Hell week ends for Louisville with win over Florida State

Plenty of accolades to go around following the University of Louisville football team’s 31-28 win over Florida State Saturday at Tallahassee:

— Kicker Blanton Creque for that 34-yard field goal with five seconds left on the clock. First game winner ever for him in the closing seconds. More than making up for a dud at the end of the first half.

— Running back Dae Williams finally making it into the backfield after recovering from an injury that kept him on the bench for most of the season. The freshman scoring his first touchdown on a 25-yard dash in the third quarter. The long wait for him finally over.

— Running back Reggie Bonnafon in one of his better offensive performances, 74 yards rushing and a two-yard touchdown. Never flashy but never to be counted out.

— Cornerback Trumaine Washington intercepting two Florida State passes, including that one he returned 22 yards in the second quarter leading to a UofL touchdown in the second quarter. Finally making an opposing quarterback pay, twice even.

— Quarterback Lamar Jackson, of course, rushing for 178 yards and a touchdown while passing for an additional 156 yards and another touchdown. The exceptional becoming the expected.

— Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmon for a noticeable improvement in his defensive unit’s tackling, holding Florida State’s offense to 155 yards rushing. Earning a reprieve from the boo birds for at least six days.

— Junior linebacker Isaac Stewart in on nine tackles, including five solo tackles. Emerging from the pack, providing much needed leadership. Goodbye obscurity.

— Coach Bobby Petrino winning his second game in four tries against Florida State. First win in Tallahassee for the Cardinals since Johnny U in 1952. His offense at times more closely resembling Bobby 1.0 this day.

Down goes Florida State again, ending the week from hell for Louisville fans. Needed that one.

Vince Tyra will build on Tom Jurich’s legacy at Louisville

No one knows how long the Vince Tyra era will last at the University of Louisville. Not even him. Could be a few months, several years, or a lifetime commitment. He’s around as long as he needed to assure the long-term future of UofL athletics.

Vince Tyra says he will not allow athletics to be deemphasized at UofL (Charlie Springer photo).

Tyra is a prominent businessman, having been a chief executive officer five times. He’s been involved in numerous turnarounds and followed in the footsteps of so-called legends. Been through the rigors of corporate reorganizations, expansions and startups. Knows how to work with people in good times and bad times. Greatly respected in business and university circles.

Tyra didn’t need a job when Tom Jurich was suspended and fired from his position as Vice President of Athletics. Tyra did feel the need to get involved when the school needed someone who could work with athletes, students, fans, donors, and the community during the crisis.

Why get in the middle of a situation in which many UofL fans and supporters are angry and suspicious of some members of the Board of Trustees? Some of those angry people include big time donors with strong feelings about Tom Jurich. They also include long-time season ticket holders in basketball and football, some threatening to quit their involvement. They include students, some of which want to protest in ways that would harm the program financially.

Tyra’s father Charlie was UofL’s first consensus All America basketball player. His mother Sibby, who raised her five kids to be UofL fans, sits in the third row at the KFC Yum! Center and at the 40 yard line at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. He is a long-time contributor to UofL sports and was serving on the board of the UofL Foundation.

Even though he played baseball on scholarship at the University of Kentucky, Tyra has always been first and foremost a UofL fan. The combination of his athletic background, his business expertise and his love for UofL are strong qualifiers. On top of that, he has been a fan and friend of Tom Jurich, greatly admiring and appreciating everything TJ accomplished at UofL.

The University, especially the athletic department, is fortunate that a person like Vince Tyra was available, that he was willing to undertake such a crucial role at a critical juncture in the school’s history. Some would say his willingness to undertake the job was a godsend. Few people would be as qualified as Tyra to step into the brink.

“It has been a difficult time, sad and disappointing,” he said during a recent press conference. “Tom is a good friend, he’s been a terrific advocate of my family. His legacy is all around us.”

As a member of the UofL fan base, Tyra can appreciate what fans are going through. “I’m passionate about the University of Louisville, I’m passionate about sports. I grew up a Cardinal fan, raised my kids to be Cardinal fans.”

