VIDEO: Rick Pitino joins Dan Patrick Show to discuss legacy and time at Louisville

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Former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino joined the Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday morning as he discussed his legacy, his time at Louisville and some of the things he’s been involved in since he was fired from coaching the Cardinals.

Recently releasing a book telling his side of the story against Louisville and the NCAA, Pitino discussed allegations that he spoke to adidas executive Jim Gatto on the phone. Pitino maintains that two of the alleged calls were voicemails.

Pitino also says that the NCAA only suspended him five games for his misconduct at Louisville, as he believes that he would be banned from college coaching had he knew more about what happened under his watch.

The video checks in at little more than seven minutes and gives an interesting insight into Pitino’s time away from coaching and his plans to sue to restore his name.

 

Tuned in: ACC looks for boost with 2019 launch of TV channel

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RALEIGH, N.C. — When Atlantic Coast Conference teams open the season this week, their games will air on several television platforms, from ABC and Fox to ESPNU and the CBS Sports Network.

A year from now, that list will also include the ACC’s own channel.

League schools are working on production and broadcast space for the ACC Network’s launch in August 2019 . The conference is mulling football and basketball scheduling that adds extra zip to first-year programming for the ESPN-partnered channel.

The short-term goal is a good start amid industry-wide concerns about falling subscriber numbers for many TV providers as cord-cutters opt for standalone services such as YouTube TV. Beyond that, the ACC needs a reliable financial boost after falling behind its power-conference peers: the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences.

“I think there’s some other things we can do (financially), that we are looking at,” Commissioner John Swofford told The Associated Press. “But none of those things would reach the ultimate potential that the channel has.”

Swofford said it could take four or five years to reap the channel’s full financial benefits.

Member schools are counting on that money.

“The single most important thing for the future of this athletic program financially is the success of the ACC Network, without question,” North Carolina State athletic director Debbie Yow said.

“We have maxed out on our multimedia rights deal. We have maxed out on our apparel deal. We have maxed out on our tickets sales in football, we’re close to that in basketball,” Yow said. “All the financial resources that are available for us to go get, we’ve done really well in. We’ve kind of hit the wall. … We have to have it just like the SEC and the Big Ten did.”

Federal tax filings for the power conferences illustrate Yow’s point — and a growing gap.

For documents covering the 2007-08 school year, the ACC ranked second in total revenue ($162.7 million) and average payout to member schools ($11.8 million). That was slightly more than the SEC and behind the Big Ten ($217.7 million total revenue, $18.8 million average payout) after that league became the first with its own channel in August 2007.

By 2016-17, the ACC’s total revenue had reached a league-record $418.1 million but trailed the SEC ($650 million), the Big Ten ($512.9 million) and the Pac-12 ($509.4 million). Its average payout for 14 full-time members — Notre Dame gets a partial share as a football independent with its own NBC TV deal — averaged $26.6 million, while the 15 schools additionally received an average of more than $960,000 in reimbursements for conference championship expenses.

By comparison, the SEC — which launched its ESPN-partnered channel in 2014 — distributed nearly $41 million per school. The Big Ten averaged about $37 million when factoring out reduced shares for past-decade additions Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers. The Big 12 averaged $34.3 million despite lacking its own TV channel, though it has fewer mouths to feed at 10 schools and one of those — Texas — sporting a separate 20-year ESPN deal for the Longhorn Network, launched in 2011.

The Pac-12 averaged nearly $31 million after launching its league-owned network in 2012, though it has been unable to get the channels on DirecTV and has had trouble getting broad access on cable providers outside the region.

The financial numbers keep increasing. The Big 12 said in June that its average payout would grow to $36.5 million following 2017-18 amid its TV deal with ESPN and Fox Sports running through 2024-25. And there are projections that Big Ten schools could soon cross $50 million .

Swofford has declined to publicly discuss financial projections for the ACC Network.

One factor will be distribution deals between ESPN’s majority owner — Disney — and cable providers to carry the channel. Swofford pointed to an October deal between Disney and Altice USA that includes the ACC and SEC networks for the New York area as “a very good start for us, optically as well as practically.”

“The fortunate thing for us is our partner,” Swofford said. “Because not only in terms of their being the leader in sports television and production, talent and so forth — it’s Disney, and it’s ESPN, and it’s ESPN2, and it’s ESPNU and it’s ESPN News. But it’s all those Disney channels. And that’s powerful in the marketplace.”

