J. Bruce Miller Rears His Head Again

Editor’s Note: The subject of this article has responded to Card Game, suggesting that a pro basketball franchise may be in the tea leaves for Freedom Hall. See comments for his response.

By Charles Springer

J. Bruce Miller is a name all alumni and fans of the University of Louisville should put at the top of their public enemies list. The former Jefferson County Attorney and head of a law firm that bears his name has apparently made it one of his missions in life to disparage local institutions, especially the University of Louisville.

Miller wants professional basketball even if it's at the expense of University of Louisville basketball. From all indications, he would love to permanently derail the program.

Miller, you may recall, has been at the forefront of several moves to attract a professional basketball franchise to Louisville. He believes a pro franchise is essential to promoting a “progressive” image for the community, thinking it will attract “young professionals” to the community. He wants professional basketball even if it’s at the expense of U of L basketball. From all indications, he would love to permanently derail the program.

Miller’s bitterness resurfaced once again this week in a strange article that appeared in the Opinion section of the Courier-Journal where he goes to great lengths to berate U of L (link):

A significant number of the University of Louisville’s student body matriculates from this abysmal Jefferson County public school system. For the last decade, the U.S. News & World Report’s annual university ranking places that university’s undergraduate academic program as a third-tier American university somewhere between 125th and 175th in the nation.

Its specialized academic programs don’t fare any better. Its locally vaunted medical school isn’t ranked, nor is its engineering or business school. Its law school stands at 98th out of 100 American law schools, and its School of Education is 71st (before its dean was recently indicted on charges of thieving public funds). Yet a member of the local university’s board of trustees has recently encouraged a renewal of the president’s contract, as one of the nation’s highest paid public university presidents.

Miller was among those who attached themselves to former Governor John Y. Brown, Jr. when he owned the old Kentucky Colonels’ American Basketball Association franchise. That group had an opportunity when the ABA folded in the late 70’s to get a Louisville team in the NBA for $2 million — a bargain basement price by today’s standards but they passed. Miller, for one, apparently has never gotten over it. A few years ago when the city was making a bid for another NBA franchise, U of L did not want to be part of an arena if the program didn’t have scheduling priority. The effort failed as a result, and Miller has never gotten over that.

What the Vanderbilt grad conveniently fails to mention in his diatribe is that University of Louisville’s School of Business has been ranked in the nation’s top 10 in terms of entrepreneurship. Nor does he acknowledge U of L’s leading role in heart transplant surgery, groundbreaking efforts in hand transplants, or the discovery of a vaccine for uterine cancer. Without getting into a laundry list, it’s obvious that Miller was ignoring a lot of facts in his attack.

There are at least 2,500 public and private universities in the United States. While U of L may never be a Harvard, a Yale or an MIT, the university has distinguished itself in many ways that will never be acknowledged by some. The academic community in general is as clannish and snobbish as it gets, and rankings in publications are based as much on out-of-date stereotypes as they are facts.

Watch for Miller to surface again with plans for a pro franchise when the new downtown arena is completed.

A major portion of Miller’s piece is his outrage on the emphasis on diversity rather than a focus on strengthening neighborhood schools. Mr. Miller inexcusably forgets that the federal courts mandated forced busing in 1975. The local school system had no choice. None. Review the court’s decision. Please.

J. Bruce Miller seems to be bitter, a cynical person with large chips on both shoulders. He left town to get his education and that makes him a self-proclaimed expert. He’s had surprising success for a person with his demeanor and it has gone to his head, probably explaining his narrow-minded approach to local issues. What’s really surprising is that the Courier-Journal would give him a forum for his views.

Miller will probably never admit his pro basketball frustration but it bothers him. Greatly. Watch for him to surface again with plans for a pro franchise when the new downtown arena is completed. Sorry, J. Bruce, but U of L will have priority scheduling rights. It’s in the contract, as if that means anything to you.

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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.

10 thoughts on “J. Bruce Miller Rears His Head Again

  • June 29, 2009 at 11:01 am

    it seems some are so blind-sighted, that they take offence, to reality. such is your uptick on what is and has been well known in our community. mr. miller only stated facts, that even you cannot refute. therefore you respond with bashing the writer, and not the content. i am not a writer, but i am a u ofl fan. i do take offense, when you take a stand against the truth of which he spoke. one thing you cannot change no matter who you are and that ls , truth, even when it hurts. i bet you weren’t bused to school 12 years of your life.

    • June 29, 2009 at 11:11 am

      He left out quite a few facts on the positive side in a blatant attempt to give the university of black eye. He also failed to mention that the university denied him his dream of having a stake in another pro franchise. Let’s be honest here, and what part of federal court order do you not understand?

