Judge Tosses Ex-Coach Pitino’s Adidas Lawsuit

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CN) – A federal judge dismissed Rick Pitino’s lawsuit blaming the NCAA recruitment scandal on Adidas, ruling Tuesday that the former University of Louisville men’s basketball coach and apparel company must resolve their dispute in arbitration.

In this Feb. 20, 2016, photo, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino argues with referee Brian Dorsey during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke. (AP file Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Pitino was fired as head coach last October after the university became embroiled in scandal, when the FBI unveiled criminal charges accusing Adidas and others of illegal athlete recruiting practices.

According to the unsealed charges, Adidas executives funneled money to the families of two Louisville men’s basketball recruits to get them to attend the university and endorse the apparel company when they turned pro.

These allegations prompted Pitino’s firing and caused Adidas to terminate its contract with the former coach.

Adidas inked a 10-year, $160 million endorsement contract extension with the University of Louisville last year, and the company had reportedly paid Pitino more than $2 million in the year prior to his firing.

Maintaining his innocence, Pitino filed his federal lawsuit immediately after he was fired and claimed that Adidas breached the contract and was to blame for the alleged funneling of money to recruits.

Pitino’s sought damages for the tarnishing of his reputation and for emotional distress. Adidas responded by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit last November.

U.S. District Judge David Hale in the Western District of Kentucky did not weigh in on the actual merits of Pitino’s claims when he dismissed the lawsuit Tuesday.

“Here, the facts underlying Pitino’s tort and contract claims are identical: both claims are based on Adidas’s alleged bribing of a University of Louisville basketball recruit or his family,” the judge wrote.

Hale said the endorsement agreement between Pitino and Adidas called for the dispute to be handled in arbitration. The judge did not actually compel arbitration between the parties because the proper venue is Oregon, where Adidas is headquartered.

Hale dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice, leaving Pitino with the option of filing his claims again.

Pitino’s lawyer Steve Pence said in a statement that they have always believed the breach of contract claim was subject to arbitration and the court ruled that the outrageous conduct claim must also be arbitrated.

“We’re happy to get the court’s decision and can now move forward with both claims against Adidas,” Pence said.

Adidas did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the ruling.

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