Tom Jurich: Blame or Credit?

The environment surrounding the U of L football program is a painful reminder that many sports fans are woefully shortsighted. The same fans who were calling for Rick Pitino’s head a few months ago now want Steve Kragthorpe gone. Some are even questioning Tom Jurich’s abilities.

Nothing unique about this situation. Fan bases are pretty much the same everywhere, including many duplicitous, selfish and unforgiving people. Win, they’re with you. Lose, they doubt you. Winning, it’s us. Losing, it’s them and the piling on is malicious.

Less than a year ago, the U of L basketball team lost consecutive games to Kentucky and Massachusetts and another one a few games later to Notre Dame. Even an NIT invite was in doubt. The criticism of Pitino was so great that Tom Jurich felt compelled to defend him. It all went away when the team got back on the winning track.

Football season, and here we are again. Fans are up in arms, demanding explanations. Never mind that seven starters, including three now in the NFL, are gone. Never mind that several players have been dismissed for disciplinary problems. They argue that U of L had a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback and deeper talent than any team in the school’s history.

I saw the Orange Bowl game in person. U of L did not trounce Wake Forest. In fact, the Wake Forest defense kept us bottled up most of the game. Without a trick play and a last minute interception, the outcome could have been far different. But U of L won. The struggle is a distant memory.

Would Petrino have done better this year? Maybe so, maybe not. I can guarantee, however, that the very same people would be outraged. With some fans the way they are, small wonder Petrino treated the fan base they way he did, and John L. Smith before him.

The important thing to keep in mind is that Tom Jurich is the same person who made all the Liberty Bowl, Gator Bowl and Orange Bowl appearances possible. He’s the guy who hired a baseball coach that took U of L to the College World Series in his first year. His foresight made entry into the Big East Conference possible. He has made great coaching hires and delivered an incredible number of first class athletic facilities to Belknap Campus. And don’t forget the new downtown basketball arena that will symbolize just how much this community treasures U of L athletics.

Tom is not going to come out and detail the problems in the football program, some of which may have been festering during the Petrino years. Just not going to happen. He endures these concerns day after day, dedicating his life to the athletic program. He feels it in his gut in disappointing times, even more so in football because that’s his first love.

Someone said we as a fan base will ultimately be judged by how we conduct ourselves during times of adversity. Lot of truth in that. Meanwhile, now is the best time for fans to appreciate Tom Jurich for everything he has done for the athletic program. He will do what is best for football. You can count on that.

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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.

3 thoughts on “Tom Jurich: Blame or Credit?

  • October 24, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    A little humility never hurts a fan base. We will be okay in the long run with some changes in the coaching staff. The coaching transition occurred too quickly, I think as a result of fans and administrators wanting to hang on to some of the old coaches and not make too many changes all at once. In retrospect, that was probably the biggest mistake that occurred. Kragthorpe should have taken more time to ensure he got the right people in the right spots. It was a tough spot for him. Hopefully, he is as good as Tom Jurich thinks he is.

  • October 25, 2007 at 12:19 am

    Well, obviously, Jurich has done an outstanding job — so far — but, for this observer, the Jurich “jury is still out.” We should not proclaim him to be a living legend until we are able to review his entire tenure at Louisville.

    Wasn’t it a bit premature to induct Jurich into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006? He may well live up to that lifetime recognition, typically reserved for those who have completed their athletic accomplishments, but couldn’t it have waited until the conclusion of his career at U of L?

    Yes, U of L has made great strides, in great part due to Jurich, but he is getting almost a half million dollars in base salary for his trouble — with another raise now in the works. If, as he is quick to point out, his success is a “team effort” then how about his entire staff getting the same percentage raise that he will be awarded soon? Seems reasonable to me.

    Of course, we are delighted to have him, but his canonization can wait until his record of achievement is complete.

  • October 25, 2007 at 1:14 am

    Thanks for your comments, anonymous. You make some good points. I think Tom has accomplished so many things here in such a short period of time that you can’t help but be impressed. I would hate to have follow in his footsteps.

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