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Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer 10d

Ex-Louisville coach Rick Pitino accused of being aware of payment scheme, according to indictment

Men's College Basketball, Louisville Cardinals

A new federal indictment against Adidas executive Jim Gatto suggests former Louisville coach Rick Pitino was aware of a scheme to pay Cardinals recruit Brian Bowen and even participated in the plan.

The indictment, which was released Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, includes a new description of a meeting in a Las Vegas hotel room on July 27. According to the indictment, the FBI recorded and videotaped the meeting between former AAU basketball coach Christian Dawkins, a Louisville assistant coach and others as they conspired to pay Bowen's family to ensure the star recruit signed with the Cardinals, an Adidas-sponsored team.

"Dawkins explained that while [Pitino] and the University of Louisville were recruiting [Bowen], Dawkins asked [Pitino] to call James Gatto to request that [Adidas] provide the money requested by the family of [Bowen], which [Pitino] agreed to do," the indictment reads.

A previous description of the meeting, which was included in an FBI complaint against Gatto released on Sept. 26, indicated Dawkins had spoken with Pitino and asked him to call Gatto about Adidas paying Bowen's family. But it didn't include language indicating Pitino agreed to do it.

The original complaint read: "Dawkins said he had spoken with Coach-2 [who has been reported to be Pitino] about getting additional money for [Bowen's] family and informed [Pitino] that 'I need you to call Jim Gatto, who's the head of everything' at [Adidas'] basketball program."

Pitino's attorney, Steve Pence, told ESPN on Thursday that Pitino had no knowledge of Dawkins' plan to pay Bowen's family.

"It's pretty clear to me that what Dawkins is doing is he's dropping names of well-known coaches in order to get money from this person, who is in fact working for the FBI," said Pence, who also issued a lengthy statement on Pitino's behalf. "They're all too willing to lap it up. Eventually, the truth will come out in this thing. It always does -- always."

In an interview with ESPN last month, Pitino reiterated that he had "no knowledge" of any payment to Bowen's family, citing a lie detector test that he took in October.

Pitino said of Bowen: "He fell into our lap in recruiting. Obviously, now with the circumstances behind it, there's more to it than meets the eye. But I believe Brian Bowen chose the University of Louisville because he loved the visit, he loved his future teammates and he wanted to play for me. I don't think he's involved in this in any way. Now, am I being naive? I don't know. I just believe in that young man."

The indictment also says that during a phone call on Aug. 9, Dawkins and Merl Code, another Adidas employee who was also indicted by a grand jury in New York earlier this week, spoke about "the scheme to pay money to the student-athlete expected to graduate in 2018 and/or his family in order to secure his commitment to play at the University of Miami," which is another Adidas-sponsored school.

"During the call, Dawkins and Code discussed the fact that a coach at the University of Miami ["Coach-3"] would need to call James Gatto, the defendant, in order to secure funding from [Adidas] to pay a bribe to the athlete and/or his family," the indictment says. "Dawkins indicated to Code that Coach-3 was aware of the scheme and 'knows something gotta happen for it to get done.'"

Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga acknowledged last month that he believes he is Coach-3, and Larranaga said he was cooperating with authorities after receiving a federal grand jury subpoena. Larranaga has denied wrongdoing and said his assistants weren't involved in the bribery scheme.

"It's been a strain, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually," Larranaga told reporters last month. "It's something that's there. I have to deal with it. I have the support of my wife and a wonderful family. I have the support of the university, my staff and players."

The Department of Justice alleges Dawkins and Code were trying to obtain $150,000 for Nassir Little of Orlando, Florida, who is the No. 14 prospect in the 2018 ESPN 100. Little has verbally committed to play for North Carolina.

The FBI announced on Sept. 26 that 10 men -- including assistant coaches Tony Evans of Oklahoma State, Chuck Person of Auburn, Emanuel "Book" Richardson of Arizona and Tony Bland of USC, along with Gatto -- were charged with crimes relating to the investigation.

Louisville was not explicitly named in court documents, but interim president Greg Postel confirmed that the school was part of the probe.

Pitino, 65, was placed on unpaid administrative leave on Sept. 27 and fired on Oct. 17. He has $44 million remaining in salary and bonuses from a contract extension he signed through the 2025-26 season.

Pitino guided the Cardinals to the 2013 national championship and two other appearances in the Final Four.

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