Dean Jordan, a global media managing executive with the Wasserman media group who has represented the league in negotiations with ESPN, declined to discuss the ACC Network specifically but said sports remain “the big value driver” with distribution deals.

“When you think about it, people’s greatest passions are for their favorite teams and their favorite team’s competitors,” Jordan said. “That’s why regional networks are so popular. . When you look at why college football in general has risen to the heights it has, it’s because all over the country in communities big or small, there are these college programs that ignite passion in their alumni, their students and their fans.

“Same as fans of the pro teams, but there’s a lot more colleges and they touch a lot more people.”

As for programming, the ACC previously announced a 20-game men’s basketball league schedule for the channel’s debut 2019-20 season. Swofford said it is possible that could include seven season-opening conference matchups before resuming the league slate in December and January — an unusual step considering the last time two ACC teams met in a season-opening conference matchup came in December 1967, according to the league.

Swofford said it is “probable” the 2019 football schedule opens with conference games, too, for attractive matchups “out of the chute.”

“The ACC Network, for it to come on board and for us to have the opportunity to really showcase what this league is all about, like some of the other leagues who have taken advantage of that opportunity — the Big Ten Network, the SEC Network, whatever — it’s just great for our programs,” Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s great for our players. And I don’t have any doubt it’ll be something our fans will truly love.”

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AP Sports Writers Stephen Hawkins in Fort Worth, Texas; Pete Iacobelli in Clemson, South Carolina; and Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas; contributed to this report.

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More AP college football: http://apnews.com/tag/collegefootball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

North Carolina lands five-star 2019 big man Armando Bacot

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North Carolina added a key piece to its Class of 2019 recruiting haul on Thursday as five-star big man Armando Bacot pledged to the Tar Heels.

One of North Carolina’s main recruiting targets over the past year, the 6-foot-10 Bacot gives the Tar Heels an old-school big man and an immediate double-double threat. Although Bacot won’t blow away fans with athleticism or leaping ability, he’s a fundamentally-sound big man with good hands and feet as he throws a number of post moves at the opposing defense. With North Carolina having success with big men like Bacot in the past — most recently with Kennedy Meeks — it means they should know how to utilize Bacot’s assets right away.

Landing a five-star prospect like Bacot is also a huge step for North Carolina’s recruiting efforts as it gives them much-needed stability. This is a class where head coach Roy Williams and his staff are attempting to make serious moves with the rest of the bluebloods of college basketball after years of being outside the top ten in team recruiting rankings.

North Carolina recruiting took its biggest downturn with the Class of 2017 — as the school was in the midst of an academic scandal. That year saw the Tar Heels take a handful of three-star prospects to plug holes on the interior. The program only landed one five-star prospect in that class — Jalek Felton. He already transferred out after one season.

But after a strong Class of 2018 recruiting haul that featured five-star prospects like forward Nassir Little and guard Coby White, followed by this solid start in the Class of 2019, and it appears as though North Carolina is picking up right where they left off before the academic scandal shook things up.

Now that Bacot is already in the fold, North Carolina can focus its recruiting efforts on trying to land elite talent to go along with four-star guard Jeremiah Francis — another Tar Heel pledge in 2019. North Carolina recently received an unofficial visit from five-star point guard Cole Anthony in late July. Australian native and five-star shooting guard Josh Green also put the Tar Heels in his top list of six schools earlier this week. And the Tar Heels also continue to target other talented interior players like Vernon Carey, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Matthew Hurt. Four-star guard Tre Mann is scheduled to take an official visit to Chapel Hill in September.

If North Carolina continues to add quality pieces to the Class of 2019, then they might have the program’s first top-ten recruiting class (based on 247Sports composite team rankings) since 2014. While Duke and Kentucky have dominated recruiting headlines with their yearly one-and-done wars, the Tar Heels have quietly continued to win games and make Final Four appearances.

The North Carolina Class of 2014 recruiting group included players like Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson. That trio was a huge reason for the program’s recent on-court success. After a brief lull, North Carolina fans are hoping that Tar Heel recruiting wins in 2018 and 2019 can form the foundation of the school’s next potential run at a title.

Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett highlights in Duke debut

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Duke is making its foreign exhibition debut on Wednesday night, as they battle respected Canadian program Ryerson in front of a packed crowd in Mississauga, Ontario.

