Editor’s Note: The subject of this article has responded to Card Game, suggesting that a pro basketball franchise may be in the tea leaves for Freedom Hall. See comments for his response.
By Charles Springer
J. Bruce Miller is a name all alumni and fans of the University of Louisville should put at the top of their public enemies list. The former Jefferson County Attorney and head of a law firm that bears his name has apparently made it one of his missions in life to disparage local institutions, especially the University of Louisville.
Miller, you may recall, has been at the forefront of several moves to attract a professional basketball franchise to Louisville. He believes a pro franchise is essential to promoting a “progressive” image for the community, thinking it will attract “young professionals” to the community. He wants professional basketball even if it’s at the expense of U of L basketball. From all indications, he would love to permanently derail the program.
A significant number of the University of Louisville’s student body matriculates from this abysmal Jefferson County public school system. For the last decade, the U.S. News & World Report’s annual university ranking places that university’s undergraduate academic program as a third-tier American university somewhere between 125th and 175th in the nation.
Its specialized academic programs don’t fare any better. Its locally vaunted medical school isn’t ranked, nor is its engineering or business school. Its law school stands at 98th out of 100 American law schools, and its School of Education is 71st (before its dean was recently indicted on charges of thieving public funds). Yet a member of the local university’s board of trustees has recently encouraged a renewal of the president’s contract, as one of the nation’s highest paid public university presidents.
Miller was among those who attached themselves to former Governor John Y. Brown, Jr. when he owned the old Kentucky Colonels’ American Basketball Association franchise. That group had an opportunity when the ABA folded in the late 70’s to get a Louisville team in the NBA for $2 million — a bargain basement price by today’s standards but they passed. Miller, for one, apparently has never gotten over it. A few years ago when the city was making a bid for another NBA franchise, U of L did not want to be part of an arena if the program didn’t have scheduling priority. The effort failed as a result, and Miller has never gotten over that.
What the Vanderbilt grad conveniently fails to mention in his diatribe is that University of Louisville’s School of Business has been ranked in the nation’s top 10 in terms of entrepreneurship. Nor does he acknowledge U of L’s leading role in heart transplant surgery, groundbreaking efforts in hand transplants, or the discovery of a vaccine for uterine cancer. Without getting into a laundry list, it’s obvious that Miller was ignoring a lot of facts in his attack.
There are at least 2,500 public and private universities in the United States. While U of L may never be a Harvard, a Yale or an MIT, the university has distinguished itself in many ways that will never be acknowledged by some. The academic community in general is as clannish and snobbish as it gets, and rankings in publications are based as much on out-of-date stereotypes as they are facts.
A major portion of Miller’s piece is his outrage on the emphasis on diversity rather than a focus on strengthening neighborhood schools. Mr. Miller inexcusably forgets that the federal courts mandated forced busing in 1975. The local school system had no choice. None. Review the court’s decision. Please.
J. Bruce Miller seems to be bitter, a cynical person with large chips on both shoulders. He left town to get his education and that makes him a self-proclaimed expert. He’s had surprising success for a person with his demeanor and it has gone to his head, probably explaining his narrow-minded approach to local issues. What’s really surprising is that the Courier-Journal would give him a forum for his views.
Miller will probably never admit his pro basketball frustration but it bothers him. Greatly. Watch for him to surface again with plans for a pro franchise when the new downtown arena is completed. Sorry, J. Bruce, but U of L will have priority scheduling rights. It’s in the contract, as if that means anything to you.