No disagreement between Jurich and Postel on Arena pact

No hint of any differences between Vice President Tom Jurich and Acting President Greg Postel during the special-called meeting of the board of the University of Louisville Athletic Association Thursday morning to discuss the amended KFC Yum! Center financing deal.

Greg Postel says he was keeping Tom Jurich in the loop.

A report from Kent Taylor of WAVE3 the night before suggested that Jurich had not participated in negotiations between UofL and Arena Authority, perhaps signaling a shift in power away from the athletic department. As if Jurich had been an obstacle in the negotiating process.

How that language became a part of Taylor’s report is up for conjecture. This observer believes the logical source would have been Scott Cox, the head of the Arena Authority, who has been chomping at the bit to reach an agreement with UofL. His father was the late Earl Cox, former Courier-Journal editor and he previously worked with Sen. Mitch McConnell so he’s no stranger to the media or the leaking fraternity.

Tom Jurich said he is in support of the amended financing agreement.

Based on Thursday morning’s meeting, it may well be that the administration is teaming up with Jurich, providing him with the full backing of the university. During the session, the ULAA board voted unanimously in support of providing an additional $2.4 million annually to help finance the arena bonds.

Postel said Jurich had been kept abreast of the negotiating process at every step along the way. He noted that the athletic director was briefed on the details Wednesday night after returning to town from a two-week vacation. Jurich, while obviously disappointed that the original financing was inadequate, indicated that he supported the amended agreement with the Arena Authority.

“Tom and I have been talking about this, along with Kevin Miller (senior associate athletic director/finance), since January,” said Postel. “We’ve had many conversations about this topic. There was nothing unusual in this concept that Tom was not aware of. He’s been out of town so I briefed him last night.

“What the ULAA voted to do today we did not have to do. UofL is trying to be a good partner to the community. We are doing this electively because we want to participate. We want to help. The state is contributing more, the city is contributing more so we stepping to be a community partner and to help support this facility.”

Postel said that while he recognizes the additional financial commitment from the athletic department is a strain, it is just one more significant challenge to the school at a crucial time. “We don’t view this as an ‘Us versus Them,’ we’re all UofL.”

Jurich had already departed the building but no serious observer would doubt that he does not subscribe to that conclusion.

Louisville can’t allow NCAA punitive measures to go unchallenged

Rick Pitino has never been one to go down without a fight (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

So much for the University of Louisville being repentant, trying to cooperate with the NCAA and imposing harsh self-punishment on the UofL basketball program. It obviously does not pay to not challenge the NCAA every step of the way on alleged violations.

Nothing UofL could have said or did would have placated the NCAA Committee on Infractions. The committee gave little credence to any actions taken by the school to show contrition. The members were apparently determined from the beginning to administer the harshest punishment possible to the basketball program.

Rick Pitino says he has lost a lot of respect for the NCAA during the investigation of the program (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

In essence, the committee members were saying to the University of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino that they didn’t believe him, that he was aware of the violations, that he allowed them to continue, and that he was personally culpable for Andre McGee’s actions. 

They also were throwing the middle finger to Acting UofL President Greg Poster, Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich, and all University of Louisville basketball fans. As if these individuals condoned what went on in the early morning hours at Billy Minardi Hall, as if they were not embarrassed, sickened and disgusted by the activities. As if they were all equally to blame for the abhorrent behavior.

The committee chair was angry at Andre McGee for not cooperating so they took it out on everybody else associated with the program.  My, how the actions of one or couple of individuals can affect not only a basketball program, but the people who entrusted them and thousands of fans wanting only the right things for their university.

Perhaps even worse is to be judged by a panel of individuals sitting in judgement who appear to have ignored all the steps taken by the university to get to the facts. So appalled by the societal issues that they never get past their initial reactions, making them collectively impotent, incapable of rendering a fair or appropriate decision.

“The penalty far exceeded our expectation,” said Chuck Smrt, a UofL consultant and former NCAA investigator. “The severity of the penalties exceeds the severity of this case.”

