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Clark Hill Successfully Represents Rick Pitino in NCAA Compliance Case

November 7, 2022

Clark Hill attorneys Steven Stapleton, Carolyn Horton, and John Moynihan successfully represented former University of Louisville (UL) Men’s Basketball Head Coach Rick Pitino before an NCAA Independent Resolution Panel as part of an investigation into UL’s compliance with NCAA rules. Coach Pitino is currently coaching Iona University.

Stapleton, with support from Horton and investigative assistance from Moynihan, persuaded the independent panel that Coach Pitino did not commit any NCAA violations and promoted an atmosphere of compliance within his program.

“This is a big win for our client,” Stapleton said. “The IARP’s decision amounts to an exoneration for Coach Pitino. We couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.”

The NCAA, through the Complex Case Unit (CCU), alleged that from May 2017 through August 2017, Coach Pitino violated head coach responsibility legislation when he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the basketball program.  Specifically, the CCU alleged that an apparel company employee contacted Pitino and indicated that he would assist in the recruitment of a prospective student athlete (PSA) by promoting the men’s basketball program to the PSA’s family/friend.  Also, the CCU claimed that Coach Pitino failed to inquire as to the type or level of assistance in recruiting and that he failed to report the offer of recruiting assistance to UL’s compliance staff.  The CCU raised other issues that it claimed were “red flags” including the PSA’s late interest in the program and the coach’s alleged knowledge of another institution’s purported cash offer for the PSA’s commitment.

According to a press release issued by the IARP on Nov. 3, Coach Pitino contended that there was no information that he acted contrary to Louisville’s compliance expectations, and that he expressed his expectations of his staff multiple times and clearly promoted an atmosphere of compliance and expected compliance with all applicable rules.

The hearing panel agreed with Stapleton’s arguments and did not levy any sanctions on Pitino. The IARP release detailed that Pitino never requested recruiting assistance from the apparel company, and there was no reason for Pitino to believe that his exchange with the company was a red flag.  Additionally, the panel wrote that Pitino maintained a zero-tolerance approach to failures in NCAA compliance with his staff, proactively reminded his staff of the importance of following NCAA rules to ensure compliance, and never ignored any red flags about the apparel company outside consultant’s role in the recruitment of the prospective student-athlete.  He did not commit any violations.​​​​​​​

“As we got to know Coach Pitino and review the voluminous record before the panel, it was clear to us that Coach Pitino did not commit a violation,” Stapleton said at a press conference with Pitino shortly after the ruling. “He did nothing wrong. It was our job to make sure the independent panel had all the information before them so they could make an informed decision. And that, they did.”

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