Bill Stone places trust in David Grissom’s leadership at UofL

One of the faces I look forward to seeing is that of Bill Stone at announcements of major advancements at the University of Louisville. Always seems to be there, as he was when UofL announced the hiring of Howard Schnellenberger in 1985, for the groundbreaking of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in 1994, for the Tom Jurich intro in 1997, for the Big East announcement in 2005, the Charlie Strong hiring in 2009, the ACC in 2014 and many 0ther milestones along the way.

Bill Stone was an early believer in vast potential for University of Louisville athletics, challenging business and civic leadership to take advantage of one of the community’s greatest assets.

Stone always with a quiet smile at those events knowing how far the UofL has come over several decades. Proud of the school, aware of how far the institution still has to go, but having played a significant role in many of the milestones, savoring and relishing each of them.

I first became aware of Stone’s affection for UofL in the early Seventies through his Louisville Plate Glass newsletter. I was editor of the Jefferson Reporter, a weekly newspaper at the time. I looked forward to his latest epistles with those insightful comments on UofL sports. A busy executive who followed the Cardinals closely. One who tailgated frequently with the late Owsley B. Frazier at home football games, sometimes taking him to road games.

I met Bill personally a few years later as a member of the UofL Associates, a booster group, admiring his advocacy for the program. He was just as forceful as a member of the Board of Directors of the Louisville Area Chamber of Commerce. He has served on the UofL Board of Trustees and the UofL Board of Overseers, and he is currently a director of the UofL Athletic Association and the UofL Cardiovascular Institute — as well as involved in a wide range of other community leadership roles.

No one in the community cares more deeply for UofL or has been more active in promoting the University than Bill Stone. He’s the one I go to for insights on UofL issues because of his dedication and aspirations for the school.

Some recent speculation, largely on sports radio talk shows and fan message boards, has raised questions about the relationship between the current leadership of the Trustees and the Athletic Department. Some suggesting there is a rift between the two segments, that the current Board of Trustees under Chairman David Grissom may be displeased with UofL athletics for some reason.

“I can’t speak for the board but I know that there is great appreciation for what the Athletic Department has accomplished under Tom Jurich,” said Stone. “Some tension between the two groups is not necessarily a negative thing, occurring naturally within any organization. I believe Interim President Greg Postel is supportive of the Athletic Department and I would be disappointed otherwise.”

Stone said he was seated at the same table with Postel at the 50-Yard Line Dinner when the Adidas deal was unveiled. “He stood and applauded when Tom Jurich was announced, just like everybody else,” he said. “He was genuinely excited about the deal.”

As for his thoughts on whether Postel would be a serious candidate for the position of University President, Stone said the University “could do a lot worse. He’s a fine person, a quick learner who brings dignity and credibility to his job. He’s a very good man.”

David Grissom assumed the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees in 2016 when the previous board was dissolved.

He also believes J. David Grissom was an excellent choice to chair the Board of Trustees. “David is a person of great integrity, outstanding ability and he has been highly successful in everything he undertakes,” said Stone. “I have no doubt that he seeks excellence for UofL.

“David is never going to be seen at UofL game wearing all red, screaming, yelling, jumping up and down, shouting at a referee over a bad call. That’s just not who he is. He is a first-class, world-class executive, and we are fortunate to have someone like him on our team.”

Stone added that Grissom admires success, and was extremely pleased with the $160 million deal Jurich negotiated with Adidas. “Extremely pleased,” he added for emphasis. “He respects success and Tom is very successful. Anyone who thinks Grissom has ulterior motives or other than the best for UofL is way off base. Just plain wrong.”

Stone would not speculate on why Papa John’s executive John Schnatter had made some critical comments about the Athletic Department. “The bottom line is he has done a lot of good things for UofL athletics,” he said. “His name is on the stadium for good reason.”

As for UofL supporters worried about a possible UK tilt on the board, Stone wanted to alleviate that concern. “Many of the issues we are dealing with now are self-inflicted,” he said. “We’re talking about successful business people and educators. They didn’t get to where they are by being petty. I don’t think UK enters into their thinking at all.”

Stone says his only criticism of the current board is that there are few members who are emotionally involved with and passionate about the University. “That may come with time. They have the power, the resources and abilities to make some incredible things happen.”

For all the issues hanging over the campus, Stone remains confident that things are again headed in the right direction. He’s been through a lot for the University over the years, seen more than his share of ups and downs, and is emotionally invested.

“Despite all the problems, UofL remains the most attractive school in the commonwealth right now, with improving SAT scores and higher grade point averages. So much going for UofL, we can relax on building facilities for a while and focus on academics and research. I feel good about the future.”

UofL says Crum and Griffith were personally informed

Recently Card Game posted a blog regretting that Denny Crum and Darrell Griffith had been dismissed by the University of Louisville via email after years of service. We believed the information about the email portion was correct, picking it up from a posting by a writer we greatly respect. However, we received the following from John Karman, media relations director at UofL:

Upon his retirement from coaching, Denny Crum was given a 15-year, $338,000-per year contract to continue as a goodwill ambassador for the university. Working with the president and University Advancement, Coach Crum performed in this role through the contract’s end on June 30, 2016. He then continued working for the university with pay but without a contract. Interim President Greg Postel met with Coach Crum in February and allowed his employment to continue through this June to enable a smooth transition to retirement.

Darrell Griffith’s position, along with those of several other employees in the University Advancement unit, was eliminated as part of a reduction in force plan. Mr. Griffith’s supervisor met with him and informed him in person that his position was being cut.

Neither Coach Crum nor Mr. Griffith was dismissed via email.

Coach Crum and Mr. Griffith have earned a special place in the history of Cardinal Athletics, and both will always be valued members of the UofL family.

