No better option than Jurich for the University of Louisville

 

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

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.

Tom Jurich wants his old job back even though it means answering to David Grissom and Greg Postel (Charlie Springer photo).

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.

Vince Tyra shares Tom Jurich’s passion for Louisville athletics

Vince Tyra’s top priority personally and professionally is to see UofL athletics continue to thrive.

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.

Tyra is congratulated by his wife Lori following the press conference.

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.

Interim President Greg Postel listens intently during Tyra’s remarks.

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.

Someone dropped the ball in farewell to Denny Crum

Apparently someone at the University of Louisville thought it was okay to  to terminate employment contracts with Denny Crum and Darrell Griffith, two individuals who have engendered tons of goodwill and donations for the school over decades.

Denny Crum celebrating his 80th birthday party last year (Charlie Springer photo).

He or she chose to do it in the most impersonal way possible, informing Crum and Griffith by email that UofL was cutting them loose.

Letting them go. Firing them.  By email.

No one bothering to meet with them personally or giving them a phone call. Had Crum or Griffith not bother to check their emails, they might still be wondering what happened.

No one in their right mind, no one with any sensibility for human feelings, no one with any respect for what these men have done for an institution treats people like this. Knowing how much Crum and Griffith love the school, they would be promoting the school whether they were getting paid or not.

Darrell Griffith was a “Living Legend” while leading UofL to its first NCAA title in 1980.

Crum, the former UofL basketball coach, has been employed by the school for 46 years. He had an office in the UofL Alumni Department, assisting in fundraising efforts. Griffith, of course, led Louisville to its first NCAA basketball championship in 1980. He worked in the advancement department as director of community relations.

Word of the terminations following news that the former UofL basketball coach had been hospitalized with a light stroke. The timing could not have come at a more inopportune time.

Maybe, in the midst of the school’s recent financial challenges, someone in power felt that Crum and Griffith were expendable, that their accomplishments were a long time ago. That they were no longer as great as they once were, that it was time to move on.

The decision coming several months after 800 people attended Denny Crum’s 80th birthday celebration at the Ramada Plaza & Convention Center. That event and other fundraising efforts culminating in $600,000 in donations to the University of Louisville.

The person responsible for decision may have felt there was no other option. The school may have needed to save money, requiring UofL to reduce “non-essential” staff. Supporters of the school and people who recognize good business practices could maybe appreciate that. But breaking the news to them by impersonal emails is not acceptable.

Just another PR disaster in a long line of them over the past several months, coming on the heels of efforts by some members of the current Board of Trustees to seek legal action against former administrators. It’s almost as if some of these actions are being taken to put the University in the worst light possible.

Denny and Darrell deserve better, as do UofL’s many fans and supporters throughout the community.

Adidas in good times and bad times for University of Louisville

One of the first big deals Tom Jurich made after becoming the new Athletic Director at the University of Louisville in 1997 was an agreement with Adidas. He was looking to cut costs while providing quality tennis shoes for UofL athletes.

“The deal was earth-shattering,”joked Jurich on Friday. “We would get two pair of shoes for retail, and the third pair was 20% off. Our first order was for 300 shoes, 200 at retail price, and a discount on the next 100. With that we were able to brand our partnership.”

Tom Jurich says UofL and Adidas have remained strong partners through good times and bad times.

UofL and Adidas have been together ever since, with Jurich having lost track of the number of times they have renegotiated new deals. The big difference, of course, is that UofL no longer buys the shoes, any uniforms or any other Adidas equipment or apparel. The company pays Louisville for the exposure.

On Friday, UofL and Adidas announced a 10-year extension of the partnership through 2027-28 valued at a phenomenal 160 million dollars.  The deal includes footwear, apparel, accessories and marketing support for all 23 of the University’s athletic programs.

“When we began our relationship with Adidas nearly 20 years ago, we weren’t in the same shape we are now,” said Jurich. “The impact they have had has been phenomenal. We’ve have great times and we’ve had down times, but they’ve already been there with us, standing shoulder to shoulder with UofL.

“I don’t necessarily care so about the finish as I am about how we got there and who’s with you when times are tough. Adidas has never wavered, they’re always been strong with us. And that’s the kind of company with which I want to be associated.”

Chris McGuire says Adidas employees around the world have become Louisville fans.

Chris McGuire, senior director of sports marketing at Adidas, confirmed that the deal with UofL was among the company’s biggest investments in sports in America.  “We love the success of all the programs here, and it’s something in which we take great pride,” he said. “When Louisville wins, the Adidas brand wins as well. We have become Louisville fans, and that includes our employees all around the world.”

Adidas’ involvement with UofL also includes support for the latest expansion of Cardinal Stadium. The company will have a significant presence in the end zone, with the Adidas Three Stripe Zone and branding in the tunnel from which the team will enter the field, starting in 2018.

Many issues but Greg Postel eager to help shape UofL’s future

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.

Greg Postel has been at UofL for 23 years, serving as Vice President of Health Affairs before becoming Interim President.

“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.”