Former Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino’s attorneys have asked a federal judge to reopen discovery in his lawsuit against the university’s athletics association to allow them to examine whether a Cardinals trustee was the “cash source” for payments to strippers, who allegedly danced and had sex with players and recruits during parties at a campus dorm.
The allegation about a Louisville trustee funding the stripper parties surfaced earlier this week from a July 26 deposition of former board of trustees chairman J. David Grissom in an unrelated financial fraud lawsuit the university and its nonprofit foundation are pursuing against former Louisville president James Ramsey and some of his top aides.
During the deposition, Grissom said under oath that Ramsey told him in June 2016 that another trustee was the “cash source” of payments to Katrina Powell and other women who danced at the parties.
“He [Ramsey] told me that one of his board members was the cash source for paying off the strippers in the stripper incident,” Grissom said, according to a video of the deposition obtained by WDRB News in Louisville.
During the deposition, Grissom, who is still a university trustee, refused to provide the name of the board member who allegedly funded the parties. He later said he never asked Ramsey which trustee allegedly provided the money.
Ramsey’s lawyer, Steve Pence, told WDRB that his client never made the statement to Grissom.
In a motion filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky on Wednesday, Pitino’s attorneys asked a judge to reopen discovery for 60 days “for the limited purpose of exploring Grissom’s claim and conduct, including deposing those with knowledge of relevant facts.”
Pitino sued the University of Louisville Athletic Association in November 2017, claiming it breached his contract when it fired him shortly after the federal government arrested three men who conspired to funnel $100,000 from Adidas to recruit Brian Bowen Jr.’s father to influence his son to sign with the Cardinals.
Pitino has denied knowledge of the pay-for-play scheme involving Bowen.
The school placed Pitino on administrative leave in September 2017 and then fired him with cause. His attorneys claim the athletic association owes him about $4.3 million per year through June 2026 — or at least his actual losses, including the termination of an endorsement deal with Adidas, which paid him $1.5 million annually.
As a result of an NCAA investigation that included allegations about the stripper parties, the Cardinals were placed on NCAA probation for four years in June 2017. Their penalties included vacating their 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four appearance, scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions.
According to Pitino’s lawsuit, the athletic association cited three reasons for firing him: he failed to adequately monitor his staff members, including Andre McGee, who allegedly arranged the stripper parties in on-campus dorms from 2011 to 2015; the U.S. Department of Justice complaint regarding the Bowen scheme; and Pitino’s failure to notify the athletics department’s compliance staff about Christian Dawkins’ presence on campus in May 2017.
Dawkins, an aspiring business manager, was one of three men convicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their roles in pay-for-play schemes to influence recruits to sign with Adidas-sponsored schools, including Kansas, Louisville and NC State. Dawkins and the other men — former Adidas executive James Gatto and Adidas consultant Merl Code — appealed their convictions on Tuesday.
“Coach Pitino has no knowledge about whether Dr. Ramsey made the alleged statement to Grissom,” the lawyers wrote in Wednesday’s motion. “But Grissom’s sworn statement demands further exploration. First, if a UL trustee indeed funded McGee’s escort activities, that fundamentally affects ULAA’s claim that Coach Pitino is responsible for failing to monitor McGee’s activities.
“Second, Grissom’s failure to come forward with this information during the NCAA investigation risks tainting the NCAA decision on which the ULAA relies.”