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.
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.