Tyra said fans should not be concerned about the University, or more specifically this Board of Trustees, deemphasizing athletics. “The administration recognizes the value of athletics to UofL and, frankly, I would not allow that to happen,” he said. “Now is a time for our fan base to dig in deeper and be more supportive, in any way we can.”

UofL fans will greatly miss Jurich, as will Tyra. But now is a time to look forward, and that’s what Tyra is doing, boldly stepping forward, strongly intent on building upon Tom Jurich’s legacy.

Grissom, Postel finally get their wish, and Jurich is history

Interim President Greg Postel meets with the press after the vote on Tom Jurich’s future but refuses to discuss the board’s decision to fire him. (Charlie Springer photo).

Be careful what you wish for …

Chairman David Grissom and Interim President Greg Postel were able to finally breathe a collective sigh of relief. They’ve been plotting behind the scenes for quite a while now, wanting to remove Tom Jurich from his job at the University of Louisville.

Despite Jurich’s extraordinary accomplishments, one of the best athletic directors in America was unceremoniously fired by the Board of Trustees on Wednesday. A man who brought UofL from the bush leagues of college athletics to a seat at the table with the prime players.

Brian Cromer, a UK Law School grad, was one of three Trustees who voted against firing Tom Jurich (Charlie Springer photo).

Gone with a minimum of discussion by a board with members on the job less than a year. Only a handful of them having any significant attachment or ties to the University. A select few having invested significant financial resources into the institution (see donations). Even fewer with what could be described as having a passion for UofL.

Ignoring the voices of generous donors to the school and coaches of 22 sports, as well as large segments of alumni and fans. No one outside of the board having much input. Not even the lawyers hired to protect Jurich’s interests.

The vote was 10-3 in favor of dismissing Tom Jurich, the nay votes coming from Brian Cromer, a University of Kentucky Law School graduate, Dianne Medley, a UofL graduate and Dr. Ron Wright, who earned his doctorate from the UofL School of Medicine.Not willing to be rubber stamps, standing up for Jurich in public session.

The motion to fire Jurich came from James Rogers, retired chief operating officer of Hilliard-Lyons and a graduate of the UofL School of Business.

While Grissom and Postel have yet to admit it publicly — they refused to answer questions about TJ afterwards — the action was reportedly taken because Jurich had refused their demands that he fire Coach Rick Pitino. Fire him despite the fact he knew nothing about what had gone down in Minardi Hall. Then when the FBI out of thin air gets interested in college athletics, Grissom and Postel jump with both feet, suspending both of them without any discussion or due process.

Postel, who often resembles a programmed robot with his media responses, obviously wants to be considered a candidate for the school presidency. Even more obvious is that Postel is being used as a pawn by Grissom, doing the grunt work, the dirty work, while Grissom remains out of sight pulling the strings.

No way Postel ever gets to be UofL President, the person who is expected to get the school, including the faculty, employees and students, the alumni, fans, and the rest of the community moving in the same direction. He may be a good manager, possibly a great one, but he’s not very likable. Not the kind of individual who inspires confidence or wins friend easily, or gets everyday people to write checks to the University.

For UofL’s sake, one wants to hope that Grissom and Postel will be successful in lifting the clouds and getting the school back on the right course. Whether accidental or not, their first two hires — David Padgett and Vince Tyra — may have been home run selections. The first impression in both instances is that Padgett and Tyra could be the right people at the right time, with vast skills, including the people skills so lacking in the people who picked them.

Regardless of how their replacement choices turn out, Grissom and Postel will not be fondly remembered for their unfair treatment of Tom Jurich. That will come back to haunt them for years in a community that will never let them forget.

Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra is welcomed by Interim President Greg Postel and David Grissom (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

 

No better option than Jurich for the University of Louisville

 

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

Make no mistake, there should be no confusion. Keeping Tom Jurich is the right thing to do.

Surely common sense will prevail, and the Board of Trustees will retain him as Vice President of Athletics at the University of Louisville. There are no guarantees, however, that what’s best for the school will prevail these days.

The notion of someone seriously entertaining the notion of firing Jurich is outlandish, insulting to the school’s alumni and supporters. Over two decades he has garnered unprecedented support, making UofL the most dynamic institution in the community.

