If athletic director Tom Jurich and basketball coach Rick Pitino depart the University of Louisville amid the latest scandal allegations, it’s likely the public university will remain on the hook for hefty portions of their pay.
Both have earned tens of millions of dollars during their tenures at U of L. Pitino, whose salary last year was about $5 million, is reportedly one of the highest paid coaches in college hoops.
U of L Interim President Gregory Postel placed Jurich and Pitino on paid administrative leave Wednesday afternoon, pending a review by the board of trustees. How much U of L will have to pay out if Jurich and Pitino are fired now depends on the mechanism.
Contracts typically absolve universities of big payouts when top athletics officials are fired “for cause.”
Both Jurich’s and Pitino’s contract say a major NCAA violation or dishonest conduct would justify termination. But invoking those clauses are unusual even after wrongdoing, said Marty Greenberg, a Milwaukee-based sports attorney, since it drags out the timeline and public discussions of the scandal.
“It greatly depends on how much the university wants to go through with as a spectacle,” Greenberg said. “Sometimes it’s worth paying some money to put the dirty laundry in the back room and let the university go on, as it’s hard to recover from these things.”
U of L will have to contend with severing two contracts for one of the highest-paid athletic directors in the country: Jurich has agreements with both the university and the University of Louisville Foundation.
Jurich’s university contract prescribes that if he’s terminated without cause, he would get 90 days notice. For violating terms of his contract or NCAA violations, Jurich is supposed to be entitled to 30 days to cure the problem.
But Jurich was promised a severance package from former U of L President James Ramsey for his base salary even if he was fired for cause, according to a 2013 USA Today story.
That severance benefit was laid out in a document separate from Jurich’s contract, according to USA Today.
Pitino’s contract promises him a warning if he were to be fired.
His contract appears to give him at least 10 days notice to fight any potential termination. It specifies he’s entitled 10 days to present evidence if he’s accused of wrongdoing.
His contract does not, however, lay out any terms for a firing without cause.
Greenberg said it’s not unusual for contracts to be put aside in favor of negotiating an exit, especially in the midst of a major scandal.
He said there’s no doubt the four college coaches from other universities named in the criminal case announced by the FBI on Tuesday will be fired for cause and receive no payout.
Neither Pitino or any other U of L coaches were named in the criminal complaint, although U of L’s interim president confirmed the school is part of the investigation.
Greenberg said Pitino’s NCAA suspension after the team’s last major scandal involving providing sex to recruits was because of an NCAA rule on “vicarious liability,” which means Pitino is responsible for even staffers’ actions he doesn’t know about. This newest scandal is likely to be Pitino’s problem too, Greenberg added.
“You can’t turn your head anymore,” Greenberg said. “You’ve got to be on top of everybody that affects your system.”