Judge dismisses ex-Louisville coach Rick Pitino's lawsuit against Adidas

A U.S. District Court judge on Tuesday granted Adidas' motion to dismiss former Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino's federal lawsuit against the apparel company, agreeing that the case must be settled in arbitration, according to Pitino's endorsement agreement with Adidas.

Judge David Hale, from the Western District of Kentucky, dismissed the case and agreed that Pitino's claim must be arbitrated in Oregon. Adidas' North American headquarters are in Portland.

Pitino sued Adidas in October, claiming unspecified damages caused by the apparel company's alleged improper dealings with recruits. In the federal complaint, Pitino's lawyers wrote that Adidas "knowingly or recklessly caused him emotional distress when its employees conspired to bribe University of Louisville basketball recruits."

Pitino was fired by Louisville officials on Oct. 16 in the wake of an FBI investigation of bribery and fraud in college basketball related to the steering of recruits to Adidas, sports agents and financial advisers. Shortly after the school's athletics board voted to fire Pitino, Adidas announced that it was ending its personal services agreement with the Hall of Fame coach.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported last year that Pitino received 98 percent of the cash -- about $1.5 million annually for five years -- that the university received from its expiring apparel deal with Adidas. The university and an Adidas spokesman told ESPN that a new apparel deal with the school -- a 10-year, $160 million pact announced in August 2017 -- has different terms that earmark nearly all of the money to the school.

In the lawsuit, Pitino's attorneys allege that Adidas employees' "outrageous conduct" to funnel money to the family of a recruit without his knowledge caused "grave damage to his public and private standing and reputation, causing him extreme embarrassment, humiliation, and emotional distress."

Federal prosecutors allege that Adidas executive James Gatto, Adidas employee Merl Code and sports agent Christian Dawkins conspired to make $100,000 in improper payments to Louisville recruit Brian Bowen's family. Pitino has denied knowledge of the scheme.

"[Pitino] has never authorized, tolerated, participated in, or otherwise condoned giving improper benefits to recruits or players, or to their families, especially as an inducement to have recruits join the University of Louisville men's basketball program," the lawsuit says.

"The lawsuit is about more than just money; it is Coach Pitino's vehicle for proving that he had nothing to do with Adidas' outrageous, wrongful, and illegal conspiracy."

Pitino also sued the University of Louisville Athletic Association in federal court on Nov. 30 for breach of contract and is seeking more than $35 million. The school argued in court motions earlier this month that Pitino intentionally failed to notify university officials that Dawkins and Gatto were involved in the Cardinals' recruitment of Bowen, and that Pitino ignored red flags after hearing allegations that DePaul had offered Bowen $200,000 to play basketball there.