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.”

Jim Ramsey gets strong support in UofL tempest

Reassuring to see three of the community’s most influential leaders reaffirm their support for Jim Ramsey as the University of Louisville President in a letter to the Courier-Journal on Monday. Shouldn’t have been necessary in light of what has been accomplished at UofL under his leadership since 2002.

The letter was signed by Jim Patterson, founder of Rally’s and Long John Silver’s, David Jones, Sr., co-founder of Humana, Inc. and Bill Stone, president of Louisville Plate Glass. All three have served as members of UofL boards and have been active in many leadership roles in the community. They cited some examples of UofL’s progress during Ramsey’s administration:

— More Fulbright scholars than Harvard.
— Record ACT scores.
— 5,000 students living on campus.
— Admission into the exclusive Atlantic Coast Conference.
— A vastly expanded campus.
— A foundation worth $1 billion.

Some of these accomplishments were considered totally unrealistic when Ramsey was named President. They have been accompanied by major capital projects and beautification efforts while the  University has  assumed a dynamic leadership role in the community.

“Jim Ramsey has been the driving force behind this record growth of the most meaningful asset in our community, our hometown university,” they wrote, while acknowledging the university has some issues, as does “any complex organization with thousands of employees and hundreds of departments.”

The reason for the letter stems from criticism of Ramsey by Steve Wilson, a member of the Board of Trustees who has called for an audit of the University of Louisville Foundation, suggesting that the foundation should be administered by the university.

Continue reading “Jim Ramsey gets strong support in UofL tempest”

Nothing came before UofL football for Owsley Frazier

No surprise to anyone who has followed University of Louisville football for any length of time that Owsley B. Frazier would be among the people attending the press conference in December 2010 when Charlie Strong was introduced as head football coach.

No surprise either that Frazier would be the first person Tom Jurich wanted Charlie Strong to meet. Frazier had always supported the football program, making major donations for the original construction of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and the recent expansion.

Frazier attended games with his good friend Bill Stone, the owner of Louisville Plate Glass and former University trustee and Athletic Association board member. They were also members of an expansion committee in the seventies when the old Fairgrounds Stadium was converted from baseball for football.

“He was passionate about UofL football,” said Stone. “We were going to games when there were only 6,000 or 7,000 people in the stands.  The UofL football schedule was his fall schedule. Everything else had to be rearranged so he could attend the games.

Charlie Strong would be one of the few people to visit with Frazier this week before his death.

Frazier probably would have passed on the upcoming Princess Diana extravaganza at the Frazier History Museum because of a scheduling conflict with a Louisville football game. He was known to have snubbed the wedding of a family member for the same reason. “Owsley didn’t let anything interfere with his football,” said Stone.

He also attended many games on the road with Stone over the years. “The last game he was able to travel to was the Orange Bowl,” said Stone. “He was tremendously excited about the future of the program under Charlie Strong.”

Strong would be one of the few people to visit with Frazier this week before his death. “Owsley was looking forward to attending the game against the University of Kentucky this season because he believed 2012 was going to be a great season,” said Stone. “Charlie thanked him again for his support again. Owsley wanted to know how the team was doing and Charlie reviewed the players and positions for him. Owsley was excited.

“He loved football more than anything. Owsley was able to get out to see one practice this summer. I think if Charlie Strong had scheduled a midnight practice, Owsley would have been there.”

Stone said Frazier was suffering from a number of health concerns. “He had vascular problems, arthritis problems, circulation problems and lots of other stuff over the last couple of years.”

But that didn’t affect Frazier’s decision in December to donate $25 million to the University. “He would have done that even if he were healthy as a horse or had the physique of an Olympic athlete He expected to be around for a while,” he added. “But he also knew he was getting older and he wanted to give the money  while he was still alive.”

So appropriate that the visitation Tuesday for Owsley Frazier will be at the Brown & Williamson Club at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Owsley Frazier, wearing his U of L baseball cap, with his close friend Bill Stone. They attended home games together and, when Frazier was healthy, often made road trips for away games.