who started 55 games at DePaul the last two seasons, transferred to UC Santa Barbara and will sit out this coming season under NCAA rules.
“DePaul University takes seriously the high standards of conduct expected in our athletics department and will not tolerate deviation from those standards,” the university said in a statement later Thursday. “To date, neither the NCAA nor federal prosecutors have contacted us about this matter. We will, of course, fully cooperate if contacted in the future by the NCAA or federal law enforcement.”
While Pitino didn’t respond to a request for comment from ESPN, he explained his text to the Courier-Journal:
“I said to Kenny Johnson on the phone: ‘I don’t believe a word of it. Where would DePaul get $200,000 to pay Brian Bowen?’ There’s no truth to what this guy said. He’s a nobody in the business. He hates DePaul, this guy. …
“There was no merit behind the thing. That’s why I never brought it to anybody. I get 20-30 text messages: ‘I heard UCLA is giving this. I heard Kansas is giving this.’ There’s no facts. I really didn’t think twice about it.”
On June 3, 2017, Bowen committed to play for Louisville.
University attorneys also wrote that Pitino failed to notify compliance officials that Gatto had asked if he was interested in recruiting Bowen during a telephone call on May 27, 2017.
“Despite repeatedly being placed on notice and trained by University compliance that he should and must report such matters to them, Pitino never alerted University compliance to the fact that he was communicating with Dawkins, a former employee of the ASM Sports Agency, regarding Bowen’s commitment,” the university attorneys wrote in the motion.
“Pitino never told compliance that Dawkins was accompanying Bowen on Bowen’s unofficial visit to the University. And Pitino never told compliance that he had been informed that other universities had allegedly offered Bowen hundreds of thousands of dollars to play for their basketball teams.”
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