Current and former UofL coaches respond to UofL pay-for-play scandal ruling

(From left to right) Rick Pitino, Chris Mack, Kenny Payne
(From left to right) Rick Pitino, Chris Mack, Kenny Payne(WAVE News)
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 9:10 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A number of the University of Louisville men’s basketball team’s former and current coaching staff had things to say about Thursday’s ruling on the pay-for-play scandal.

After five years, the NCAA Independent Accountability Resolution Process ruled the university would be fined and lose recruiting time as punishment for claims of attempting to pay to recruit Brian Bowen to the team.

The investigation caused the firing of former UofL athletic director Tom Jurich and former head coach Rick Pitino in Oct. 2017.

Pitino addressed the punishment in a news conference on Thursday, claiming it didn’t sit well with him that Jurich was fired because Jurich wouldn’t fire Pitino.

“If you take a thousand athletic directors and you all know that listening to me, 999 would have fired me, and I don’t blame them for doing so,” Pitino said. “Tom Jurich said, ‘I could not sleep at night if I had let you go,’ and that’s the biggest regret I have looking back on the situation.”

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Pitino said he was happy for the university and wished success for current men’s basketball coach Kenny Payne.

Still, Pitino said he was happy for the university and wished success for current men’s basketball coach Kenny Payne.

“Now it’s time to get on with this, and certainly Louisville’s behind me,” Pitino said. “I wish them nothing, but the best. Kenny Payne is a friend. I want to see him have great success.”

Payne also released a statement on Thursday morning following the ruling.

“Since returning to Louisville in March, my focus has been, and continues to be, on the incredible young men in our basketball program,” Payne said. “I am grateful for the leadership and effort put in by so many over the last several years to help bring this matter to a close. With this matter behind us, we are only looking ahead as we help our student-athletes achieve their dreams and build this program to the level in which our community can take pride.”

Payne took over as head coach after the university negotiated a settlement with the previous coach Chris Mack in January.

Mack ended a four-year tenure with the university as part of a $4.8 million buyout.

On Thursday, Mack tweeted he had received support following the ruling’s release.

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“I appreciate the many texts of support I’ve received today,” Mack tweeted. “The cloud that my staff and I operated under during our time at UofL was irreparable in recruiting. As far as the trivial allegations levied against me and our program, today was a vindication in many ways.”

“Christi and I wish everyone at UofL all the best moving forward, the fans certainly deserve it after the last 5 years of uncertainty,” Mack added.

The ruling did not impose punishments on either Mack or Pitino, but two former UofL assistant coaches, Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair, each received a two-year show cause order.