It’s also the debut of the highly-touted freshman class that the Blue Devils are bringing in — including forward Zion Williamson and wing (and Canada native) R.J. Barrett.

Barrett and Williamson haven’t disappointed in their Duke debuts as each of the top-five prospects have dominated during stretches of the game. Both freshmen made some stunning highlight-reel plays as well.

Williamson had a monster putback dunk and a goaltend near the top of the square in the first half. Barrett already made an opposing defender look silly as a Ryerson defender made the mistake of jumping with him on a breakaway dunk.

Barrett finished with a game-high 34 points to pace Duke while Williamson had some electric plays in finishing with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Duke continues its Canadian exhibition tour through the end of the weekend as they’ll play a few more exhibitions against Canadian college opponents.

Former Louisville players file suit against NCAA over vacated 2013 national title

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A group of former Louisville men’s basketball players have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA over the organization’s vacation of the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four.

John Morgan, one of several attorneys representing former Cardinals captain Luke Hancock, the 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, and four teammates from that title team, said a lawsuit had been filed and described the NCAA as “a morally bankrupt organization” that exploits student-athletes during a Wednesday news conference.

The suit filed Wednesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court does not specify monetary damages. It states the NCAA cast the plaintiffs in a false light and seeks declaration that it wrongfully vacated the plaintiffs’ wins, honors and awards.

Morgan added, “If all we get is this championship back for Louisville, and the players, and the city, and Luke’s MVP back, that’s going to be plenty pay for us.”

The attorney also mentioned former Louisville players Gorgui Dieng, Tim Henderson, Stephan Van Treese and Mike Marra as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The NCAA stripped Louisville of the title as part of sanctions for violations discovered during an escort scandal investigation .

Hancock stressed that his title ring “is not coming off” and said the embarrassing scandal continues to dog him despite not being involved.

“It’s been five years and I can’t tell you two days where I’ve gone without having someone come to me and ask me if I had strippers or prostitutes in the dorm,” he said.

“I’m excited that Morgan & Morgan has partnered with us and is going to represent us because enough is enough.”

The governing body in February denied the school’s appeal and vacated 123 victories, including their third NCAA title, following an escort’s book allegations in October 2015 that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers for sex parties. Louisville removed the championship banner from its home arena soon afterward.

“We are used to fighting giants,” Morgan said. “In the sports world, I don’t think there is any Goliath that exists like the NCAA. The NCAA is a giant, but the NCAA is a morally bankrupt organization that has taken advantage of economically disadvantaged young people throughout our country.

“They answer to nobody but are bad for everybody.”

The liability attorney did not mention former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who has denied knowledge of the activities alleged by Katina Powell in her book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.”

Hancock said he frequently talks with Pitino but did not specifically ask if he wanted to be involved.

Several investigations soon followed after Powell’s allegations, including ones by the school and the NCAA. Louisville’s own investigation found that violations did occur and imposed penalties including sitting out the 2016 postseason in an effort to mitigate NCAA penalties.

The organization in June 2017 ordered Louisville to vacate victories that included the championship and Final Four appearance for activities it described as “repugnant” in its decision. Pitino was suspended for five games for failing to monitor McGee and vowed to fight the penalties. The school and the coach vowed then to fight the penalties.

As the appeals process unfolded, the Hall of Fame coach was suspended and eventually fired after 16 seasons last fall following Louisville’s acknowledgment of its involvement in a federal corruption of college basketball.

Pitino is not named in the federal complaint and has denied knowledge of any payments made to the family of former Louisville recruit Brian Bowen. The coach is suing the school along with sportswear maker Adidas, which dropped him after his firing.

Zion Williamson breaks Duke vertical leap record

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Duke freshman Zion Williamson is going to be one of the bigger stories in college basketball this season after the hype surrounding his high school career.

An extraordinary leaper and big-time athlete, Williamson set a new record at Duke for vertical leap during the team’s summer combine testing this week.

Williamson cleared the rack during testing. Plenty of guys have been able to clear the rack during vertical testing. But not many are built like NFL defensive lineman.

The rack had to be elevated for Williamson to properly finish out his vertical testing. He’s also listed at 6-foot-7, 285 pounds on the Duke website.

Williamson cleared the rack so easily that teammate R.J. Barrett — one of the best players in the country — was laughing while marveling at his leaping ability. It’s going to be fun to watch Williamson play above the rim for the Blue Devils this season.