There are no shortcuts when it comes resolving some of the current issues plaguing the University of Louisville. The issues are complex, some are divisive, all of them requiring ongoing attention.
Interim President Greg Postel is confident, however, that the challenges, which include accreditation, academic funding, arena financing and NCAA infractions, are being tackled comprehensively. But Postel is not spending all of his time looking backward, he’s also looking forward to putting the problems behind for the University.
“I’m to the point where we have to start turning our focus on where we’re going next,” he told UofL’s Mark Hebert, director of media programming and production in a YouTube released Tuesday. “I don’t think it’s possible for people to come to work everyday and be excited about solving old problems.”
Postel said he is in contact on a daily basis with people throughout the community who are anticipating the next stage in UofL’s development — donors, potential donors, politicians, citizens throughout the community, students, staff, faculty, administrators, giving him a good sense what the community wants to happen.
“I think people are pleased that the problems are being addressed, and comforted, I hope, that those problems are being addressed in a thoughtful way,” he said. “For people to be enthusiastic, however, they have to have something to look forward to. That means what is our strategy and how we are going to follow it.”
He noted that UofL essentially has two strategic plans, the 20/20 plan developed in 2008 and the 21st Century initiative from 2012, with points of focus including education, research, diversity, community engagement and stewardship of resources.
“My concern, or the deficiency in both plans was not the quality of the goals but I don’t think enough thought was given as to how all the resources would be marshaled to accomplish those goals.
“This community is hopeful about the future of the University of Louisville. In my position, I hear a tremendous amount of optimism, that people are pleased that UofL is ready to move to the next stage in its evolution. UofL is going to do some great things and be a contributing member in this community.
“That’s exciting to me. I put everything I have into this job.”
Andy Beshear is being a Beshear, inserting state government into the affairs of the University of Louisville again. Always an opportunist, the son of the former Kentucky governor apparently can’t resist getting involved when it comes to UofL.
Beshear, who occupies the State Attorney General’s office, this week requested copies of former UofL President Jim Ramsey’s emails along with his computer hard drive. Doubtful either source would yield anything, especially Ramsey’s computer which has long since been wiped clean.
But his actions accomplish a few things for Beshear, enabling him to further diminish UofL’s reputation while preventing the University from moving forward from the months-long quagmire. Beshear making this a personal case with Ramsey, posing the possibility of civil or criminal liability.
Some UofL supporters, including this observer, are convinced UofL’s problems began with Governor Steve Beshear’s appointments to the board of trustees, with a suspected goal of derailing the UofL Foundation. Fortunately Steve Beshear’s tenure finally expired, but his son in the AG’s Office has continued to put obstacles in UofL’s way.
It was the AG’s legal challenge to the board appointments of Gov. Matt Bevin that resulted in the flip-flopping of board members and to the University being placed on accreditation probation by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. The case still poses a major threat because it’s still in the court system.
The Beshears are bad news for UofL.
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Alvarez & Marsal, the Chicago firm that conducted the audit of the UofL Foundation, did not specify in its report whether any criminal activity had occurred. The report did include charges of reckless spending, as one would expect from a company commissioned to conduct a forensic audit.
Not satisfied with the original $1.7 million report, the Board of Trustees this week authorized $400,000 for additional work. Maybe the logic is that a few more bucks will generate some more finger-pointing, possibly some actual suspects.
A confusing expense, perhaps extravagant, for a Board investigating excessive spending. Perhaps their instructions to the auditing firm were not clear enough the first time around. The board is spending an inordinate amount of time and money investigating the previous administration.
The threat of criminal and civil lawsuits against individuals who accomplished a great deal at UofL is more than a little counter-productive. That’s true whether it’s coming from the current Board of Trustees or the State Attorney General’s office.
Not quite the happy or carefree summer that it should have been this year, not with that nasty NCAA threat hanging over the University of Louisville basketball program.
Not going away, always there, with reportedly little chance of overturning a decision that would cost UofL tens of millions of dollars and dozens of wins, including a third national championship.
In its long history, the NCAA has never learned how to impose penalties without harming the innocent, incapable of conceiving ways to punish or expose the actual perpetrators. Instead, taking the easy way out, choosing to recklessly impugn the reputations of the institution, the coaches, the players and fans.
The best part of the ordeal, hopefully, when combined with the challenges on the administrative side, is that the shared experience will make fans even more supportive of their university. It have never been easy being a UofL fan in Kentucky, but that has never prevented the University from achieving great things.
When will the nightmares end, the ongoing fallout from the incessant body blows the University of Louisville has absorbed over the last couple of years? Not anytime soon obviously, with protracted dramas continuing to inflict ugly wounds, scarring the University’s reputation and the psyche of the UofL faithful.
The most encouraging thing during these dreary times is that UofL has built an intensely loyal group of partisans. Emerging over the past two decades from the shadow of the University of Kentucky to dominance in the state’s most prominent community. A base of supporters proud of Louisville’s accomplishments before all hell broke loose, wanting the dark clouds to dissipate.
Making that happen will require an aggressive approach to problem-solving, to establish a new vision for UofL. If anything has been confirmed during these ongoing ordeals, the University is about much more than athletics. UofL’s role in academics, research, health care and so many other facets of the community cannot be overstated.
