UofL boards opt for hard ball with Jim Ramsey’s team

Sorry to see members of the University of Louisville and UofL Foundation boards go down the road of filing lawsuits against former President Jim Ramsey and others tied to his administration. Throwing more good money after bad, with little chance of recovering any funds.

The really sad thing is that the individuals filing the lawsuits are people who should know better, and one has to question their collective intent. If the purpose is to harass and embarrass Ramsey while destroying his reputation, they have shifted into overdrive. Having permanently damaged his image over the past two years, they now want to drain his wallet and those of his associates.

So now into foreseeable future, the school will be embroiled in lawsuits against Ramsey, Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino, the former faces of the University. Not to mention Kathleen Smith, his former assistant, Burt Deutsch, who headed the foundation, and former finance officers Michael Curtin and Jason Tomlinson.

What all of the people shared in common was love for the University, having made significant contributions to over the past two decades. Some remaining UofL employees have to be looking over their shoulders with the litigious tendencies of the boards.

No one is saying Jim Ramsey was not without flaws. His unorthodox style of managing finances made him an inevitable target in a key leadership role in the community. Initiate a $2 million forensic audit against any university or organization and a buttload of discrepancies will be uncovered. His first chance to refute the charges will come in a courtroom.

Ramsey’s worst mistake may have been not bowing out early when it became clear that the controversy had created sharp divisions within the original board of trustees. By then the divisiveness had spread to the faculty, the financial supporters, the fans and the community.

The timing of the latest lawsuits is curious, circumventing any improvements the Trustees made in the University’s image with the hiring of a new President, Athletic Director and Basketball Coach. UofL supporters and fans were daring to feel more optimistic about the school’s future, thinking the worst was behind them. 

Incoming UofL President Neeli Bendapudi must now begin her new administration on May 15, seeking to rebuild the school’s public image and financial resources against a backdrop of recurring ugly news updates about possible trials and reminders of how the University’s current Trustees turned on the previous leadership. With so many lawsuits, the damaging news will be ongoing.

One has to hope that Neeli Bendapudi is not having second thoughts about her decision after the latest actions of the board members. They have made taking the job much more challenging while greatly extending the time required to restore the University’s reputation. It’s going to be a long haul.

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While Jim Ramsey may have been accused of depleting University resources during his 15-year tenure as UofL President, those same people would have to admit that the school made some unprecedented achievements during that time.

He was also generous to the school, giving more  than a half million dollars in contributions to the University. A response to an Open Records Request from UofL indicates that Ramsey and his wife Jane gave a total of $552,259 to UofL from Dec. 21, 2001, through Dec. 30, 2016.

This does not include gifts given by others in their honor or matching gifts, only including money out of their own pockets — or an average of $100.61 per day over 15 years.

They gave almost $214,000 to student scholarships through the Ramsey Scholarship Fund, plus $180,000-plus to the School of Medicine, $91,162 to the Speed School, $21,035 to athletics and $13,050 to the College of Arts & Sciences, among others.

Some may question or impugn his management style, but his track record of contributions to UofL is unassailable.

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.