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.”

Andy Beshear poking around again in UofL issues

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.

Andy Beshear usually makes things worse when he gets involved in UofL issues.

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.

Independence and challenges for UofL

Photo by Barbara Springer.

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.