Who would have believed a five years ago:
–That a President who had transformed the campus would be forced to resign, his management style the target of a forensic audit. A Board of Trustees in disarray, so dysfunctional that the entire board would be replaced. The school’s endowment, once prompting a campus-wide celebration for reaching the $1 billion mark, is now only valued at $714 million.
–That a basketball program, so free of suspicion and recruiting violations during Rick Pitino’s tenure, would be sabotaged by a former player, bringing scandal and embarrassment to his former coaches and players. Dragging UofL’s name through the mud, hiding behind a lawyer, refusing to answer questions, apologizing to no one, protecting his own ass.
–That a group of adults on the NCAA Committee on Infractions would give more credence to the words of a prostitute than the testimony of UofL administrators. Dismissing the University’s self-imposed, post-season ban as insignificant, ignoring the coach’s record of compliance. Too cowardly to take away a national championship, forcing University administrators to do it to themselves.
The board has been busy making budget cuts, cutting out frills, and tightening financial belts, but there has been little public discussion about future direction.
One could go on. The University of Louisville has had more than its share of adversity. Some of it self-inflicted, possibly mismanagement, possibly overly creative approaches to advancing the University’s goals, overly generous rewards to those making some advances possible. Further harm coming from an inability to interact effectively with the media, damaging the perception and credibility of some former UofL administrators.
The University clearly has made great strides over the last decade and a half, clearly becoming one of the most powerful institutions in the community, if not the state, earning the admiration and loyalties of its supporters, alumni and fans. At the same time, however, creating antagonism among some affluent individuals in the community, as well as key politicians in Frankfort, some resenting the school’s growth, feeling threatened, either personally or for their alma mater.
A former UofL board member has told this writer that former Governor Steve Beshear asked for his help in dismantling the UofL Foundation, wanting to fold it into the University, making it subject to political appointments. Beshear’s last several appointments to the UofL Board of Trustees included people clearly motivated to make life difficult for then UofL President Jim Ramsey.
Also, there was considerable resentment from some developers in local construction circles, some arguing that UofL enjoyed unfair competitive advantages in real estate investments. Among them was a developer successful in getting the city to locate a new basketball arena on an expensive piece of property downtown. He would take some parting shots at Ramsey before leaving town.
Some would argue that local media have become overly aggressive and antagonistic. That UofL news has high readership and viewership, especially if negative, in a community where more than 30 percent of the populace pledges allegiance to a rival university.
Difficult for alumni and fans of some other schools to acknowledge what UofL has accomplished, some actually wanting to destroy what the school has achieved, perhaps thinking Louisville’s success is their misfortune. Rather than trying to understand how UofL succeeded, they fail to see how their favored school could improve by healthy competition.
Succeeding despite all these obstacles is going to require the continued loyalty of UofL supporters. A handful of fans have suggested they’ve had enough of the turmoil, others suggesting that the University owes them something. As if University employees are not besieged or worthy of their support during a dark period for the school. If ever there was a time for alumni and fans to support the school, it is now.
Putting the turmoil in the past also is going to require persistence and leadership from the Board of Trustees headed by David Grissom. The community has yet to hear anything from Grissom about his motivations in assuming the board leadership. Just a few random quotes here and there during board meetings. He has yet to effectively communicate his aspirations for the University. That alone could be a giant step forward in restoring confidence in the school’s future.
There has been little indication from Grissom about the University’s future. The board has been busy making budget cuts, cutting out frills, and tightening financial belts, but there has been little public discussion about future direction. No indication of a Presidential Search Committee, leaving supporters to guess about whether Acting President Dr. Greg Postel is the future or just a go-between.
The community, including the UofL staff, faculty, alumni, fans, and other supporters, needs to know what the Board wants to achieve. Yes, there are plenty of problems and challenges but what’s the ultimate goal? There have to be long-term objectives behind which UofL supporters can rally.
If it’s returning UofL to its upward trajectory, then say so. Reinforce the goal that the University of Louisville can be a preeminent research university. That UofL will not stop the decline in the endowment but that the school will aggressively continue to pursue donations, that it will set new all-time highs in contributions and in the endowment fund.
Say something, anything. UofL’s many supporters need and deserve to be reminded that the benefits of accomplishing some very challenging objectives will dramatically outweigh all the negativity that currently exists. All we’re hearing right now is a continuous unraveling of all the recent failings.
Time to look forward, time to get moving. There will always be detractors during times of success or failure. The University of Louisville, however, is deeply ingrained in the lifeblood of this community and the support will always be there.
Between racing dates at Churchill Downs, Jeremy Kipness is keeping a close eye out for real estate listings in the Louisville area. He and his father, Michael, are in the process of bringing the Aspire Basketball Academy to town.
They are intense fans when it comes to thoroughbred horse racing and prep school and college basketball. The academy is moving here from Scottsdale, Ariz., for the 2017-18 academic year.
While Jeremy was attending the Kentucky Oaks with his good friend Luke Hancock last Friday, Michael was selling his selections and analysis for the Kentucky Oaks, the Kentucky Derby as well as the 25 under-card races that made up this two-day racing extravaganza.
Michael, better known as “The Wizard,” is considered the most successful and respected professional handicapper in the world. He has been selling his thoroughbred racing selections since 1987, including the last year’s partnering with The Daily Racing Form, horseracing’s premier horse-racing publication.
“Jeremy and Luke are the closest of friends,” said Michael. “Luke is like a second son to me.”