John Karman, media relations director, University of Louisville

Someone dropped the ball in farewell to Denny Crum

Apparently someone at the University of Louisville thought it was okay to  to terminate employment contracts with Denny Crum and Darrell Griffith, two individuals who have engendered tons of goodwill and donations for the school over decades.

Denny Crum celebrating his 80th birthday party last year (Charlie Springer photo).

He or she chose to do it in the most impersonal way possible, informing Crum and Griffith by email that UofL was cutting them loose.

Letting them go. Firing them.  By email.

No one bothering to meet with them personally or giving them a phone call. Had Crum or Griffith not bother to check their emails, they might still be wondering what happened.

No one in their right mind, no one with any sensibility for human feelings, no one with any respect for what these men have done for an institution treats people like this. Knowing how much Crum and Griffith love the school, they would be promoting the school whether they were getting paid or not.

Darrell Griffith was a “Living Legend” while leading UofL to its first NCAA title in 1980.

Crum, the former UofL basketball coach, has been employed by the school for 46 years. He had an office in the UofL Alumni Department, assisting in fundraising efforts. Griffith, of course, led Louisville to its first NCAA basketball championship in 1980. He worked in the advancement department as director of community relations.

Word of the terminations following news that the former UofL basketball coach had been hospitalized with a light stroke. The timing could not have come at a more inopportune time.

Maybe, in the midst of the school’s recent financial challenges, someone in power felt that Crum and Griffith were expendable, that their accomplishments were a long time ago. That they were no longer as great as they once were, that it was time to move on.

The decision coming several months after 800 people attended Denny Crum’s 80th birthday celebration at the Ramada Plaza & Convention Center. That event and other fundraising efforts culminating in $600,000 in donations to the University of Louisville.

The person responsible for decision may have felt there was no other option. The school may have needed to save money, requiring UofL to reduce “non-essential” staff. Supporters of the school and people who recognize good business practices could maybe appreciate that. But breaking the news to them by impersonal emails is not acceptable.

Just another PR disaster in a long line of them over the past several months, coming on the heels of efforts by some members of the current Board of Trustees to seek legal action against former administrators. It’s almost as if some of these actions are being taken to put the University in the worst light possible.

Denny and Darrell deserve better, as do UofL’s many fans and supporters throughout the community.

Adidas in good times and bad times for University of Louisville

One of the first big deals Tom Jurich made after becoming the new Athletic Director at the University of Louisville in 1997 was an agreement with Adidas. He was looking to cut costs while providing quality tennis shoes for UofL athletes.

“The deal was earth-shattering,”joked Jurich on Friday. “We would get two pair of shoes for retail, and the third pair was 20% off. Our first order was for 300 shoes, 200 at retail price, and a discount on the next 100. With that we were able to brand our partnership.”

Tom Jurich says UofL and Adidas have remained strong partners through good times and bad times.

UofL and Adidas have been together ever since, with Jurich having lost track of the number of times they have renegotiated new deals. The big difference, of course, is that UofL no longer buys the shoes, any uniforms or any other Adidas equipment or apparel. The company pays Louisville for the exposure.

On Friday, UofL and Adidas announced a 10-year extension of the partnership through 2027-28 valued at a phenomenal 160 million dollars.  The deal includes footwear, apparel, accessories and marketing support for all 23 of the University’s athletic programs.

“When we began our relationship with Adidas nearly 20 years ago, we weren’t in the same shape we are now,” said Jurich. “The impact they have had has been phenomenal. We’ve have great times and we’ve had down times, but they’ve already been there with us, standing shoulder to shoulder with UofL.

“I don’t necessarily care so about the finish as I am about how we got there and who’s with you when times are tough. Adidas has never wavered, they’re always been strong with us. And that’s the kind of company with which I want to be associated.”

Chris McGuire says Adidas employees around the world have become Louisville fans.

Chris McGuire, senior director of sports marketing at Adidas, confirmed that the deal with UofL was among the company’s biggest investments in sports in America.  “We love the success of all the programs here, and it’s something in which we take great pride,” he said. “When Louisville wins, the Adidas brand wins as well. We have become Louisville fans, and that includes our employees all around the world.”

Adidas’ involvement with UofL also includes support for the latest expansion of Cardinal Stadium. The company will have a significant presence in the end zone, with the Adidas Three Stripe Zone and branding in the tunnel from which the team will enter the field, starting in 2018.

Mark Hebert a persuasive voice for University of Louisville

“Giving students the tools to explore, to discover and create …”

That line from a recent University of Louisville video, delivered in a way that only Mark Hebert can convey, puts the University in perspective amidst all the challenges, per this YouTube take:

Mark Hebert was a UofL fan before he joined the University staff in 2009.

A former investigative reporter at WHAS-TV for 22 years, Hebert is director of media programming and production at UofL. Hebert was, in fact, one of the best investigative reporters in the region.  He was respected for his research skills and objectivity, and for allowing viewers to reach conclusions based on facts.

A graduate of Western Kentucky University where he majored in mass communications, Hebert was often seen at many UofL sports events before joining the staff. He made no secret of being a Louisville partisan, passing up media press credentials to sit with fellow Cardinals’ fans.

Hebert, who joined the University’s staff in 2009, produces a continuing flow of UofL videos on YouTube, updating the community on major developments. He also hosts a 30-minute news radio program, “U of L Today with Mark Hebert” airs on  “93.9 The Ville,” a member of the ESPN family of radio stations in Louisville.

The station also airs 90-second segments from U of L throughout the day, showcasing faculty and students alongside U of L commercials.

UofL is fortunate to have Mark Hebert as a spokesman, along with his high levels of credibility, talent and professionalism.