The bucolic setting at the entrance to the University of Louisville belies uncertainty on the campus (Charlie Springer photo).

Hiring new President must come first at UofL

We have to quit meeting like this.

Once again the University of Louisville is on the precipice. Having lost another basketball coach, after losing another athletic director, and losing another University president. Less than six years after going through eerily similar circumstances on Belknap Campus. So much uncertainty, so unnecessary.

The natural tendency is to want to assign blame. UofL athletics, despite what was happening on the administrative front, was hugely successful in 2016. The school had just joined the Atlantic Coast Conference two years earlier, competing for conference championships in basketball, football, baseball, men’s soccer, volleyball and field hockey. Attendance records being set in every sport and the financial coffers overflowing.

But because David Grissom was appointed to chairman of the Board of Trustees, the school would wind up firing Tom Jurich, the most successful athletic director in UofL’s history. On the same day that Rick Pitino was fired as basketball coach. Also. over an extended period, running down the reputation of Jim Ramsey who had overseen phenomenal growth at the school.

Bendapudi not up for the job at Louisville, leaving overnight, gone the next day after getting the offer. Now she’s lost in the bureaucracy at Penn State, just another in a long line of administrators, probably never to be heard from again.

Grissom and company entrusting the future of the school in the hands of Neeli Bendapudi. The future looked good with Bendapudi pledging to make UofL one of the nation’s most distinguished research universities. A chance for her to build a legacy, to demonstrate her leadership abilities by transforming UofL.

She must have doubted her own abilities, because she jumped at a chance to be the president at Penn State University. Not up for the job at Louisville, leaving overnight, gone the next day after getting the offer. Now she’s lost in the bureaucracy at Penn State, just another in a long line of administrators, probably never to be heard from again. Never the best choice for UofL.

Before she left, however, Bendapudi was perceived to be interfering with Vince Tyra’s decisions as they related to the football and basketball coaches. Understandable if Bendapudi felt no loyalty to any of them since she was not involved in their selections. Tyra had been named by Grissom, Tyra had selected Scott Satterfield and Chris Mack. Planning her exit carefully so that Tyra was out of a job at Louisville while missing out on an opportunity at Florida State.

So now UofL is again operating under an interim president, an interim athletic director, and an interim basketball coach. Plus a football coach desperately seeking to ensure his future with wholesale shakeups on his coaching staff. Again, so much uncertainty, so unnecessary.

The most logical next step would be to identify a new University president as soon as possible. That individual should be able to make the decision about the next athletic director. Two jobs requiring strong leadership abilities, but with the potential of clashing personalities. Just as was evidence with Bendapudi and Tyra. It just makes more sense to hire the president and to allow that individual to make the final decision on an athletic director.

That’s not immediately obvious to basketball fans who will be spending the next several weeks and months speculating over the choice of a new basketball coach. Lots of potential problems if the new basketball coach has been involved in questionable recruiting practices at their former schools. Bruce Pearl, for example, has had NCAA run-ins at Tennessee and Auburn. Kenny Payne, although a UofL alumnus, had been involved with “innovative recruiting” approaches at the University of Kentucky. The potential for future problems should be obvious.

Going to require loads of patience from UofL supporters for the foreseeable future. We have to get it right or we’ll be meeting like this all over again. Doesn’t have to happen. UofL absolutely has to make the right choice for president this time around.

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

9 thoughts on “Hiring new President must come first at UofL

  • January 26, 2022 at 12:21 pm
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    Yes, but….are Cards fans, indeed the entire UofL community, and not just the athletics supporters, willing to be patient? We have become so accustomed to fame and glory on the playing fields as well as in academics that we expect instant success. We cut no slack for restraint and composure. In Pitino’s words, we are a microwave society now. Get’er done or Get out.

  • January 26, 2022 at 12:52 pm
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    I continue to read your posts even though I haven’t commented in a while. I would not agree more with you about Neeli Bendapudi not being up for the job. She was more look where I am in accepting the Penn State job rather what I can do at Louisville. I strongly doubted her judgement when she accused the Louisville police of murdering what’s her name. That’s clearly stupidly for a university president to be subverting the criminal justice system like that. Good riddance to her ass.

  • January 26, 2022 at 12:59 pm
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    Agree with everything except part of the take on Neeli. It’s a pretty big honor to become president of a (depending on who does the rankings) Top 25 public university in the country. It’s hard to fault her for moving up.

    • January 26, 2022 at 1:43 pm
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      Bigger challenge at UofL, bigger accomplishment than just maintaining a top 25 university. Need to get someone truly committed to Louisville next time. How to identify someone like that is the big question. Maybe someone older who doesn’t have anything to prove or is not going to jump at the next shiny object.

  • January 26, 2022 at 3:46 pm
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    There really isn’t enough time to wait on a president to be hired . We need a new coach in place by March/April when coaches’ seasons start ending and they can be plucked ASAP.

    Pearl/Muss/Payne are all at the top of the wishlist.

    • January 26, 2022 at 7:04 pm
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      That does seem to be the direction in which UofL is headed, according to the interim athletic director. Let’s just hope we’re not going back to the well again in a couple of years. We can only stand so much adversity.

  • January 29, 2022 at 8:06 am
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    Hard to say as a life-long passionate Cardinal fan and alumnus, but UofL has worn me out. I’ll still watch from time-to-time and appreciate the teams and students, but my feelings about the university have completely changed. It’s sad that I’m not planning where to watch today’s game with other Naples Card fans. Nobody has called or emailed; I don’t think I’m alone.

  • January 29, 2022 at 1:59 pm
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    I am watching the second half of the Duke game right now. And while I can and never will pull for the Cardinals to lose, the thought crossed my mind leading up to this game. Not as some form of punishment, or because I think it would be any proof that the Coach wasn’t the problem. But, because I know the fault with our play wasn’t just a coaching matter and a win would be all the evidence the ignorant need to pile in Coach Mack.
    Maybe Chris Mack wasn’t the right man at this time. He seems like a good man and his resume says he knows basketball. But, sometimes that isn’t enough.
    But, for me the moment I knew this team was in trouble is the first time I saw Samuel Williamson wipe his hands on the bottom of his sneakers while the ball was in play. (Today West did it too). To me that one little thing said it all. It said this team isn’t worried about anything, they think they have it all figured out. That was the cool thing players did a couple decades ago. I say, if you’re going to be cool first be able to back it up.
    I am fine with leaving Mike Pegues as our permanent interim Coach until the Administration personnel decisions have been made. Let the next leadership of the University select the next athletic department personnel. Makes sense.
    I’ll add two names to the list of potential Coaches, Ed Cooley and Wes Unseld Jr.

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