Jurich decision not to fire Pitino costly for Louisville athletics

Interim President Greg Postel (at podium) and Board Chairman J. David Grissom (at left) at press conference on suspensions. (Charlie Springer photo).

The last place any University of Louisville supporter wanted to be on Wednesday was at a press conference on campus announcing the suspensions of Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino. The unbelievable, never-ending nightmare had finally come to this.

Tom Jurich says he’s willing to stay on at the University of Louisville.

There was Interim President Greg Postel at the podium confirming the worst possible news for UofL athletics, that Jurich was no longer in charge, that he was on paid suspension until the next board meeting on Oct. 18th. That Pitino was also suspended but without pay until the same date.

With those announcements, UofL athletics probably ended one era and entered another.  The new era getting off to a shaky start with the program’s clouded by an appeal for mercy to the NCAA and the beginning of an even more serious investigation involving both the NCAA and the Justice Department.

Jurich has faced dozens of serious challenges during his tenure at UofL, but none as big as ones confronting the University now.

Jurich, who had reportedly refused to fire Pitino over the past several weeks, met with Postel earlier in the morning. Whether he was given another opportunity to fire his friend may never be known but the meeting lasted only seven minutes.

Members of the Board of Trustees may have believed having the University involved in a Justice Department investigation was far too serious to ignore. Or they concluded that a second set of NCAA allegations required a clean sweep of both the athletic administration and the basketball program.

At any rate, still another solemn, dark day in University of Louisville history with no one, including we suspect the members of the board of trustees, having a clue about what happens next. Difficult to fault the leadership for acting so decisively, with the FBI reportedly already on campus interviewing members of the basketball staff, as Postel acknowledged during the press conference.

The saddest part of all of this is that most fans may never have a chance to thank Tom Jurich for all he accomplished at the University of Louisville. Over two decades, he was able to transform bits and pieces of hopes and dreams into some incredible realities in the form of physical facilities, incredible successes on the field, and making Louisville competitive in every single sport.

Dreams that many fans didn’t dare verbalize before his arrival in 1997 became commonplace occurrences during his tenure, raising through three different conferences, one new or renovated facility after the other, with successes in both men’s and women’s sports, and in programs led by some of the best coaches available.

Jurich held out some hope that he would return, issuing the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

“For the last 20 years, I have dedicated my life to the University of Louisville. Disappointment does not even come close to describing my feelings surrounding the allegation that any member of the UofL basketball staff could be involved in the criminal conduct announced yesterday. My intent has always been to run every athletic program at the University in an honest and compliant manner. It is heartbreaking to me that the alleged intentional and secret criminal acts can bring such harm to our school.

“I love this University, the Louisville community and all of our fans. I plan to continue to help UofL overcome the challenges it faces and work cooperatively with the University with the support of the UofL Board of Trustees following their meeting on October 19th.”

It is a well-worded statement, with all kinds of nuances, possibly for legal reasons to protect his financial interest. Some clinging to hope that he is sincere about wanting to stick around, imaging how many more things he could accomplish for the University.

Whether he could turn the board is a very long shot, of course, considering that he never seemed to seriously entertain any notions of firing Pitino. He has faced dozens of serious challenges during his tenure at UofL, but none as big as ones confronting the University now. The possibility that he might be willing to tackle them would say much about Tom Jurich’s character and his love for UofL.

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

9 thoughts on “Jurich decision not to fire Pitino costly for Louisville athletics”

  1. It is bitter a sweet decision that has to be made by all involved on these issues. I bet if Jurich could turn back the clock , he would have fire Pitino for his first scandal. I know I would have.

  2. I suggest when all the facts come out, you will find that officials at the University of Kentucky are front and center at blowing the whistle. I know this to be a fact because I am personally associated with someone from their “inner circle” Also, Pitino’s daughter will play a big role here with her associations. I hear she has a big mouth, as well as being connected with a sneaker company, etc.

    Rick will win his case.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Steve. Why it took the FBI 30 or 40 years to get involved in this situation is a big question. Somebody’s ox obviously got gored. Now that they are in, they need to go all in and root out the worst of the offenders.

  3. He is just posturing for the lawsuit that will be filed for money owed, as Pitino is. I do not see how they could bring him back now, after they supposedly asked him to resign. He did a lot for the university and it prospered from his time here, but it looks like his time has passed. I could not imagin, he would be asked to continue after the meeting with President Postel this morning. Maybe he can convince the BOT to keep him, guess we will see.

    1. Thanks Tim. The BOT is under Grissom’s control now. If he were half as smart as everyone thinks he is, Grissom would never have allowed Jurich to leave UofL. I suspect he saw Jurich’s success in fundraising for athletics as problem for the rest of the university and wanted to eliminate the competition.

      1. This morning it has been disclosed that Jurich’s daugther works for Adidas Shoes. Makes you say hey WTF!

  4. Indeed, we (University of Louisville) will bounce back and I love sports. But, I love God, family, country, and education first. We all have to remember that education, morality, honor and integrity will always be more important than winning ballgames corruptly! Many have forgotten what the real mission of the University is. Coaches are way overpaid for what they provided to the betterment of society, students and society in general. The mission of any university is to develop leaders and individuals that will make the world a better place for humanity. It seems many educators have forgotten what a Renaissance Man is. Renaissance Men and Women are what Universities are supposed to be creating. Universities have never had The Mission of creating MLB, NFL, or NBA players, nor any other profession athletes! So yes the FBI is spot on about stopping the corruption. And Governor Bevin, Interim President Postel, David Grissom Chairmen of the Board of Directors, and he Board of Directors are all correct that a house cleaning and prioritising the mission of the university is in order.

    1. You are right, of course, Steven, but the fault is not just with the athletics programs. Parents of athletes and the athletes themselves have come to have expectations, make demands. The media, in all its forms, speculate ad infinitum about recruiting. Directors of programs, both in university and big business, play their roles, secretly and/or blatantly. Fans also pressure the coaches to field teams that can win it all. Bragging rights have become paramount. A culture that feeds on itself. So the culture has to change on all levels.

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