UofL must maintain control of Yum! Center scheduling

Here we go again with the NBA rumblings.

Mayor Greg Fischer has reignited the debate about a possible National Basketball Association franchise in Louisville as a way to shore up the financial stability of the KFC Yum! Center. Responding to a question about the topic at a recent Chamber of Commerce event, the Mayor said, “If we have an opportunity, I will pursue it with full force.”

UofL gave up a great deal, in exchange for a great deal, giving both parties the state of the art basketball facility.

We don’t know whether the person asking the question was former Jefferson County Attorney J. Bruce Miller or one of his associates but we wouldn’t be surprised. Miller has been talking NBA for decades. The city blew an opportunity to move the Kentucky Colonels franchise to the NBA in 1976 for a couple of million dollars.

Fischer seemed to be echoing one of Miller’s arguments when he intimated a problem with the University of Louisville controlling the lease “for now.” A not so thinly-veiled threat that his administration may challenge the university’s control over the arena’s dates.

Miller recently commented on another Louisville blog: “The University is going to have to become a good citizen and give up the results of its unfairly negotiated deal (with a majority of Arena Authority members being UofL afficionados).”

Then Miller adds, “I can get the NBA team, but the University must first stand up and become a responsible public citizen.”

Guess Miller has given up on Freedom Hall, huh?

We’ll generously give him the benefit of the doubt that he was only referring to the arena issue. And we’ll concede that Miller  probably thinks he has the community’s best interests in mind by seeking an NBA franchise and that he has been a UofL season ticket holder . But Miller has never been that complimentary of the University and his interest in a pro basketball franchise would take priority over anything UofL.

A downtown arena was the least desirable location for the University, knowing an on-campus arena would serve as a catalyst for unprecedented business development on and around Belknap Campus.

Not surprisingly, Miller fails to acknowledge the screws the city applied to the university during the arena debate, UofL agreeing under enormous pressure to abandon its pursuit of a on-campus facility or a new arena at the Fairgrounds. Jim Ramsey, Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino wanted the arena in close proximity for players and students, as did a huge segment of Louisville fans.

A downtown arena was the least desirable option for the University, recognizing that an on-campus arena would have served as a catalyst for unprecedented development on and around Belknap Campus.

But Jerry Abramson, then Mayor of Louisville Metro, applying all the political muscle available to him, was able to get the University to change course but only after the city agreed to a long list of demands, including, among other things, 88% of the revenue from the suites, payments for naming rights, and control over scheduling dates — essentially the things the University would have been entitled to with an on-campus arena.

UofL gave up a great deal, in exchange for a great deal, giving both parties a state-of-the-art basketball facility. The details spelled out in great detail in the local media. There was nothing secretive about the wheeling and dealing. There was nothing unfair about the agreement to either party, based on the information available at the time.

The KFC Yum! Center arrangement has worked out well for the University, if not for the city. According to The Wall Street Journal, U of L reported $40.9 million in revenue in the last fiscal year, according to government data—nearly $12 million more than any other team in college basketball. The city, however, is falling far short of making the bond payments because of an overly generous forecast  for the special taxing district.

Now the city wants to renegotiate the deal. We can understand that, but we’re also confident that the University will be negotiating from a position of strength. But because the best interests of the community are driving forces, UofL will probably agree to more revenue sharing and scheduling flexibility.

However, everyone should remember the KFC Yum! Center was built with the explicit understanding that University of Louisville basketball would be the primary tenant. Anything that threatens that arrangement or forces the University to relinquish majority control over the arena could be a step backward, resulting in serious financial consequences and a return to the Freedom Hall scheduling quagmire .

Louisville interest in NBA franchise doubted

J. Bruce Miller, a former County Attorney, is out beating the drums again for a National Basketball Association franchise in Louisville, probably for about the third or fourth time in the last couple of decades.

Miller is joined this time around by a much younger group of proponents led by Zach Doyle who launched the “Bring the Sacramento Kings to Louisville” campaign, but apparently supports any effort to attract pro basketball.

Professional basketball is boring, night in and night out, a real yawner until the playoffs arrive.

The arguments are familiar, the ones about making Louisville a big league city, more than a college town, creating an economic boom, making a vibrant downtown area. As if communities like Oklahoma City and Memphis became world class cities after landing NBA franchises.

J. Bruce has already spent $60,000 in consulting fees in a few months, apparently with the encouragement of Metro Council member Dan Johnson. That’s without much of the community knowing city funds were involved.

Some of us were fans of the Colonels in the defunct American Basketball Association, quite disappointed actually when John Y. Brown, Jr. didn’t come up with the $2 million that would have made the Colonels an NBA team in the Seventies.

But we’ve long since gotten over the disappointment. Didn’t take long. You see the city already has a good basketball program, one to which we’re quite attached. We don’t like competition for the hearts and minds of local fans. There’s more than enough from Lexington already.

Professional basketball is boring, night in and night out, a real yawner until the playoffs arrive. But even the playoffs don’t get interesting until the final series. We wish you well, J. Bruce and Zach, but don’t expect any more support from UofL administrators, supporters and fans than previous efforts enjoyed.

Fab Melo’s Reading File

One more thought on the Fab Melo recruiting process:

Who among us doubts that J. Bruce Miller’s article in the Courier-Journal berating the University of Louisville was not shown to Fab Melo by the other schools recruiting him? The CJ’s link no longer works but part of his article is quoted in my original reaction, which includes some followup from Miller.

Who doubts hat the article has been translated into at least four different languages by now?

Or who believes that under no circumstances would a Melo ever see all the followup letters poking holes in Miller’s assertions?

Not saying Miller diatribe was the final deciding factor, but it was not helpful either.

Thanks again, Bruce.

J. Bruce Miller Rears His Head Again

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 wants professional basketball even if it's at the expense of University of Louisville basketball. From all indications, he would love to permanently derail the program.

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.

Miller’s bitterness resurfaced once again this week in a strange article that appeared in the Opinion section of the Courier-Journal where he goes to great lengths to berate U of L (link):

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.

Watch for Miller to surface again with plans for a pro franchise when the new downtown arena is completed.

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.