Merry Christmas To All

Switching into full Christmas mode for the next couple of days, time to immerse ourselves totally into the holiday season. 

What a year it has been for the University of Louisville, experiencing the tremendous highs and lowly lows. Just when we thought nothing worse could happen, something did. But the lows are only temporary, with so many good people associated with the University.  

Loyal administrators and staff keeping the school moving forward in the face of unprecedented challenges, academicians and athletes performing at high levels, fans and supporters remaining faithful, continuing to support UofL without fail, propelling the University forward to new plateaus.

Much to be thankful for, knowing the challenges only make us stronger, the issues will be resolved and the university has so much more to achieve .

Thanks for being UofL fans, appreciate your support of Card Game as well. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

The hits keep coming but milestones never stop at University of Louisville

The University of Louisville is under attack on so many fronts that some of us are becoming hardened to the accusations, skeptical of the sources. Some unbelievable accusations have surfaced, and they never seem to go away. 

Any more bad news out there? Cough it up and clear the air. Only three more weeks before 2016 becomes history. What a crappy year in so many ways.

— Jim Ramsey, the former UofL President, accused of administrative irregularities in a state audit of the UofL Foundation. That would be the same Jim Ramsey who is credited for the unprecedented growth of the University over the past decade. 

— The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placing UofL’s accreditation on probation for a year for actions taken by Governor Bevin in attempting to replace the current members of the Board of Trustees. Why the organization would threaten the school’s accreditation for any reason other than academic reasons defies any logic. No surprise, however, given the ideology of members governing the Southern Association.

— Governor Bevin, ignoring the Southern Association’s action, indicating that he will attempt to change state law during the 2017 legislation session to justify his action. A dangerous precedent if he is successful, allowing future Governors to replace board members at will, possibly putting the University’s very existence at risk in a state where little love is lost on UofL.

Few people in America more noble or better positioned than sportswriters to address sins and shortcomings.

— The never-ending probe of the UofL basketball program following revelations that former player and assistant coach had been sponsoring stripper parties and sexual favors for players. Once a program is accused, the NCAA’s review process drags on forever, with no consistency in how cases are handled and punishments are administered.

— The latest embarrassment, the admission of a Wake Forest radio football analyst that he had provided game plan information to opposing teams, including UofL. Louisville, unfortunately, was where information was uncovered exposing the individual, exposing UofL to criticism from the talking heads and saintly sports columnists like Tim Sullivan.

The lowest of low points, being lectured by the scribes. Few people in America more noble or better positioned than sportswriters to address sins and shortcomings. Who’s to question their qualifications? A terrible profession when success is often defined by how many people hate you.

Quite a tumble from the glory years, particular from the Year of the Cardinal in 2013 when the University of Louisville could do no wrong. Distant memories for now.

The Lamar Jackson success story, the first UofL football player to ever win the Heisman Award, providing a brief reprieve from the torrent of bad news. But also serving as a reminder that many great things will continue to happen at UofL.

Overcoming hard times is part of being an advocate for the University of Louisville. Fans and supporters of UofL have had to weather more than their share of adversity over the decades.

They’ve grown accustomed to being targeted by neighboring fans, by a local newspaper that claims to be a state newspaper at the expense of the local school, and by the growing pains that occur when a school is ambitious. Predictably the University of Louisville always gets stronger and better, achieving unprecedented milestones while eyeing even more challenging goals.

Always been that way. It will never change. 

Some generous givers, a few not so much, on UofL Board of Trustees

Anyone who thought the drama was over with the University of Louisville board of trustees got a rude awakening from Governor Matt Bevin the other day. He is more adamant than ever that current board will be replaced.

“They will be gone soon enough,” the Governor told Terry Meiners on WHAS Radio. “The governance of that university deserves people that are focused on the university and not their own agendas.”

Voters handed full control of both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly to the Republican Party. He says he wants people “who aren’t doing this (serving on the UofL board) for anything other than the right reasons.”

One way of assessing the level of trustee commitment to the University is by examining their financial support. Because the motives of some members has been questioned, UofLCardGame submitted an open records request to the University for the lifetime contributions. 

While some might argue that making public the private donations of individuals to educational institutions should be out of bounds, we believe it is important to follow the money in this case.

There is a wide variance in trustee giving from top to bottom. Some members giving more to athletics than academics, and vice versa. Some giving millions of dollars, and a few notable members nowhere close to being overly generous, given their financial resources. 

Bruce Henderson captures top donor honors for the current UofL Board of Trustees.
Bruce Henderson captures top donor honors for the current UofL Board of Trustees.

Bruce Henderson, owner of Henderson Electric, is the leading contributor, having donated in excess of $1.4 million to UofL, the bulk of it, $1.3 million, for academics and another $126,550 for athletics.

Jonathan Blue, chairman of Blue Equity, comes in second, with total contributions of $1.398 million.  His contributions are weighted in favor of athletics, more than $1.36 million for sports, and $29.4 thousand for academics.

Bob Hughes, immediate past Chairman of the Board of Trustees and a Murray physician, is the third leading contributor, having given $1.37 million to academics, most of it derived from the contribution of his 7,700-square-foot house in Murray to UofL.

Current Trustee Chairman Larry Benz, who is chief executive of Confluent Health, has contributed $787 thousand to athletics and $26.6 thousand to academics, adding up to a grand total of $813,683 in lifetime gifts.

