Tyra leaves no doubt he’s in charge of Louisville athletics

One has to be impressed with Vince Tyra in his capacity as Interim Athletic Director when it comes to  managing issues. All business, straightforward, unapologetic about wanting what’s best for the University of Louisville. A calm force in the midst of the storm.

Tyra may never completely win over a segment of the UofL fan base. Primarily because he replaced Tom Jurich, one of the most popular administrators in UofL’s history. But if Tyra remains as open as he was in Thursday’s press conference, he will have earned their respect at a critical time for the school.

Vince Tyra prefers facts to second-guessing, updating fans on developments in UofL Athletic Department (Charlie Springer photo).

The son of a former UofL All-America basketball player, Tyra seems to be keenly aware of the concerns of fans and supporters. This is a vital quality, given the priority of the Board of Trustees in managing finances. He’s qualified on several fronts — he’s a lifelong fan, a major donor and an executive who has successfully managed numerous businesses.

Tyra’s current challenge, in a job that is likely to become permanent in March, may well be his biggest ever, maintaining a program that has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two decades. Restoring confidence won’t be easy for a fan base that has been brought to its knees by the scandals involving the school’s administration, a premier basketball program, and abrupt dismissals of popular employees.

The job is made even more difficult with the absence of open leadership from J. David Grissom, the Trustee Chairman, who seemingly operates in a vacuum. Grissom keeps everyone guessing about his goals for the University, either believing people will inherently trust him and assume that he knows what’s best for the school. That hasn’t worked out well for Grissom, with some observers suspicious of his motives and apprehensive about his real leadership qualities.

Doubtful he would have taken the job if he thought there was an agenda to diminish Louisville athletics.

Tyra, on the other hand, is candid when it comes to addressing the issues and his aspirations for the athletic department. Noting that the recent dismissal of three key employees, including Mark Jurich, was aimed at reducing costs and making the department more efficient. He also took a $350,000 decrease in salary, putting him more in line with other athletic directors in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

He also took advantage of the press conference to clarify that the expansion of the football stadium would add 6,000 seats instead of 10,000 as publicized for the last three years. It was an admission directly addressing what could have become another embarrassing issue later. A get the facts, deal with them publicly, put them in the past approach.

As for UofL remaining competitive, Tyra has taken steps to ensure stability in the coaching ranks, extending the contracts of Soccer Coach Ken Lolla for five years, Women’s Soccer Coach Karen Ferguson-Deyes for two more years, and Volleyball Coach Dani Busboom Kelly for another year. He will, however, wait until the end of the basketball season before making a decision about that position.

One gets the impression that Tyra is in total charge of the athletic department. He is not looking over his shoulder, worried about either Grissom or Interim President Greg Postel. Doubtful he would have taken the job if he thought there was an agenda to diminish Louisville athletics.

If there is a concern, it would be that Tyra is more of a business person than a people person. Unlike his predecessor, he will never win people over with his love for the University, but selling them on the school from a business perspective.

Tom Jurich’s approach worked well, moving UofL out of the shadows of the also-rans into national contenders in so many different sports. He built all the necessary facilities, enlarged the fan base, and greatly enhanced the brand name. His low-key approach worked well in gaining friends and supporters of the program.

Tyra doesn’t have to concern himself about building new facilities, and the fan base has been so strong. He  can focus on maintaining and building upon what has been accomplished. But first, he must go about earning the confidence of fans and donors and restoring faith in the leadership of the athletic department. He seems well on his way those objectives. Not there yet, but getting there.

Tom Jurich should be there for first game in expanded PCJS

Tom Jurich watches as his son, Mark, announces the Thornton’s sponsorship of the Academic Center in 2013 (Charlie Springer photos).

The massive edifice of the north end zone expansion at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium is impressive. Even more so under the lights during a recent home game. A striking preview into the future of University of Louisville football.

When viewing the concrete and steel framework, it’s impossible not to think about Tom Jurich’s impact on the University.  Making UofL athletics nationally competitive in almost every sport, consistently among the top 20 in basketball, baseball, soccer and football.

One has to regret that Tom, who had the vision and the optimism to tackle the project, will probably not be on hand for the official opening on the stadium, which is scheduled Sept. 9, 2018.

Of all the projects TJ has undertaken, this may have been the one he wanted the most. The expansion will be a stunning addition to the stadium,  with the addition of 10,000 seats, including 1,000 club seats, 70 premium boxes and 12 exclusive field-level suites.

One is optimistic that Tom’s son, Mark Jurich, will be an integral part of the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and for the opening home game. Tom had put him in charge of the project, fundraising and all, and he appears to be right on target in terms of fundraising and construction.

What would make the event even more special would be for Tom Jurich there as well. Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra has said Tom is a good friend and he greatly admires what he accomplished at UofL. Tyra should do everything he can do to make that happen.

Negatives just kept adding up for Kellie Young

Quite frankly I was under the impression that Kellie Young’s problems as coach of the University of Louisville lacrosse team had gone away since she was first accused of being overly aggressive in applying discipline back in 2014.

Apparently not, not with reports that at least 15 members of the team had transferred or left the team in the past eight months.   She had also been sued by a former player who had become physically ill, passing out during a practice session.

All the problems attracting too much attention. Young was fired Monday by Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra. She started the program from scratch, compiling a 106-68 won-lost record in 10 seasons. It was time for her to go.

Her dismissal coming just days after the conclusion of the 2017 season in which UofL had an 11-8 record, making its fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

While building a winning program, Young obviously missed opportunities to instill loyalty and trust from players and their parents. Too many distractions on and off the field.

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.