One step forward for UofL Trustees, another step back

Acting President Neville Pinto is flanked by board members Doug Hall and Larry Benz.
Acting President Neville Pinto is flanked by board members Doug Hall and Larry Benz.

Some good things occurred at the specially-called meeting of the “old” Board of Trustees of the University of Louisville on Thursday. The gut feeling from this observer, however, was that more than a little ill will was simmering beneath the surface.

The board approved a $548.3 million budget, which included a 5% tuition increase while allowing student who complete 30 hours of credit to receive a 5% credit to be applied to the following year’s tuition.  As a concession to some board members, however, the budget included a freeze on tuition for the 2017-18 budget.  A finance subcommittee had earlier rejected the proposed tuition increase in the current budget.

Acting President Neville Pinto reported that student enrollment at UofL will be approximately 21,500 for the fall semester. The figure includes 2,900 incoming freshmen with an ACT test score average of 25.5 and a cumulative high school grade point average of 3.6, with 465 of them qualifying for the honors program.

The meeting ended on a down note when Chairman Larry Benz reported that he has yet to obtain information about a $38 million loan from the University to the UofL Foundation without board approvals.

Jason Tomlinson, chief financial officer for the Foundation, has described the loan as a “receivable agreement,” benefitting both the University and the Foundation. Specifically, the loan was made to the UofL Real Estate Foundation, an arm of the Foundation.

“It was all done to benefit the university,” he told WDRB TV.

Benz, the on-again, off-again Chairman, wants to see the records himself, not trusting the previous administration, continuing to add to the friction between the various factions.

Here’s a video of the board meeting, excluding the closed sessions for litigation and personnel issues

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A recent Courier-Journal story reporting that new offices were being created for former President Jim Ramsey and Chief of Staff Kathleen Smith at the UofL Foundation was in error.

That’s according to Ms. Smith, who reported that the offices were for current Foundation staffers David James, Jake Robertson and David Adams.

The CJ story also suggested that board approval was required for office preparations. That would be a first for most organizations and businesses.

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Andrew Wolfson, who covers the University of Louisville for the CJ, has a son who attends UofL.

Creative approach to KFC Yum! Center artwork

Ken Clark, of Dynogen Marketing, displays wall hanging of KFC Yum! Center.
Ken Clark, of Dynogen Marketing, displays a wall hanging of KFC Yum! Center. The art includes recessed area for the basketball court and tiered seating levels.

Any visit to the sprawling retail display area in the South Wing of the Kentucky State Fair is going to includes numerous exhibits for satellite TV, cell phone accessories, T-shirts, cooking utensils and the like, extending forever it seems.

A nice surprise discovering a creative approach to athletic fan merchandise at a booth manned by Ken Clark from Indianapolis. The display included craftsmanship for a variety of schools, including Notre Dame, Michigan, Indiana and the University of Louisville.

KFC Wall HangingNoteworthy was the wall hanging of the KFC Yum! Center, 19.5 inches high, 25.5 inches wide, and 3.5 inches deep. The wood art includes a recessed area of the court and the seating levels.

Continue reading “Creative approach to KFC Yum! Center artwork”

Adversity takes back seat to Jurich at University of Louisville

When he’s announcing a contract extension for one of his coaches, Tom Jurich often says he likes to judge people on how they handle adversity. The University of Louisville athletic director has been quite adept at negotiating through tough times himself lately.

At the Bobby Petrino press conference,  Jurich said he was most impressed with how Petrino handled himself when his team was 0-3 at the beginning of the 2015 season.

Tom Jurich and Matt Thornton at ribbon cutting for the Thornton's Academic Center for Excellence.
Tom Jurich and Matt Thornton at ribbon cutting for the Thornton’s Academic Center for Excellence.

“We were winless and the ship could have gone in a much different direction,” said Jurich. “Bobby kept everybody together, kept the kids’ heads raised up high, with great attitudes, and we finished very strong, beating Texas A&M in that bowl game. I really look to evaluate people when the chips are down.”

Like when there seems to be a dark cloud hovering over Belknap Campus for a while now. A time that creates uncertainty on many fronts, that would not surprisingly pose a severe test of loyalty from an individual as highly respected as Tom Jurich nationally.

The local newspaper, knowing UofL is popular with its readers, has become predictable lately, posting any and all bad news about UofL on the front page.  Issues like a dysfunctional board of trustees. the dumping of one board for another, employee thefts and lawsuits, the NCAA investigation of the basketball program, the state audit of the UofL Foundation, a President who defied the media and was forced to resign, and, most recently, the announcement of IRS investigations.

