College basketball • Proceeds from sale designed for Kentucky academic center.
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Louisville, Ky. • Nearly two months after winning an NCAA championship, Louisville coach Rick Pitino is giving fans a way to toast the Cardinals' success while raising money for the school.
Pitino unveiled commemorative Maker's Mark bourbon bottles on Tuesday bearing his face and achievements including Louisville's third national title and his upcoming induction into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
Calling the recognition from the Kentucky-based distiller "exciting," Pitino said he was pleased to help the effort toward building a planned $8 million academic center. Maker's Mark will begin selling 12,600 bottles on Friday to benefit the project that it has also pledged $500,000 toward.
Pitino also took a shot at Ohio State President Gordon Gee, who has made disparaging comments about Notre Dame and Roman Catholics.
"An hour ago, Gordon Gee agreed to give a half-million dollars toward the project to enhance the student capabilities of our athletes," Pitino said in reference to Gee's remarks that mocked the academic integrity of Louisville, Kentucky and the Southeastern Conference.
Gee was told by Ohio State's board of trustees that his comments were unacceptable and Gee has apologized for his remarks.
Pitino's focus quickly shifted back toward seeing his face on the state's signature bourbon, an honor that seemed to humble him.
"It's very exciting to have anything that has excellence behind it," said the coach, who donned an apron and protective gloves to dip the tops of five red bottles into hot black wax that provide the bourbon's signature seal.
"I'm personally very excited. I hope you guys chip in and buy a couple of bottles before you leave."
Pitino signed one of the specially-marked bottles which will sell for at least $50 and plans to autograph more at the Cardinals' KFC Yum! Center home arena on June 13.
"We're going to raise a lot of money from this," he added.
Maker's Mark sold 8,400 bottles of last year's first edition featuring Louisville football coach Charlie Strong.
Louisville associate athletic director Mark Jurich said the project has raised more than $4 million so far.