One couldn’t watch the Tom Jurich interview on WHAS-11 News and not feel that a great wrong has been inflicted on Tom and University of Louisville fans. Such a miscarriage for him to go out this way.
Twenty years of total dedication to the school’s athletic program, building a national brand, providing premium facilities, attracting quality coaches and athletes. Tom Jurich out following a clumsy restructuring of the Board of Trustees and the crushing blow of still another basketball scandal.
Gone, 20 years gone, after a two- or three-minute meeting with Interim President Greg Postel, a letter with a bunch of trumped up charges, asked to exit the campus immediately, leaving his work and his personal belongings in an office that remains sealed to this day.
David Grissom, John Schnatter and Greg Postel can skate for a while. But sooner or later each of them is going to have to answer for their harsh treatment of a local hero recognized nationally for his good works. As well they should. The ugly treatment of Tom Jurich is felt and shared throughout the community.
Tom saying his family plans to stay in Louisville, that he still loves and will always cheer for the University of Louisville. No ill will, no words of disparagement for those who tossed him out like a sack of garbage, just bewilderment and hurt for a man who moved the program light years from when he accepted the job.
Asked if the fans were owed an apology for the scandal, Jurich took advantage of the opportunity to offer one. Taking advantage of a rare public appearance to say he was sorry — for something that was not his fault. His responsibility maybe, but not his fault.
Doubtful, however, that he will ever receive an apology for the way he was made to leave the campus without even a goodbye to his coaches and staff.
Louisville is extremely fortunate to have had Jurich. He’s not leaving the city. One can expect him to continue to promote the University at every opportunity if at all possible. It’s an integral part of who he is, a big part of his family, with three kids who graduated from the school, including son Mark who still works there.
Tom Jurich wants only what is best for the school, making his personal concerns secondary to the University. We’re fairly certain the same thing could not be said about many of the other characters in this ongoing ordeal.
Chairman David Grissom and Interim President Greg Postel were able to finally breathe a collective sigh of relief. They’ve been plotting behind the scenes for quite a while now, wanting to remove Tom Jurich from his job at the University of Louisville.
Despite Jurich’s extraordinary accomplishments, one of the best athletic directors in America was unceremoniously fired by the Board of Trustees on Wednesday. A man who brought UofL from the bush leagues of college athletics to a seat at the table with the prime players.
Gone with a minimum of discussion by a board with members on the job less than a year. Only a handful of them having any significant attachment or ties to the University. A select few having invested significant financial resources into the institution (see donations). Even fewer with what could be described as having a passion for UofL.
Ignoring the voices of generous donors to the school and coaches of 22 sports, as well as large segments of alumni and fans. No one outside of the board having much input. Not even the lawyers hired to protect Jurich’s interests.
The vote was 10-3 in favor of dismissing Tom Jurich, the nay votes coming from Brian Cromer, a University of Kentucky Law School graduate, Dianne Medley, a UofL graduate and Dr. Ron Wright, who earned his doctorate from the UofL School of Medicine.Not willing to be rubber stamps, standing up for Jurich in public session.
The motion to fire Jurich came from James Rogers, retired chief operating officer of Hilliard-Lyons and a graduate of the UofL School of Business.
While Grissom and Postel have yet to admit it publicly — they refused to answer questions about TJ afterwards — the action was reportedly taken because Jurich had refused their demands that he fire Coach Rick Pitino. Fire him despite the fact he knew nothing about what had gone down in Minardi Hall. Then when the FBI out of thin air gets interested in college athletics, Grissom and Postel jump with both feet, suspending both of them without any discussion or due process.
Postel, who often resembles a programmed robot with his media responses, obviously wants to be considered a candidate for the school presidency. Even more obvious is that Postel is being used as a pawn by Grissom, doing the grunt work, the dirty work, while Grissom remains out of sight pulling the strings.
No way Postel ever gets to be UofL President, the person who is expected to get the school, including the faculty, employees and students, the alumni, fans, and the rest of the community moving in the same direction. He may be a good manager, possibly a great one, but he’s not very likable. Not the kind of individual who inspires confidence or wins friend easily, or gets everyday people to write checks to the University.
For UofL’s sake, one wants to hope that Grissom and Postel will be successful in lifting the clouds and getting the school back on the right course. Whether accidental or not, their first two hires — David Padgett and Vince Tyra — may have been home run selections. The first impression in both instances is that Padgett and Tyra could be the right people at the right time, with vast skills, including the people skills so lacking in the people who picked them.
Regardless of how their replacement choices turn out, Grissom and Postel will not be fondly remembered for their unfair treatment of Tom Jurich. That will come back to haunt them for years in a community that will never let them forget.
Make no mistake, there should be no confusion. Keeping Tom Jurich is the right thing to do.
Surely common sense will prevail, and the Board of Trustees will retain him as Vice President of Athletics at the University of Louisville. There are no guarantees, however, that what’s best for the school will prevail these days.
