No disagreement between Jurich and Postel on Arena pact

No hint of any differences between Vice President Tom Jurich and Acting President Greg Postel during the special-called meeting of the board of the University of Louisville Athletic Association Thursday morning to discuss the amended KFC Yum! Center financing deal.

Greg Postel says he was keeping Tom Jurich in the loop.

A report from Kent Taylor of WAVE3 the night before suggested that Jurich had not participated in negotiations between UofL and Arena Authority, perhaps signaling a shift in power away from the athletic department. As if Jurich had been an obstacle in the negotiating process.

How that language became a part of Taylor’s report is up for conjecture. This observer believes the logical source would have been Scott Cox, the head of the Arena Authority, who has been chomping at the bit to reach an agreement with UofL. His father was the late Earl Cox, former Courier-Journal editor and he previously worked with Sen. Mitch McConnell so he’s no stranger to the media or the leaking fraternity.

Tom Jurich said he is in support of the amended financing agreement.

Based on Thursday morning’s meeting, it may well be that the administration is teaming up with Jurich, providing him with the full backing of the university. During the session, the ULAA board voted unanimously in support of providing an additional $2.4 million annually to help finance the arena bonds.

Postel said Jurich had been kept abreast of the negotiating process at every step along the way. He noted that the athletic director was briefed on the details Wednesday night after returning to town from a two-week vacation. Jurich, while obviously disappointed that the original financing was inadequate, indicated that he supported the amended agreement with the Arena Authority.

“Tom and I have been talking about this, along with Kevin Miller (senior associate athletic director/finance), since January,” said Postel. “We’ve had many conversations about this topic. There was nothing unusual in this concept that Tom was not aware of. He’s been out of town so I briefed him last night.

“What the ULAA voted to do today we did not have to do. UofL is trying to be a good partner to the community. We are doing this electively because we want to participate. We want to help. The state is contributing more, the city is contributing more so we stepping to be a community partner and to help support this facility.”

Postel said that while he recognizes the additional financial commitment from the athletic department is a strain, it is just one more significant challenge to the school at a crucial time. “We don’t view this as an ‘Us versus Them,’ we’re all UofL.”

Jurich had already departed the building but no serious observer would doubt that he does not subscribe to that conclusion.

Andy Beshear poking around again in UofL issues

Andy Beshear is being a Beshear, inserting state government into the affairs of the University of Louisville again. Always an opportunist, the son of the former Kentucky governor apparently can’t resist getting involved when it comes to UofL.

Andy Beshear usually makes things worse when he gets involved in UofL issues.

Beshear, who occupies the State Attorney General’s office, this week requested copies of former UofL President Jim Ramsey’s emails along with his computer hard drive. Doubtful either source would yield anything, especially Ramsey’s computer which has long since been wiped clean.

But his actions accomplish a few things for Beshear, enabling him to further diminish UofL’s reputation while preventing the University from moving forward from the months-long quagmire. Beshear making this a personal case with Ramsey, posing the possibility of civil or criminal liability.

Some UofL supporters, including this observer, are convinced UofL’s problems began with Governor Steve Beshear’s appointments to the board of trustees, with a suspected goal of derailing the UofL Foundation. Fortunately Steve Beshear’s tenure finally expired, but his son in the AG’s Office has continued to put obstacles in UofL’s way.

It was the AG’s legal challenge to the board appointments of Gov. Matt Bevin that resulted in the flip-flopping of board members and to the University being placed on accreditation probation by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. The case still poses a major threat  because it’s still in the court system.

The Beshears are bad news for UofL.

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Alvarez & Marsal, the Chicago firm that conducted the audit of the UofL Foundation, did not specify in its report whether any criminal activity had occurred. The report did include charges of reckless spending, as one would expect from a company commissioned to conduct a forensic audit.

Not satisfied with the original $1.7 million report, the Board of Trustees this week authorized $400,000 for additional work. Maybe the logic is that a few more bucks will generate some more finger-pointing, possibly some actual suspects.

A confusing expense, perhaps extravagant, for a Board investigating excessive spending. Perhaps their instructions to the auditing firm were not clear enough the first time around. The board is spending an inordinate amount of time and money investigating the previous administration.

The threat of criminal and civil lawsuits against individuals who accomplished a great deal at UofL is more than a little counter-productive. That’s true whether it’s coming from the current Board of Trustees or the State Attorney General’s office.

Independence and challenges for UofL

Photo by Barbara Springer.

Not quite the happy or carefree summer that it should have been this year, not with that nasty NCAA threat hanging over the University of Louisville basketball program.