The proposed punishment was drawn up by a subcommittee of seven members of the Committee on Infractions. Few, if any, people outside that small group know how the process worked. The guess here is that Carol Cartwright, former President of Bowling Green University and Kent State, drafted the recommendations and they were rubber-stamped by the other members. No one outside the small group apparently questioned whether the punishment fit the crime.

Acting President Greg Postel promised a vigorous appeal of the NCAA action (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Acting UofL President Greg Postel said the NCAA action will be vigorously appealed. “We believe the penalties imposed today are unfair to the UofL community and our current and former student-athletes, many of whom have already paid a heavy price for actions that did not involve them,” he said. “This ruling is also unfair to Coach Pitino, who we believe could not have known about the illicit activities.

Rick Pitino was understandably shocked by the severity of the proposed penalties. “For 35 years I’ve had faith in the NCAA, but in the recent past, they have made some decisions that are unjust,” he said. “I’ve lost a lot of trust and I’m going to put all my faith and beliefs in the appeals committee. What’s in this report (from the Committee on Infractions) is way over the top and inconceivable. We believe we will win the appeal.”

Tom Jurich has taken University of Louisville athletics to new heights during his 17 year tenure (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Tom Jurich, who has taken the UofL athletic program to new levels during his tenure, was obviously still numb an hour after the penalties were announced. Anyone who has accompanied him on this journey had to empathize with him, knowing how open and honest he is, how effective he has been, with UofL enjoying unprecedented success and growth in all 22 sports across the department. 

Sadly, only to have Louisville basketball embarrassed by an irresponsible former player and have an out-of-touch NCAA committee attempt to erase the program’s crowning moments.

*    *   *

The seven members of the Committee on Infractions subcommittee, which recommended the penalties on the UofL basketball program, were:

–Chairperson Dr. Carol Cartwright, former President of Bowling Green State University and Kent State University.
–William Bock III, attorney with Kroger, Gardis & Regas. an Indianapolis, Indiana law firm, and a graduate of Michigan.
–Greg Christopher, athletic director, Xavier University.
–Thomas Hill, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs, Iowa State University.
–Stephen Madva, attorney and managing partner, Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, in Philadelphia.
–Joe Novak, former head football coach, Northern Illinois University.
–Larry Parkinson, Director of Enforcement, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Fortunately for everyone affected, the appeals process goes through another committee.

Keep Papa John under control at UofL board meetings

John Schnatter went a couple of hours without saying a word, at least during the public portion of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees meeting this week. Not easy for someone accustomed to being treated as near royalty in his hometown. 

And it was quite a contrast from a week before when he exhibited little self control, ranting about the UofL athletic department and another expansion of Cardinal Stadium. 

One wonders why Schnatter had reason to be upset? The athletic department has bent over backward to keep the Pizza magnate happy. Setting aside a special place for him to land his helicopter during football games at Cardinal Stadium. Allowing him to race his 1971 Camaro into the complex, wheels spinning, burning rubber. The football program also allowing him to completely cover the roof of the Brown & Williamson Club with the Papa John’s logo.

Interim President Greg Postel and Chairman David Grissom have their hands full already, even without John Schnatter’s antics.

Schnatter’s demeanor during the recent board meeting makes one suspect that someone may have finally denied him one of his outlandish wishes. Some sources believe his antagonism could date back to the second phase of the stadium expansion, possibly some special concessions on the party deck. 

Schnatter’s ego apparently knows no bounds. Would anyone be surprised if his next big request had been a sculpture of Papa John on the party deck? Making a special delivery no doubt. Not out of the question. He lives in a virtual castle and he referred to the football facility as “My stadium” during the board meeting. 

The strained look on his face during the trustees’ meeting made it appear as though he had been asked to remain quiet. This at a time when the University of Louisville is in need of positive reinforcement and constructive leadership. Had to be really difficult for him to hear Interim President Greg Postel describe Tom Jurich’s great success with the athletic program and assurance that the stadium expansion is well within budget.

Someone had obviously gotten to Schnatter, letting him know that his ranting was out of line, making him look foolish, embarrassing his fellow board members. This coming a day before it was announced that Schnatter had resigned from the board of the UofL Athletic Association and had been immediately replaced by university trustee James Rogers.