The notion of someone seriously entertaining the notion of firing Jurich is outlandish, insulting to the school’s alumni and supporters. Over two decades he has garnered unprecedented support, making UofL the most dynamic institution in the community.
But these are not normal times, what’s up is down, what’s backward is forward, what’s out is in, bad taste is in good taste, what was once repugnant is considered the norm, and good people are often construed as bad actors. Crazy times.
Why Tom Jurich would want to go back to work for David Grissom and Greg Postel, the people reportedly wanting his job, is almost beyond comprehension. These are individuals who apparently consider the success of the athletic department a negative, unable to comprehend the positive role of sports in UofL’s rapid growth.
To people who have been a part of this success, enjoyed all the new facilities, all the outstanding athlete and all the wins during Jurich’s tenure, the intentions of Grissom and Postel are counterproductive. So intent on seizing total control of the University that they are willing to sacrifice someone who can ensure the school’s development continues.
What I have never understood is why Grissom and Postel could not appreciate the success of the athletic department. Why they couldn’t look at that success and want to emulate it for the rest of the University. Why they felt compelled to challenge the individual who made it happen. Why they wouldn’t want to get this individual in their camp, work with him and get him involved in resolving many of the school’s other challenges.
Grissom and Postel appear to share a similar management philosophy, wanting to clean house of people in power from the previous administration. Ignoring what they have done and what they can do, believing they know what’s best. Based on some obscure business principles from some antiquated management courses. What they haven’t been able to do, however, is convince UofL supporters and fans that they have the school’s best interests in mind.
The only agenda Tom Jurich has is to continue the incomparable growth and success of the school’s athletic program. He wants to be there when UofL cuts the ribbon on the 10,000-seat expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and when another 3,000-seat expansion of Jim Patterson Stadium is completed.
He wants to be there when UofL teams are competing for national championships, when UofL athletes are competing for gold medals. He needs to be there to ensure the right person is hired for the next UofL coaching vacancy. He wants to be there to help guide the basketball program back from the current crisis.
“I love this University, the Louisville community and all of our fans,” said Jurich in a recent statement. “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 … ”
That is why he wants to return, even if means answering to Grissom and Postel. Something anyone other than a UofL fan would have a hard time believing.
Based on his track record, Tom Jurich deserves the opportunity to return to do the job he loves. There is no better option for members of the Board of Trustees, nor for the University of Louisville.
We may never know how many people were interviewed by the school to fill the acting athletic director’s role during Tom Jurich’s suspension.
Nor should we care because Vince Tyra appears to have been an amazing hire.
Uniquely qualified in so many ways, for either the short-term or the long haul, ready to totally immerse himself in his new post as Acting Athletic Director at the University of Louisville.
He’s a life-long UofL fan who closely follows the school’s academic and athletic programs, wanting to take them to the highest levels. He hails from a UofL family and the son of the basketball program’s first consensus All-American basketball player.
And he admires and respects Tom Jurich for what he has accomplished at UofL, considering Jurich among the best in the business.
“I’m passionate about UofL athletics, I grew up a Cardinals’ fan, raised my kids as Cardinals’ fans,” he said during a Tuesday press conference at Bigelow Hall on Belknap Campus. “Tom is a good friend. His legacy is all around us. While this has been a difficult period for us, it’s a time for our fan base to dig in even deeper. It’s a time for us to be even more supportive.
“While this is a difficult process of what we’re going through, we have a terrific set of athletic programs all across the board. One of them may have a flat tire right now, but we will prop it back up. I’m looking forward to work with David Padgett.”
Tyra’s 80-year old mother still attends every UofL basketball game and he said she cheers like her late husband Charlie Tyra is still playing for the Cardinals. His father averaged more 20 points and 20 rebounds per game during his junior and senior seasons, leading Louisville to a National Invitation Tournament championship in his junior year.
Vince has blazed his own trail, has been enormously successful in business, serving as Chief Executive Officer for five companies, most recently as operating partner in Southfield Capital and as an advisor to ISCO Industries where he served as president. He was also president of retail and active wear at Fruit of the Loom.
When a new board was appointed for the University of Louisville Foundation last year, Tyra was named chairman of the ULF’s finance committee, establishing new guidelines to control spending and to restore credibility with major university donors.
After leaving a ULF board meeting last week, Tyra walked down to the baseball field where he met with UofL Coach Dan McDonnell. “We stood on the field and just talked. I know he’s a leader among our coaches. We’ve got a great group of coaches, many of them have been here more than 10 years. I’m going to enjoy working with all of them.”
It was obvious during his introductory press conference that Vince Tyra is an individual who has considered himself a part of the University of Louisville family. He was convincing when he said very much appreciates what Tom Jurich has done for the school.
One got the feeling that while he would devote a great deal of energy to the job and probably be enormously successful, Vince Tyra would have no problem stepping aside if Tom Jurich were allowed to return and continue his life’s work. They share a common interest, first and foremost, in seeing UofL thrive and prosper again.
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.
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.”
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.”