Not going away, always there, with reportedly little chance of overturning a decision that would cost UofL tens of millions of dollars and dozens of wins, including a third national championship.

In its long history, the NCAA has never learned how to impose penalties without harming the innocent, incapable of conceiving ways to punish or expose the actual perpetrators. Instead, taking the easy way out, choosing to recklessly impugn the reputations of the institution, the coaches, the players and fans.

The best part of the ordeal, hopefully, when combined with the challenges on the administrative side, is that the shared experience will make fans even more supportive of their university. It have never been easy being a UofL fan in Kentucky, but that has never prevented the University from achieving great things.

David Grissom should share his vision for University of Louisville

When will the nightmares end, the ongoing fallout from the incessant body blows the University of Louisville has absorbed over the last couple of years? Not anytime soon obviously, with protracted dramas continuing to inflict ugly wounds, scarring the University’s reputation and the psyche of the UofL faithful.

The most encouraging thing during these dreary times is that UofL has built an intensely loyal group of partisans. Emerging over the past two decades from the shadow of the University of Kentucky to dominance in the state’s most prominent community. A base of supporters proud of Louisville’s accomplishments before all hell broke loose, wanting the dark clouds to dissipate.

Making that happen will require an aggressive approach to problem-solving, to establish a new vision for UofL. If anything has been confirmed during these ongoing ordeals, the University is about much more than athletics. UofL’s role in academics, research, health care and so many other facets of the community cannot be overstated. 

David Grissom could help the University of Louisville by being more forthcoming on his objectives.

Who would have believed a five years ago:

–That a President who had  transformed the campus would be forced to resign, his management style the target of a forensic audit. A Board of Trustees in disarray, so dysfunctional that the entire board would be replaced. The school’s endowment, once prompting a campus-wide celebration for reaching the $1 billion mark, is now only valued at $714 million.

–That UofL would actually be placed on academic probation largely because of a feud between a Governor and the State Attorney General. That state law would have to be rewritten to protect the existing board to deal with the accreditation threat. The question is still very much up in the air due to controversial UofL Foundation loans and investments.

–That a basketball program, so free of suspicion and recruiting violations during Rick Pitino’s tenure, would be sabotaged by a former player, bringing scandal and embarrassment to his former coaches and players. Dragging UofL’s name through the mud, hiding behind a lawyer, refusing to answer questions, apologizing to no one, protecting his own ass.

–That a group of adults on the NCAA Committee on Infractions would give more credence to the words of a prostitute than the testimony of UofL administrators. Dismissing the University’s self-imposed, post-season ban as insignificant, ignoring the coach’s record of compliance. Too cowardly to take away a national championship, forcing University administrators to do it to themselves.

The board has been busy making budget cuts, cutting out frills, and tightening financial belts, but there has been little public discussion about future direction.

One could go on. The University of Louisville has had more than its share of adversity. Some of it self-inflicted, possibly mismanagement, possibly overly creative approaches to advancing the University’s goals, overly generous rewards to those making some advances possible. Further harm coming from an inability to interact effectively with the media, damaging the perception and credibility of some former UofL administrators.

The University clearly has made great strides over the last decade and a half, clearly becoming one of the most powerful institutions in the community, if not the state, earning the admiration and loyalties of its supporters, alumni and fans. At the same time, however, creating antagonism among some affluent individuals in the community, as well as key politicians in Frankfort, some resenting the school’s growth, feeling threatened, either personally or for their alma mater.

A former UofL board member has told this writer that former Governor Steve Beshear asked for his help in dismantling the UofL Foundation, wanting to fold it into the University, making it subject to political appointments. Beshear’s last several appointments to the UofL Board of Trustees included people clearly motivated to make life difficult for then UofL President Jim Ramsey.

Also, there was considerable resentment from some developers in local construction circles, some arguing that UofL enjoyed unfair competitive advantages in real estate investments. Among them was a developer successful in getting the city to locate a new basketball arena on an expensive piece of property downtown. He would take some parting shots at Ramsey before leaving town.

The detractors reportedly also included a couple of developers who had failed to obtain financing for a 63-story tower in downtown Louisville, that the UofL Foundation declined to invest in the project. They would later become board members, requesting a UofL audit from the same State Auditor (Adam Edelen) whom their families had generously supported during his election campaign.

Some would argue that local media have become overly aggressive and antagonistic. That UofL news has high readership and viewership, especially if negative, in a community where more than 30 percent of the populace pledges allegiance to a rival university. 

Difficult for alumni and fans of some other schools to acknowledge what UofL has accomplished, some actually wanting to destroy what the school has achieved, perhaps thinking Louisville’s success is their misfortune. Rather than trying to understand how UofL succeeded, they fail to see how their favored school could improve by healthy competition.

