University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino says that he is the target of an extortion attempt and that he has asked the FBI to investigate.
The coach released a statement through the university tonight after being contacted by The Courier-Journal yesterday afternoon.
Pitino gave no specifics on the actions he claims are being taken against him, but said in the statement, “I intend to vigorously defend my reputation and the character of my family against any criminal scheme to extort money.”
Louisville attorney Thomas Clay later called the newspaper and said he represents the woman who is under FBI investigation.
He declined to provide details of her claims or to identify her, but when told that WDRB 41 had named her as Karen Sypher, the wife of U of L basketball equipment manager Tim Sypher, he said he did not “take issue” with that.
“There is a federal investigation going on, and there may be criminal charges placed against her as a result of what coach Pitino has brought to the attention of the FBI,” Clay said. “. . . There are no counter allegations, and as far as I am concerned this criminal investigation is going to proceed to a logical conclusion and I hope that we can put this matter behind us as quickly as possible.”
Clay said his client has been interviewed by the FBI, but declined to offer more specifics.
FBI spokesman David Beyer confirmed that Pitino told the agency last month that he “was the victim of an apparent extortion and we have an ongoing investigation into the matter.”
Beyer said he could not provide further details.
Pitino’s remarks were accompanied by statements of support from U of L President Jim Ramsey and athletic director Tom Jurich.
“My family and I were recently threatened as part of a criminal scheme to extort money,” Pitino said in the release distributed by the UofL sports information department. “Upon receiving these threats, we reported this extortion attempt to the FBI.
“While I did not want to make this matter public, I recently learned that the individual behind this extortion attempt has already gone to the media with false, defamatory and outrageous allegations in an attempt to pressure me to cave in to this scheme.”
Pitino did not name the individual he is accusing of extortion, which is a federal offense and is defined as an attempt by an individual or group to obtain money or other property or services through coercion.
Both Ramsey and Jurich said in separate statements that they support Pitino and his going to the FBI.
“The University of Louisville supports Coach Pitino and his family,” Ramsey said. “We stand by his decision to report this matter to the authorities and will now leave this criminal investigation in the hands of the FBI.”
The university release said Pitino, Ramsey and Jurich would have no further comment. None of the three responded to phone messages seeking comment tonight.
Pitino’s statement referred questions to his attorney, Steve Pence, the former lieutenant governor of Kentucky. Pence did not return a phone message to his office tonight.
Courier-Journal reporter R.G. Dunlop contributed to this story.