Tuesday, June 15, 2021

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Dino Gaudio, a Longtime College Basketball Coach, Is Accused of Extorting Louisville

Gaudio was charged in federal court, where a filing signaled a plea agreement had been reached.

Dino Gaudio, who once led the men’s basketball programs at Army and Wake Forest, threatened to expose violations of N.C.A.A. rules at Louisville, where he spent several years as an assistant coach, unless the university paid him more than a year’s worth of salary, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

The United States attorney offered few details of his office’s case in a filing in Federal District Court in Louisville, where Gaudio was charged with a single count of interstate communication with intent to extort. The type of filing signaled that Gaudio will ultimately plead guilty to the charge, which carries a potential prison sentence of up to two years, as part of an agreement with the authorities.

Michael A. Bennett, the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, said in court papers that Gaudio had met with Louisville officials on March 17 and “threatened to report to the media allegations that the University of Louisville men’s basketball program had violated National College Athletic Association rules in its production of recruiting videos for prospective student-athletes and in its use of graduate assistants in practices.”

But Gaudio said he would hold off, Bennett wrote, in exchange for 17 months of salary. Within hours, the prosecutor said, Gaudio sent a text message that included one of the videos he asserted violated N.C.A.A. rules.

Michael Denbow, one of Gaudio’s lawyers, said in an interview Tuesday evening that the coach had “lost his temper, and he made a mistake that he takes full responsibility for.”

Gaudio, Denbow said, hoped that his decades of coaching and good works will “outweigh a bad lapse in judgment for a short amount of time.”

In a statement, the university said it was cooperating with investigators and that Gaudio’s threat was connected to the decision to not renew his contract. Citing the federal inquiry and what it described as “the N.C.A.A. process,” it declined further comment.

Chris Mack, the head men’s basketball coach, called himself and the university “victims of Coach Gaudio’s conduct.”

“We take seriously any allegation of N.C.A.A. violations within our basketball program and will work within the N.C.A.A. processes to fully review the allegations,” Mack said in a statement.

Although Louisville has been a force in men’s basketball, it has a lengthy record of breaking N.C.A.A. rules. In 2017, after a basketball staff member arranged for women to provide what an N.C.A.A. panel described as “striptease dances and/or sex acts” for 20 people, including active and prospective players, the committee ordered the university to vacate its 2013 national championship. N.C.A.A. officials also placed the school, which had already self-imposed a postseason ban for one season, on probation and suspended Rick Pitino, who was then Louisville’s coach, for five Atlantic Coast Conference games. (The penalties were ultimately upheld after an appeal by Louisville.)

Pitino was fired months later — after Louisville was implicated in the sprawling federal investigation into corruption in college basketball. N.C.A.A. officials have not yet settled on any penalties for Louisville in connection with that matter, and the federal authorities did not bring any charges against Pitino, who is now the coach at Iona.

Gaudio was not at Louisville, which missed this year’s N.C.A.A. tournament, for either scandal and was hired there in 2018. As a head coach at Army, Loyola of Maryland and Wake Forest, he amassed a record of 129-155. After his stint at Wake Forest from 2007-10 and before his arrival at Louisville, he was a commentator for ESPN.

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