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.

*   *   *

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

Adversity takes back seat to Jurich at University of Louisville

When he’s announcing a contract extension for one of his coaches, Tom Jurich often says he likes to judge people on how they handle adversity. The University of Louisville athletic director has been quite adept at negotiating through tough times himself lately.

At the Bobby Petrino press conference,  Jurich said he was most impressed with how Petrino handled himself when his team was 0-3 at the beginning of the 2015 season.

Tom Jurich and Matt Thornton at ribbon cutting for the Thornton's Academic Center for Excellence.
Tom Jurich and Matt Thornton at ribbon cutting for the Thornton’s Academic Center for Excellence.

“We were winless and the ship could have gone in a much different direction,” said Jurich. “Bobby kept everybody together, kept the kids’ heads raised up high, with great attitudes, and we finished very strong, beating Texas A&M in that bowl game. I really look to evaluate people when the chips are down.”

Like when there seems to be a dark cloud hovering over Belknap Campus for a while now. A time that creates uncertainty on many fronts, that would not surprisingly pose a severe test of loyalty from an individual as highly respected as Tom Jurich nationally.

The local newspaper, knowing UofL is popular with its readers, has become predictable lately, posting any and all bad news about UofL on the front page.  Issues like a dysfunctional board of trustees. the dumping of one board for another, employee thefts and lawsuits, the NCAA investigation of the basketball program, the state audit of the UofL Foundation, a President who defied the media and was forced to resign, and, most recently, the announcement of IRS investigations.

Continue reading “Adversity takes back seat to Jurich at University of Louisville”

Louisville’s academic center for athletes raises the bar

Marvin Mitchell visited numerous academic centers across the nation in recent years, anticipating the day when the new Thornton’s Center for Academic Excellence would open at the University of Louisville.

Marvin Mitchell gives Center an A-plus.
Marvin Mitchell gives Center an A-plus.

Mitchell, senior associate athletic director for student services and diversity, was strongly encouraged by his boss Tom Jurich to return with the best ideas, add them to his own and incorporate them into the plan.

The culmination of his efforts arrived Wednesday and Mitchell is confident that he will be overseeing the best-equipped athletic academic center in the country. “This is a huge deal, for these kids to have this kind of space, you have no idea,” he said. “We have worked hard to make this one of the premier programs in the country for academic success.”

In addition to enhancing academics, Mitchell believes the new center will be a valuable recruiting tool. “We want parents who accompany recruits on their visits and after talking with our academic staff to say ‘we’re coming’ before they see the football facility or the basketball court. We want to seal the deal with academics.”

AC - AuditoriumNow in his 15th year at UofL, Mitchell has oversight of academic services, student services, continuing eligibility and student-athlete programming. Academic success for student-athletes has flourished, with the cumulative average of Louisville athletes exceeding 3.0 for 10 straight semesters.

The brightly-lit 43,000-square-foot facility contains numerous variations and combination of study and leisure space, including private study space and larger space for groups.

A massive artistic video wall greets visitors upon entry in the Republic Bank Atrium.  A 204-seat auditorium is equipped with a high definition 18.5 feet by 10.5 feet screen. A cafeteria will make it easy for the athletes to adhere to training table requirements. An Adidas lounge is provided for breaks between tutoring and studies.AC - Cafeteria 2

“It may be the finest facility that we’ve built and certainly one of the most important projects we’ve taken on during my time at Louisville,” said Jurich.

Here’s a video tour hosted by Kyle Bolin:

Cardinal Caravan gives way to Summer Festival

Cardinal Caravan has apparently gone the way of the Cardinals Summer Festival. Nobody will be able to tell the difference.

University of Louisville coaches, student-athletes, spirit groups and athletic staff members will interact with UofL fans Tuesday, Aug. 16 at 6 p.m. at Captain’s Quarters Riverside Grille.

Football schedule posters and fall sports schedule cards will be provided. 

The free event will include raffle prizes, playground inflatables for children, photo opportunities, additional games, and a question and answer session featuring multiple UofL head coaches.