By Robert J. Romano, JD LLM, St. Johns’ University sports law professor
The United States Attorney’s Office of Western Kentucky has criminally charged former Louisville assistant basketball coach, Dino Gaudio, with one count of violating 18 U.S Code Section 875 –Interstate Communication with Intent to Extort for attempting to extort money from the University. Coach Gaudio’s actions when told by Louisville that his contract was not going to be renewed allegedly violated subsection D of the Code which reads as follows:
D) Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
According to the U.S Attorney’s Office, after being informed by the Louisville athletic department that his $500,000 a year contract was not going to be extended, Coach Gaudio, “threatened to report to the media allegations that the University of Louisville men’s basketball program had violated NCAA rules in its production of recruiting videos for prospective student-athletes and its use of graduate assistants in practice, unless the University of Louisville paid Gaudio his salary for an additional 17 months or provided the lump sum equivalent of 17 months of salary.” Both alleged acts, the production of recruiting videos for prospective student athletes and that the graduate assistants participated in practice, would qualify as Level II NCAA violations. Since, as the U.S. Attorney’s office claims, Coach Gaudio “sent a text message to the University of Louisville personnel containing one of the recruiting videos he was threatening to send to the media,” and that text message traveled outside of the State of Kentucky, such act is therefore a federal crime in violation of Section 875.
Louisville head coach Chris Mack commented that the reason Coach Gaudio’s contract was not renewed was because of the program’s performance on the floor. “That was the first time I let anybody go in the 12 years I’ve been a head coach, so this isn’t anything that is taken lightly,” Coach Mack stated. “And the honest assessment: Our program wasn’t where I wanted it to be at the end of this past season. We could write down all the reasons as to why I think, or you think, we didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament. But the bottom line is we didn’t.”
The head coach went on to comment that, “While I cannot comment on the details or substance of the matter, I am grateful for the professionalism of members of law enforcement and the United States Attorney’s Office, the University and I were the victims of Coach Gaudio’s conduct and I will continue to fully cooperate with authorities in their investigations. We take seriously any allegation of NCAA violations within our basketball program and will work within the NCAA processes to fully review the allegations.”
Coach Mack’s statement is ironic due to the fact that he University of Louisville is currently on probation, had to vacate 123 wins, including the 2013 National Championship, and had to return hundreds of thousands of dollars in shared revenue for issues surrounding the ‘escort scandal’ involving prostitutes and recruits. In addition, Louisville is currently awaiting a ruling from the NCAA’s Independent Accountability Resolution Process stemming from its involvement in the 2017 federal investigation of college basketball: you know the investigation wherein the FBI uncovered mass corruption, bribery and various wire fraud issues involving both Louisville and some of the other top college sport’s programs in the country.