Tom Jurich wanted to talk University of Louisville athletic issues at the annual fundraising event of the Central Cardinal Club and a crowd of approximately 250 fans Tuesday at the PNC Club. He had tons of information, and he wasn’t going to sit down until he answered every question about an hour and a half later.
Jurich was revved up, excited to be talking about a job he loves, touching on almost every sport, every facility and the coaching staff he has assembled. “With all the facilities, we want people on the interstate to look over at our campus and say ‘wow!,” he said at one point. “The wow factor is very important.”
Conference Affiliation: “Where we will end up, your guess is as good as mine … This is a great institution … All we can do is take care of ourselves, be the best we can be, stay humble and hungry and do everything we do with class and integrity. If we do all those things, it will pay off. If someone says to me we are stuck in this league, I say to them the ones who are stuck are the people who don’t have a league. We have a nice home. I want to make sure if we do move that it’s for the right reasons.”
TV Negotiations: “I think it’s going to a be rather large number. Whether that will stop the (Big East) bleeding, I don’t know … We got to make the Big East the best it can be … Everything is dictated by television sets and cable. Our last commissioner had a great vision in adding Dallas, San Diego, Houston, Orlando, Philadelphia and other markets … We’re not considered a big market in Louisville. The thing we can provide is competitive teams, fantastic facilities, we’re a college-only town. A lot teams in leagues are lucky they’re grandfathered in. If we started fresh, UofL would be in great shape.”
Upgrading the football schedule: “The most challenging part of my job. We’re trying to be aggressive and have a lot of feelers out there. Right now if you’re good nobody wants to play you, if we’re bad we don’t play them. We’re in good negotiations right now. What I really want to do is schedule Indiana. It would be a great friendly rivalry. We play them in all other sports.”
He also indicated that the new BCS playoff system may help to attract big name opponents because of the selection committee addition. But under no circumstances does he intend to deviate from his policy of not accepting two-for-one scheduling against traditional powers. “That would be huge step backward for the football program,” he said.
On retaining successful football coaches: “We can’t do anything to hold them back. This is America. They’re free to move. The first thing we try to do is to make this the most attractive job in the country. I’ve entertained many offers as athletic director. I look at them and that’s enough … This job is about much more than a paycheck, it’s about where you live. What I will say about any of these coaches is they have to make the decision do they want to be here. We can only do so much. I will pay, I will match, I will do anything I have to do. Charlie Strong is the ninth highest paid coach in the country. I try to do everything we can possibly do. The ultimate decision is what does he want to do. I heard all the lines from Bobby (Petrino). I heard all the lines from John L. (Smith) … I think Charlie is very happy here but I thought Bobby was extremely happy here. That tells you how stupid I was. I thought John L was very happy here … The final decision is up to the individual.
NBA Franchise Pursuit: That’s out of our hands. The Mayor has a task force looking at it. We have a contract and we’re gong to abide by our contract. When we wrote the contract there was nobody jumping up and down saying boy, UofL has a hell of a deal. They were all looking at me as if I was crazy for being so ambitious, so aggressive and making promises we weren’t going to be able to keep. We’ve been able to keep all of them .. If they want to move us back to campus, we’ll be more than happy to do that. Our original dream was to build it where those silos are, on 13 acres instead of six acres down there. We were team players and we honored the wishes of the city leaders because wanted to revitalize the downtown area. It’s a tremendous building, it’s perfect. The thing that bothers me is let’s don’t change the game plan when we’re in it.
Rick Pitino: “When I first hired him, everybody told me he was a jumper, that he wouldn’t be here long … but he’s been here for more than 10 years now and he’s extremely happy in Louisville. He’s the most energetic 60-year-old person I’ve ever known … When times were tough at the end of the season last season, he remained optimistic and upbeat and that translated to the players and look where they wound up … I’m extremely excited about where we are this season.”
Soccer: “Look at what Ken Lolla has done with the soccer program. You go anywhere in this country and talk about soccer and people know about Ken. He’s got an extremely young team this year, a lot of obstacles. That doesn’t phase him a bit. He take a loss and turns it into a positive and comes back and beats No. 10 St. John’s. What he has accomplished here in past seven years has been incredible … We’re going to build the finest soccer stadium that has ever been built in college sports I promise you. We’re really close to getting our plans finalized. We’re working with the city to get Churchill Park to go along with the project, upgrade the park and turn it a into a great practice facility with Astroturf and a multipurpose facility to serve the youth of our community. We hope that works out.”
Baseball: “We’re in the midst of expansion right now. It will be open by opening day in mid-February and it will be phenomenal, doubling the seating capacity and with a bunch more amenities. It’s the first project on our agenda because we had to beat the weather … We sent 10 kids this summer to play in the Cape Cod League, which everybody knows is the No. 1 summer league. It’s going to be very exciting season.
Academic Center (attached to Papa John’s): “It will be built beneath the terrace. My biggest mistake was not making the terrace three times as big as I did. The most popular thing we ever built was the terrace, which will serve as the roof of the academic center. It will be all glass, over 40,000 square feet, facing toward Central Avenue and over to Churchill Downs. Hopefully that will be a state of the art facility as well.”
Jurich had more to say about other issues, which will be covered in an upcoming post.