Brucie Moore, a board member who also chairs the UofL Foundation, has contributed $231,669, with most of it, $154.1 thousand, going to academics and $77,500 to athletics.

Near the bottom of the list of UofL contributors are some frequent critics of former UofL President Jim Ramsey who have also argued that the UofL Foundation should be placed under the auspices of the Board of Trustees.

Craig Greenberg near the bottom when it comes to financial gifts to UofL.
Craig Greenberg near the bottom when it comes to financial gifts to UofL.

Craig Greenberg, an attorney and chief executive of 21C hotels, had donated only $4,363 to the University through Oct. 4 of this year. Campbell, an advisor at Lazard Freres & Co., had given $2,760. Both contributed only to UofL academic programs.

“Their contributions to the school don’t match the noise they’ve made over the past couple of years,” said one board member.

Emily Bingham, who has sided with Greenberg and Campbell on numerous issues, has donated more than $79 thousand to UofL, all of it for academic purposes. 

Interestingly, Larry Hayes, former chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority and administrator under former Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson, has donated a total of $197,360, including almost $180,000 for athletics.

Note: Numbers are current as of Oct. 4, 2016.

UofL Trustees loom as distraction as Game Day comes to town

Great news that ESPN has selected the University of Louisville vs. Florida State football game on Saturday as the location for the enormously popular Game Day show. A milestone with significant recognition for the UofL football program.

UofL supporters, however, should hope that the current Board of Trustees doesn’t do anything to further exacerbate the friction that exists between different University factions. The potential for that to happen is very real.

Larry Benz, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and board member Craig Greenberg.
Larry Benz, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and board member Craig Greenberg.

The day before the game, the Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet with its counterpart from the UofL Foundation. The University board wants to conduct a forensic audit on the Foundation’s books and to fire Jim Ramsey from his Foundation post.

UofL Chairman Larry Benz last week described the Foundation, the University’s largest donor, as an “eyesore to the community,” citing a “culture of secrecy and lack of transparency” at the Foundation.

Benz also reflects the view of some Louisville real estate developers who have expressed competitive concerns about the Foundation’s  development efforts, intended to offset the State cuts  to the University’s budget.

“The Foundation at some point forgot its mission and instead got caught up in the allure of real estate to the detriment of the endowment and the university,” Benz said.

Not a coincidence that local developer and trustee Craig Greenberg, who has been a vocal critic of former President Jim Ramsey, was standing directly in back of Benz at the press briefing. Greenberg is a business partner to Steve Wilson, a developer and former trustee, who has also been critical, suggesting that the Foundation be folded into the University.

Exactly what Benz wants to accomplish at the Friday meeting is uncertain. What is obvious, however, is that emotions are running high on both sides, the University board and the Foundation.

“Our foundation has multiple subsidiaries, holding companies and single-purpose entities that make absolutely no sense,” Benz said. “So, forensic accounting expertise is needed to navigate this complex weave that the foundation has created over the last several years.”

Bob Hughes, who chairs the Foundation and is a University board member, hopes a lawsuit can be avoided. “I think reasonable people sitting around a table can come up with reasonable answers without the benefit of a lawsuit,” he said.

That appears to be a long shot, with some members of the University board apparently focused on just sending Ramsey packing, without any additional recognition, financial or otherwise, for his tenure at the University of Louisville.

Update: The scheduled meeting between the UofL and ULF boards has been cancelled.

 

One step forward for UofL Trustees, another step back

Acting President Neville Pinto is flanked by board members Doug Hall and Larry Benz.
Acting President Neville Pinto is flanked by board members Doug Hall and Larry Benz.

Some good things occurred at the specially-called meeting of the “old” Board of Trustees of the University of Louisville on Thursday. The gut feeling from this observer, however, was that more than a little ill will was simmering beneath the surface.

The board approved a $548.3 million budget, which included a 5% tuition increase while allowing student who complete 30 hours of credit to receive a 5% credit to be applied to the following year’s tuition.  As a concession to some board members, however, the budget included a freeze on tuition for the 2017-18 budget.  A finance subcommittee had earlier rejected the proposed tuition increase in the current budget.

Acting President Neville Pinto reported that student enrollment at UofL will be approximately 21,500 for the fall semester. The figure includes 2,900 incoming freshmen with an ACT test score average of 25.5 and a cumulative high school grade point average of 3.6, with 465 of them qualifying for the honors program.

The meeting ended on a down note when Chairman Larry Benz reported that he has yet to obtain information about a $38 million loan from the University to the UofL Foundation without board approvals.

Jason Tomlinson, chief financial officer for the Foundation, has described the loan as a “receivable agreement,” benefitting both the University and the Foundation. Specifically, the loan was made to the UofL Real Estate Foundation, an arm of the Foundation.

“It was all done to benefit the university,” he told WDRB TV.

Benz, the on-again, off-again Chairman, wants to see the records himself, not trusting the previous administration, continuing to add to the friction between the various factions.

Here’s a video of the board meeting, excluding the closed sessions for litigation and personnel issues

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A recent Courier-Journal story reporting that new offices were being created for former President Jim Ramsey and Chief of Staff Kathleen Smith at the UofL Foundation was in error.

That’s according to Ms. Smith, who reported that the offices were for current Foundation staffers David James, Jake Robertson and David Adams.

The CJ story also suggested that board approval was required for office preparations. That would be a first for most organizations and businesses.

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Andrew Wolfson, who covers the University of Louisville for the CJ, has a son who attends UofL.