Continue reading “Adversity takes back seat to Jurich at University of Louisville”

Bobby Petrino again: Goal is national title for Louisville football

Lamar Jackson brings unprecedented expectations at quarterback.
Lamar Jackson brings unprecedented expectations at quarterback.

There he was again, in front of 1,400 witnesses at the Downtown Marriott

Bobby Petrino reiterating during the kickoff luncheon for University of Louisville football team how  he embraces high expectations for a team picked to finish anywhere between 10th and 23rd in pre-season polls.

Bobby Petrino wants to make good on Howard Schnellenberger's prophecy.
Bobby Petrino wants to make good on Howard Schnellenberger’s prophecy.

Taking it one step further, however.

Going where only one UofL football coach has gone before, making it clear about what he wants to achieve with his UofL football program.

“I’m not afraid to say it: The reason we’re here is to win a national championship. That is our goal. That’s where we want to go.

“We embrace high expectations, enjoy them. Our coaching staff has them, our players have high expectations of themselves personally and of what we can do as a team. Our fans have high expectations, and we love that. Our administration has high expectations and it’s something for us to strive for and to live up to.”

“We’ve worked hard for two years to have high expectations. This is a product of the work and dedication of all of our players.”

Petrino said he expects this team to light up the scoreboard. “We want to get back to the standard that every time our offense takes the field, we expect to go score a touchdown,” he said. “Our expectation should be that we can score no matter where we start out on the field. We’re getting closer and closer to that point, and we should have some big plays.”

Tom Jurich eager to get expansion under way.
Tom Jurich eager to get expansion under way.

He was especially excited about his special teams and specifically the kick return game. “I think we’re going to have some fantastic returners, with some guys who can go the distance any time they touch the ball — in both the punt and kickoff return games,” he said.

That was all music to the ears of Tom Jurich, athletic director and vice president of athletics, who earlier had expressed confidence in starting the stadium expansion the day after UofL defeats Kentucky in the final game of the regular season.

“The expansion is going to provide a spectacular setting for Louisville football,” he said, indicating that fund raising efforts are proceeding nicely. “The only thing we need to figure out where to put the Johnny Unitas statue.”

On a day when the coach was tossing out the notion of almost scoring at will and winning it all, one could have easily envisioned Johnny U positioned next to a national championship trophy.

Anything is possible during the pre-season.

Louisville’s academic center for athletes raises the bar

Marvin Mitchell visited numerous academic centers across the nation in recent years, anticipating the day when the new Thornton’s Center for Academic Excellence would open at the University of Louisville.

Marvin Mitchell gives Center an A-plus.
Marvin Mitchell gives Center an A-plus.

Mitchell, senior associate athletic director for student services and diversity, was strongly encouraged by his boss Tom Jurich to return with the best ideas, add them to his own and incorporate them into the plan.

The culmination of his efforts arrived Wednesday and Mitchell is confident that he will be overseeing the best-equipped athletic academic center in the country. “This is a huge deal, for these kids to have this kind of space, you have no idea,” he said. “We have worked hard to make this one of the premier programs in the country for academic success.”

In addition to enhancing academics, Mitchell believes the new center will be a valuable recruiting tool. “We want parents who accompany recruits on their visits and after talking with our academic staff to say ‘we’re coming’ before they see the football facility or the basketball court. We want to seal the deal with academics.”

AC - AuditoriumNow in his 15th year at UofL, Mitchell has oversight of academic services, student services, continuing eligibility and student-athlete programming. Academic success for student-athletes has flourished, with the cumulative average of Louisville athletes exceeding 3.0 for 10 straight semesters.

The brightly-lit 43,000-square-foot facility contains numerous variations and combination of study and leisure space, including private study space and larger space for groups.

A massive artistic video wall greets visitors upon entry in the Republic Bank Atrium.  A 204-seat auditorium is equipped with a high definition 18.5 feet by 10.5 feet screen. A cafeteria will make it easy for the athletes to adhere to training table requirements. An Adidas lounge is provided for breaks between tutoring and studies.AC - Cafeteria 2

“It may be the finest facility that we’ve built and certainly one of the most important projects we’ve taken on during my time at Louisville,” said Jurich.

Here’s a video tour hosted by Kyle Bolin: