Oregon head coach Dana Altman responds to investigation

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It’s been a long week for the University of Oregon’s men’s basketball program as it was revealed on Monday that sophomore guards Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis as well as freshman forward Brandon Austin were investigated for the forcible rape of a female student in an incident that occurred in early March.

Since then, Artis, Austin and Dotson have been dismissed from the men’s basketball program, after initially being suspended, and on Friday, Oregon head coach Dana Altman made his first public comments while addressing the media for first time to discuss the investigation and how it impacts the Ducks going forward.

“I believe it’s within the best interest of the university, the best interest of the young men and the best interest of our program for that decision,” Altman said at the press conference on Friday.

Altman also discussed his timeline of learning of the investigation involving his players and first learned of an incident before the NCAA Tournament began.

“The day before we left to go to Milwaukee, [Oregon athletic director] Rob [Mullens] came into my office and said that there was an incident. Not sure exactly the date but I think it was that Monday because we left for Milwaukee on a Tuesday,” Altman said.

Altman was unaware of much else based on his initial meeting with Mullens and didn’t know of the nature of the incident.

“I didn’t know how serious of allegations that were placed upon the young men at the time,” Altman said. “And at that time Rob had talked with the police department and we were instructed not to take any action or to let any knowledge interfere with their investigation.”

The decision to suspend Oregon’s players was then delayed until a further date when Mullens and Altman read over the police report on the investigation in late April.

“April 30th, Rob and I were called over to the attorney’s office. We read the report. Rob and I discussed it that night and that was when the decision was made to suspend the players,” Altman said.

Although none of the three players were charged with anything stemming from the forcible rape investigation by the Eugene Police Department, Altman said that all three players moving on from the program was in their best interest going forward.

“I think there would be a lot of pressure here at Oregon if they were to return and try to play basketball,” Altman said. “They were disappointed. [Artis] and [Dotson] love the university and they love their time here so we’re disappointed.”

Altman has since spoken with all three players and also expressed disappointment in their actions while also acknowledging that he felt bad for the victim and her family.

“I’ve spoken with the players, again, those were tough conversations, personal conversations. I expressed my disappointment,” Altman said. “Again, they’re young men that I care deeply about so we’ve tried to help them through it, also. There’s four people whose lives have been greatly altered here. I feel really bad for the victim and her family and moving forward it’s a tough situation.”

One of the biggest questions Altman faced was his decision to accept Providence transfer Brandon Austin into the program after it was revealed in a Wall Street Journal report in March that Austin was also investigated for a sexual assault along with former teammate Rodney Bullock. Austin transferred into the Oregon program in January while it was still a Providence College issue.

“Ed Cooley said that it was not a legal matter, that it was a university matter,” Altman said of Austin. “The fact that Providence tried to keep him gave us confidence that it wasn’t a serious matter.

“I spoke with the family and I had every confidence after speaking with them and checking his high school background that there was nothing that would prevent him from joining our team. He did not give specifics [about his incident at Providence] so my line of questioning probably didn’t go deep enough there, in retrospect, but I did not have a specific reason [not to add him to the team].”

Altman also admitted in a follow-up question that Austin did not reveal the full extent of his investigation at Providence.

“He was investigated at the school, but he didn’t tell me [he was investigated for sexual assault],” Altman said of Austin.

Altman was also asked how he felt after defending Dotson’s character following Dotson’s February arrest for having a false identification at a nearby bar.

“I think good people can make bad decisions and this obviously was a very bad decision,” Altman said of defending Dotson. “When you have a history with that young man, that history goes into account as well but he made a very bad decision.”

When asked if he felt pressure for his job following the investigation Altman responded, “No, I didn’t.”

The Oregon head coach also stated that he doesn’t expect any other players to leave the program as he looks to rebuild his roster following the departures of Artis, Austin and Dotson.

“We have six players that are signed for next year, three players on scholarship, so we currently have nine players that are either on scholarship or signed,” Altman said. “We’ll possibly add a player or two to that number but right now we’ve got the nine.

“We’ll go with players that fit our program and fit our needs.”

Iowa’s McCaffery says, “I’ve turned programs in” for cheating

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There aren’t a lot of unwritten rules in basketball. One of them, though, is that if a coach breaks a real rule, other coaches don’t speak up. Coaches would seemingly rather lose out on a recruit or transfer rather than turning in one of their own for suspected malfeasance.

Not for Fran McCaffery, though.

The Iowa coach was asked Monday about the FBI investigation into corruption into college hoops, and freely volunteered that he has previously turned other programs in for violations – and that he’ll do it again, if need be.

“I’ve turned programs in and I’ll continue to do that when I know that there’s something going on,” McCaffery said at the program’s media day, according to the Des Moines Register. “But a lot of times you don’t know what’s going on. So can you police yourselves? Only if you know something’s going on. But even then it’s hard for the NCAA to do something.”

Turning in another program for violations is really one of the biggest taboos in the coaching profession. That’s why you get coaches look silly in blocking schools for transfers when tampering is suspected, rather than a coach just reporting tampering.

McCaffery’s tactic, while probably frowned upon by many of his colleagues, is probably the best weapon the NCAA has in combating cheating. If coaches make it clear they won’t tolerate cheating – or that if it occurs, it won’t go unremarked upon – that will go along way in changing a culture and system that the FBI is going to potentially uncover with its wide-ranging investigation that already has resulted in 10 people’s arrest and a Hall of Fame coach’s firing.

“Any time the game is cleaned up,” McCaffery said, “it’s better for all of us.”

Report: Louisville offered $1.5 million settlement to Pitino

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When it became clear that Louisville and Rick Pitino were going to part ways, much of the discussion instantly turned to the more than $40 million left on the coach’s contract.