A long-time member of the University community, who wishes to remain unnamed, sees the fine hand of Trustees’ Chairman J. David Grissom at work in Schnatter’s resignation.

“It is not Schnatter’s style to resign for the good of the organization,” said the source. “My guess is that Grissom took him off the board because Schnatter is unpredictable in his rhetoric. Why else would another board appointment be made so quickly?

“This may have been one reason for the closed session at the Trustees’ meeting. Grissom does not want the wrath of Tom Jurich’s many supporters. Running Tom off would be the biggest mistake made by anyone. 

“Grissom also will not tolerate any trustee speaking to the media without his approval. Remember Schnatter’s parting comment on Wednesday, words to the effect that Grissom has it under control.”

Presumably that means Grissom will not tolerate any misdirection or outbursts at future Trustee meetings, especially from John Schnatter. 

Courier-Journal covers UofL and UK equally in sports, but hard news is another story

A few random thoughts about the Courier-Journal’s coverage of University of Louisville issues …

In case you missed it, Joe Gerth has a new column in the Courier-Journal, switching from political to a generalist approach, taking on the hot topics in town. He’s working hard in his new role as the newspaper’s “resident expert” on everything Louisville.

Not surprising a few weeks ago he became the latest CJ scribe to pile on former University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey, stating  that Ramsey “enriched himself at the expense of the students at UofL and the state of Kentucky.” He also questions the motivations of Tom Jurich in the same piece.

Gerth grew up in Louisville and graduated from the University of Louisville, majoring in communications. For someone who has covered politics for almost three decades, it is somewhat surprising that he has failed to acknowledge issues stemming from gubernatorial political appointments to the UofL Board of Trustees.

Or maybe it’s just that he chooses to ignore them. That would be the easier path for a writer at a publication that fancies itself to be a statewide newspaper. The CJ’s News side provides tons of coverage on UofL problems but only a bare minimum, usually wire coverage, on University of Kentucky issues — totally opposite to Sports coverage where equal coverage seems the goal.

Continue reading “Courier-Journal covers UofL and UK equally in sports, but hard news is another story”

Jurich still prefers an on-campus basketball arena for Louisville basketball

Would anyone be surprised if Tom Jurich has not already commissioned artistic renderings of a new basketball arena for Belknap Campus in case the University of Louisville agreement with KFC Yum! Center were to fall through.

The rendering would be of a first class, state-of-the-art arena, of course, with all the “wow factors” that Jurich insists on when considering any new facility. My guess is that the new campus arena includes approximately 19,200 seats and will fit comfortably on the 13.5-acre site previously occupied by the silos.

UofL already owns the land and an arena at that location would be much easier and affordable to construct than downtown. Plenty of room on the site, too, for a hotel and conference center, including all the parking spaces needed for all the new facilities. 

The site would be convenient for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, just minutes from the practice facilities and the dormitories. Great for the volleyball team, too, as well as for other indoor sports.

 Jurich is not in any rush to abandon the KFC Yum! Center where UofL men’s and women’s teams have competed since 2010. But he is tired of hearing some city officials blaming UofL for financial problems with the the arena.

He addressed the issue recently during a meeting of the Central Cardinal Club at the PNC Club at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

“We have exceeded by many, many steps everything the city has asked of us,” said Jurich. “We brought more events in there, we raised our prices, we’ve given them much more revenue than they could have dreamed, and we’re still the bad guys.”

The likelihood of UofL building an on-campus arena is probably pretty remote, unless the city were to somehow manage to attract an NBA franchise to the city. Some people have been talking about it for 40 years, with no NBA owners or general managers ever expressing serious interest in the city.

Jurich proved a decade ago that he was a “team player” by going along with the downtown arena, despite badly wanting the arena on campus in the first place. He went ahead despite his reservations and better judgement but was able to negotiate excellent terms for UofL. 

No one should doubt Tom Jurich will do everything he can to make the current arrangement with the KFC Yum! Center a long-term success. But they also should not doubt that Jurich firmly believes the best possible place for a basketball arena is on the University of Louisville campus.