Succeeding despite all these obstacles is going to require the continued loyalty of UofL supporters. A handful of fans have suggested they’ve had enough of the turmoil, others suggesting that the University owes them something. As if University employees are not besieged or worthy of their support during a dark period for the school. If ever there was a time for alumni and fans to support the school, it is now.

Putting the turmoil in the past also is going to require persistence and leadership from the Board of Trustees headed by David Grissom. The community has yet to hear anything from Grissom about his motivations in assuming the board leadership. Just a few random quotes here and there during board meetings. He has yet to effectively communicate his aspirations for the University. That alone could be a giant step forward in restoring confidence in the school’s future.

There has been little indication from Grissom about the University’s future. The board has been busy making budget cuts, cutting out frills, and tightening financial belts, but there has been little public discussion about future direction. No indication of a Presidential Search Committee, leaving supporters to guess about whether Acting President Dr. Greg Postel is the future or just a go-between.

The community, including the UofL staff, faculty, alumni, fans, and other supporters, needs to know what the Board wants to achieve. Yes, there are plenty of problems and challenges but what’s the ultimate goal? There have to be long-term objectives behind which UofL supporters can rally.

If it’s returning UofL to its upward trajectory, then say so. Reinforce the goal that the University of Louisville can be a preeminent research university. That UofL will not stop the decline in the endowment but that the school will aggressively continue to pursue donations, that it will set new all-time highs in contributions and in the endowment fund.

Say something, anything. UofL’s many supporters need and deserve to be reminded that the benefits of accomplishing some very challenging objectives will dramatically outweigh all the negativity that currently exists. All we’re hearing right now is a continuous unraveling of all the recent failings.

Time to look forward, time to get moving. There will always be detractors during times of success or failure. The University of Louisville, however, is deeply ingrained in the lifeblood of this community and the support will always be there. 

Keep Papa John under control at UofL board meetings

John Schnatter went a couple of hours without saying a word, at least during the public portion of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees meeting this week. Not easy for someone accustomed to being treated as near royalty in his hometown. 

And it was quite a contrast from a week before when he exhibited little self control, ranting about the UofL athletic department and another expansion of Cardinal Stadium. 

One wonders why Schnatter had reason to be upset? The athletic department has bent over backward to keep the Pizza magnate happy. Setting aside a special place for him to land his helicopter during football games at Cardinal Stadium. Allowing him to race his 1971 Camaro into the complex, wheels spinning, burning rubber. The football program also allowing him to completely cover the roof of the Brown & Williamson Club with the Papa John’s logo.

Interim President Greg Postel and Chairman David Grissom have their hands full already, even without John Schnatter’s antics.

Schnatter’s demeanor during the recent board meeting makes one suspect that someone may have finally denied him one of his outlandish wishes. Some sources believe his antagonism could date back to the second phase of the stadium expansion, possibly some special concessions on the party deck. 

Schnatter’s ego apparently knows no bounds. Would anyone be surprised if his next big request had been a sculpture of Papa John on the party deck? Making a special delivery no doubt. Not out of the question. He lives in a virtual castle and he referred to the football facility as “My stadium” during the board meeting. 

The strained look on his face during the trustees’ meeting made it appear as though he had been asked to remain quiet. This at a time when the University of Louisville is in need of positive reinforcement and constructive leadership. Had to be really difficult for him to hear Interim President Greg Postel describe Tom Jurich’s great success with the athletic program and assurance that the stadium expansion is well within budget.

Someone had obviously gotten to Schnatter, letting him know that his ranting was out of line, making him look foolish, embarrassing his fellow board members. This coming a day before it was announced that Schnatter had resigned from the board of the UofL Athletic Association and had been immediately replaced by university trustee James Rogers.

A long-time member of the University community, who wishes to remain unnamed, sees the fine hand of Trustees’ Chairman J. David Grissom at work in Schnatter’s resignation.

“It is not Schnatter’s style to resign for the good of the organization,” said the source. “My guess is that Grissom took him off the board because Schnatter is unpredictable in his rhetoric. Why else would another board appointment be made so quickly?

“This may have been one reason for the closed session at the Trustees’ meeting. Grissom does not want the wrath of Tom Jurich’s many supporters. Running Tom off would be the biggest mistake made by anyone. 

“Grissom also will not tolerate any trustee speaking to the media without his approval. Remember Schnatter’s parting comment on Wednesday, words to the effect that Grissom has it under control.”

Presumably that means Grissom will not tolerate any misdirection or outbursts at future Trustee meetings, especially from John Schnatter.