But these are not normal times, what’s up is down, what’s backward is forward, what’s out is in, bad taste is in good taste, what was once repugnant is considered the norm, and good people are often construed as bad actors. Crazy times.

Tom Jurich wants his old job back even though it means answering to David Grissom and Greg Postel (Charlie Springer photo).

Why Tom Jurich would want to go back to work for David Grissom and Greg Postel, the people reportedly wanting his job, is almost beyond comprehension. These are individuals who apparently consider the success of the athletic department a negative, unable to comprehend the positive role of sports in UofL’s rapid growth.

To people who have been a part of this success, enjoyed all the new facilities, all the outstanding athlete and all the wins during Jurich’s tenure, the intentions of Grissom and Postel are counterproductive. So intent on seizing total control of the University that they are willing to sacrifice someone who can ensure the school’s development continues.

What I have never understood is why Grissom and Postel could not appreciate the success of the athletic department. Why they couldn’t look at that success and want to emulate it for the rest of the University. Why they felt compelled to challenge the individual who made it happen. Why they wouldn’t want to get this individual in their camp, work with him and get him involved in resolving many of the school’s other challenges.

Grissom and Postel appear to share a similar management philosophy, wanting to clean house of people in power from the previous administration. Ignoring what they have done and what they can do, believing they know what’s best. Based on some obscure business principles from some antiquated management courses. What they haven’t been able to do, however, is convince UofL supporters and fans that they have the school’s best interests in mind.

The only agenda Tom Jurich has is to continue the incomparable growth and success of the school’s athletic program. He wants to be there when UofL cuts the ribbon on the 10,000-seat expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and when another 3,000-seat expansion of Jim Patterson Stadium is completed.

He wants to be there when UofL teams are competing for national championships, when UofL athletes are competing for gold medals. He needs to be there to ensure the right person is hired for the next UofL coaching vacancy. He wants to be there to help guide the basketball program back from the current crisis.

“I love this University, the Louisville community and all of our fans,” said Jurich in a recent statement. “I plan to continue to help UofL overcome the challenges it faces and work cooperatively with the University with the support of the UofL Board of Trustees … ”

That is why he wants to return, even if means answering to Grissom and Postel. Something anyone other than a UofL fan would have a hard time believing.

Based on his track record, Tom Jurich deserves the opportunity to return to do the job he loves. There is no better option for members of the Board of Trustees, nor for the University of Louisville.

No stopping Boston College for UofL’s leaky defense

Louisville’s defensive line needed lots of help from linebacker Dorian Etheridge (17). He would make nine solo tackles and get five assists (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Wide receiver Jaylen Smith finally back in action, with 118 yards on six catches.

Wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick as good as ever, turning seven catches into 127 yards, including a touchdown.

Running back Reggie Bonnafon actually breaking loose for a 64-yard touchdown.

Lamar Jackson tossed for three touchdowns and ran for two others (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Quarterback Lamar Jackson living up to his reputation, with more amazing stats, including 181 yards and three touchdowns rushing, 323 yards and two touchdowns passing.

Some nice offensive stats, just not enough of them.

The University of Louisville’s offense could still be putting up points but there would never be enough. The defense was incapable of stopping Boston College, the Cardinals losing 45-42 in a three-ring offensive circus before 44,679 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

UofL’s defense remained as porous as always, seemingly unable to stop anyone on the first tackle attempt, usually on the second or third attempt. Not a pretty picture, foreshadowing visions of even more dismal performances in the weeks ahead against stronger opponents.

The exception was UofL linebacker Dorian Etheridge, the 6-foot-3 freshman winding up with nine solo tackles and five assists.

Jaylen Smith’s joyous return would be spoiled by a fumble following a catch with less than two minutes remaining at UofL’s 30-yard line. Just a matter of time, Boston College wasn’t going to be denied, converting a 27-yard field goal for the win in the closing seconds.

Boston College’s first Atlantic Coast Conference win since 2014, Louisville’s third ACC loss in four games this season. More than likely, it’s going to get uglier before it gets better for UofL football. Prepare yourself.