The school reportedly tried to avoid that whole ordeal Monday, but Pitino apparently wasn’t interested.

Louisville offered to pay $1.5 million to a charity started by Pitino in exchange for his resignation, according to WDRB-TV Louisville. Pitino did not accept and was then fired for cause by the Louisville board.

It’s little surprise to see Pitino reject such an offer with so many more millions on the table should he (almost certainly) begin legal proceedings trying to recoup the cash that Louisville says it doesn’t owe him by firing for cause.

I vehemently reject (the school’s) right to do so ‘for cause,’” Pitino said in an affidavit sent to the school. “I have given no ’cause’ for termination of my contract.”

The firing came on the heels of the latest controversy  to hit Louisville under Pitino’s watch. First came the escort scandal that rocked the program, but now the school is part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Ten people were arrested as part of the probe, including an adidas executive who is alleged to have orchestrated getting $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to facilitate his commitment to the Cardinals program.

Pitino may be out at Louisville, but with more than $40 million at stake, the school surely hasn’t seen the last of him.

Louisville officially fires Rick Pitino

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Louisville’s Athletic Association has officially fired head coach Rick Pitino nearly three weeks after an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball linked the Hall of Fame head coach and his program to a $100,000 payment from Adidas to a recruit that enrolled at Louisville.

The association, made up of trustees, faculty, student and administrators, oversees Louisville athletics. They voted unanimously to fire Pitino.

Pitino has $44 million in salary remaining on his contract, which extends through the 2026 season. He was with Louisville for 16 seasons.

Pitino had been ‘effectively fired‘ by the university on September 27th, the day after the scandal first broke.

Earlier this summer, Louisville had received their sanctions from the NCAA in a different scandal that enveloped Pitino’s program. In October of 2015, a book was published by an escort named Katina Powell who alleged that a member of Pitino’s staff had paid for strippers and prostitutes for recruits and members of the Louisville team, some of whom were underage. The NCAA’s sanctions, which included vacating the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title in addition to Louisville’s self-imposed 2016 postseason ban, were handed down in June, two weeks after a Louisville coach had allegedly helped facilitate a $100,000 payment from Adidas to Brian Bowen’s family and six weeks before another coach would allegedly attempt to do the same for a 2019 prospect.

Kansas’ Self: Adidas case a “dark cloud on our profession’

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self had come to know James Gatto well over the years, along with just about everyone else involved with the college basketball side of the athletic apparel giant Adidas.

It comes with the territory as one of the company’s flagship schools.

But when Self first heard that Gatto had been swept up in a wide-ranging FBI investigation, centered on Louisville but uncovering corruption elsewhere in college basketball, the Jayhawks’ coach admitted being “very disappointed and disheartened” and likened it to a “dark cloud for our profession.”

Prosecutors have accused the 47-year-old Gatto of conspiring with coaches and others to funnel payments to top prospects and their families to win commitments to play at schools sponsored by Adidas. The idea was that their relationship with Adidas would continue whenever they reached the professional level.

The family of one prospect was allegedly paid $100,000 to commit, according to court documents, and the school was later revealed to be Louisville. The school has since placed coach Rick Pitino on administrative leave while the federal investigation is being resolved. Nine others, including former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, have been charged in the case.

Self said during a lengthy interview Friday that the cash payments from Adidas surprised him, but “what is not surprising is third parties’ involvement in recruiting. Everyone should know that.”

“That’s prevalent everywhere,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal about agents talking to kids and their families in ninth and 10th grade. There’s nothing illegal about shoe companies funding AAU programs. That is what’s been encouraged and done, so it shouldn’t be a surprise you could have influence from third parties.”

Kansas officials insist they have not been contacted by the FBI, and the school is not under any sort of investigation. It

Kansas recently reached a 12-year contract extension with Adidas that will ultimately provide the school with $191 million in sponsorship money and apparel. Self suggested the affiliation is being used by rivals on the recruiting trail.

“Whenever in recruiting there is something out there that has been reported, whether it’s reliable or unreliable, total myth, whatever, there’s usually competitors that make sure that information gets to people. Unfortunately, that’s how it works,” Self said. “You can say that’s negative recruiting … but a lot of times the things that are reported are so inaccurate it puts you on the defense.”

The Jayhawks already have commitments from two top-100 prospects in 6-foot-9 forward Silvio de Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy and 6-10 center David McCormack from Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy.

They are also in the mix for several more top-50 prospects in what could be a crucial class for them.

“I’d be lying,” Self said, “if I told you we hadn’t discussed these issues with kids. And has it hurt us to date? I don’t think it has. But it’s not signing day, either.”

Attorney makes case for Louisville to retain Pitino as coach

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rick Pitino’s attorney has told the Louisville Athletic Association that it should not fire the coach of the men’s basketball program because his client “could not have known” about activities alleged in a national federal investigation of the sport.

Steve Pence made his case Monday while the ULAA was meeting to discuss whether to fire Pitino nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged the program’s involvement in the investigation. The association board is still meeting and has not announced its decision.

Association, a separate body that oversees Louisville’s sports programs and comprised of trustees, faculty, students and administrators, on Oct. 2 authorized university interim President Greg Postel to begin the process of firing Pitino for cause after Postel placed him on unpaid administrative leave Sept. 27.

Pitino, 65, is not named in court complaints in the federal probe but Postel said in a disciplinary letter that the allegations violated his contract.

Pence has contended that Louisville rushed to judgment and made his case before the board for 45 minutes on Monday.

He said Pitino should be retained and noted, “The coach did not engage in any of this activity, he didn’t know about the activity. I think we made a very compelling case to the board, I think they listened attentively and we’ll just have to wait and see what they say.”

Pitino has coached 16 years with the program, a run that included winning the 2013 NCAA championship but was tarnished by several embarrassing off-court incidents.