  • June 29, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Mr. Springer:
    If, instead of falling off your bridge, you would have dwelled a moment on what I wrote, you would realize that my remarks about the local university were designed to indicate that IT, TOO, has been damaged by the incredibly deficient academic programs in the local public school system. I’m fully aware that the local university has contributed much to Louisville. However, its academic rankings have fallen off the end of the table, and I believe that one of the major reasons is the local school system — which provides the majority of its students.
    With regard to the NBA in Louisville, rest assured that it will come here AND it will play in a remodeled and packed house at Freedom Hall (thereby not interfering with the local university) and, when that time comes – I believe if you’d ask Mr. Pitino’s players their thoughts, they would WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE that they love the NBA in Louisville, because that’s their dream.
    Lastly, if I might make a suggestion — it would be that you calm down, take a swig of a summer quaff and find somebody else to get excited about …

    Good Luck Charlie.

    • June 29, 2009 at 1:36 pm

      Mr. Miller: Thanks for the quick response and the scoop on your intention to get an NBA franchise for Freedom Hall. A challenging distraction given your recently expressed concern for education issues. It’s easy to attack education, it’s popular and everybody everywhere makes education a scapegoat for society’s problems. Your concern for neighborhood schools has been an anxiety since court-ordered busing began in 1975. I’m just wondering, however, how many local leaders actually send their children to public schools.

      On the other hand, the tipoff about your disdain for college basketball came in the next to last paragraph in the newspaper article, the point where you make fun of local fans about worrying “whether John Calapari is stealing Rick Pitino’s thunder.” The rivalry between U of L and UK is clearly divisive, but, as you point out, it should not overshadow the need for improvements in the education system. Thanks for reminding us of the seriousness of this issue. Encouraging to see you speaking out.

  • June 29, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Mr. Miller reminds me of good ol’ Jim ‘Pop’ Malone. Miller says an NBA team would attract “young professionals.” I wonder if those young professionals would pay $70 a game for a seat in the nose-bleed section for 41 games a year. Clearly, Miller’s boy hood dream of getting an NBA team here has failed numerous times. No one need to look any further than Memphis or Indianapolis for how those cities are struggling with their NBA teams financially. They were struggling before the bottom fell out of the economy.

  • June 29, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Mr. Springer: Thanks for toning down some of the venom in your original comments during in your reply comments to my observation. I’m not near the villain you would believe or want to believe. As a matter of fact, I’ve owned 4 mid-court seats 7 rows up from the floor in Row G at FHall since I returned from Vanderbilt in 1966. I doubt there’s many folks who can say that. I represented Wes Cox, Allen Murphy, and a number of other UL players in their professional careers. Further my son, Jamie, turned down multiple golf scholarships to accept one from John Dromo and played 1st man for four years. My daughter, Alexis, obtained her undergrad, masters and PhD. degrees in Criminal Justice at UL. The last 15-20 years have found a huge (and noticeable) drop in the quality of the university’s academic programs — and it’s primarily due to the limited education the kids are receiving in the local school system. Ask the profs out at the campus and 70% of them will agree with me. So — trying to encourage the community to ‘change’ that public school system shouldn’t require that I be a villain (in my opinion. Thanks

    • June 29, 2009 at 5:16 pm

      Bruce, hopefully your efforts will result in some constructive discussion and positive improvements. This, of course, is a U of L sports blog and that’s our major focus. As a Louisville alumnus and fan, I tend to be protective of the university and am proud of the role it plays in this community.

      Also, my wife taught in the public schools for 28 years and I know she and fellow teachers were instrumental in turning out some good people who have gone to fine schools, including U of L, and are making some great contributions to the community and beyond.

      Thanks for your many contributions as well, and good luck on acquiring a pro franchise.

  • June 29, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Mr. Miller’s heart may have been in the right place but you can bet that a clipping of his article winds up in the arsenal of competing recruiters to be used against U of L. It would have been good to mention some of the positives, such as the McConnell Center, which attracts many of the city and state’s brightest students to Louisville.

    • June 29, 2009 at 6:35 pm

      Get us a WNBA franchise in here…I miss Angel.

  • June 30, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Mr. Springer: I am looking forward to Louisville having a professional basketball franchise. Professional theater is better than college theater. Professional violin playing is better than student violin playing. In almost all areas, professional is better than amateur.

    My wife and I will purchase two season tickets to attend games played here by a professional Louisville basketball team.

    Cordially, John Little

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