Sadly, a small group of University of Louisville football fans believes Tom Jurich owes them an apology for a few comments. Yes, that Tom Jurich, the vice president of athletics, the person who over the last dozen years has made Louisville a major player across the board in NCAA athletics.

We’ll rehash the comments later. Suffice it for now to conclude that a boisterous minority insults the collective intelligence of the Louisville fan base. Before TJ’s arrival in 1997, Louisville was still considered by some outsiders to be a mid-major school, even in basketball with two national championships.

Tom Jurich
Tom Jurich

Juirch’s most significant accomplishment was getting Louisville into the Big East Conference, elevating the program’s national stature and improving scheduling for all sports programs on Belknap Campus.

Integral to his efforts was completion of the Owsley Frazier Cardinal Sports Park, which was very much still in the blue-sky dreaming stage in 1997. Yes, Bill Olson had the blueprints and the vision, but the project was very much in limbo after completion of the women’s softball stadium.

Fast forward to today. A year from now, U of L basketball will move into a $238 million downtown basketball arena in downtown Louisville, underscoring his vision of the importance of the university’s athletic program to the community. Jim Host’s involvement has been absolutely critical but without Jurich’s involvement, the project would still be a distant dream.

The hiring of Rick Pitino as men’s basketball coach was initially considered a pipe dream, becoming a reality only because of TJ’s persistence. His hirings in other sports have led to an unprecedented number of U of L appearances in NCAA post season play, most notably baseball and women’s basketball.


As for football, Jurich brought in John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino, making it possible to aspire to the highest levels of college football. Multiple appearances in the Liberty Bowl. Then on to the GMAC Bowl, the Motor City Bowl, the Gator Bowl, and a win in the BCS Orange Bowl..

Pre-Tom Jurich, followers of Louisville football could never in their wildest dreams, despite Howard Schnellenberger’s promises, have realistically envisioned U of L being among the nation’s top 10 football programs for two consecutive seasons, let alone a viable contender for the national championship game in 2006.

Success, however, does strange things to some fans. After following a team through thick and thin for decades, fans were ecstatic that the football program had finally arrived in 2006. How sweet it was until Petrino deserted the program just two days after the Orange Bowl victory.

Three seasons later, the football program appears to be churning aimlessly in a downward spiral. The fan base is disheartened, sensing little chance of a turnaround. The athletic director, while recognizing the frustration of fans, is also cognizant of the feeling that it would be unprofessional to fire a coach after two seasons. Defending the decision to retain Steve Kragthorpe, he says something about fans expecting to go to the Orange Bowl every week and people outside of Louisville knowing that Kragthorpe is a great coach.

Not the best way to placate angry football fans. But one must face facts. Jurich probably made the Orange Bowl comment in jest. And he still may not have been convinced that Kragthorpe was wrong person who could turn the program as the third season began.

If some fans were really offended by those comments, they need to grow thicker skin.

Tom Jurich is the administrator who reinforced and encouraged the high expectations. Jurich has given Kragthorpe every chance to show progress. Despite what he says for media consumption, Jurich knows when the evidence on the field indicates otherwise. Until this season is over and Jurich has announced his verdict on Kragthorpe, he must publicly support the coach.

But he will still not owe Louisville football fans any apologies.

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By Charlie Springer

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

34 thoughts on “Jurich Owes No Apology To Football Fans”
  1. I would concur with your conclusion on most points, except for the small-minded fans who need to grow something other than thicker skin, if you know what I mean.

    1. I agree fully with Glen. Your points are valid and I think TJ is as good an AD as there is. But his comments were not well considered and rubbed salt in a lot of open wounds.

      And as the program continues the downward spiral the reminder of Jurich’s criticisms stings even more so. I realize he can’t come out in midseason and fire or even openly criticize his coach. But to criticize the fans (and let me remind you for better or for worse that’s short for fanatic) when things have gone from a acme to a nadir in less than three years shows as little faith in the fans as we have in Kragthorpe. And we, the fans, are the ones who pay the bills.

  2. I’ll admit the comments regarding the Orange bowl every week ticked me off, I thought the AD would know better than to poke at his own fan base. But as pointed out above Tom has done enough for all of us to let little things like this go.
    The removal of Kragthorpe at the end of the season is the only apology I need. That will prove to me that Tom sees what we all see…that Coach K is not the man for our program.
    If somehow our coach is retained after this year, assuming we finish with a loosing record, then I believe there is no where else to turn except the shoulders of our AD. Granted it would take a lot for me to ever call for his head my displeasure will have easily reached its highest point.

  3. Respect is a two-way street, however. Based on Jurich’s tyrannical response to radio criticism on Lachlan McClane and 93.9 the Ticket, maybe we’re not the only ones that could use some hide-toughening.

    1. Possibly so, Mr. Red. But it’s probably tough to respond appropriately when a bunch of anonymous people using pseudonyms on message boards and voices with no names or faces are constantly blasting you on the radio. Some PR courses would be helpful for a lot of people on staff.

  4. I believe Jurich is as fine an AD as there is out there. I admire all the accomplishments named above. But I don’t follow the logic that X number of successes allows immunity for X number of mistakes. Football is the flagship moneymaker, and he the fact is he whiffed very badly on Kragthorpe. And because of his committee of one mentality, he put a lot of his credibility in mind. He is not beyond reproach, and his comments about the fans (which I don’t think were in jest, thinly veiled if they were) have exacerbated the situation. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that fans clamoring is for more and more success is a GREAT thing for a programs, aspirations that other programs would love to have. Treating them with condescencion is a disservice to his duties as AD.

  5. Let’s see the coaching selection approach dating back to Ron Cooper.

    Tom Jurich: Two wins, one loss.
    Committee Approach: One loss, zero wins.

  6. Spin…Spin…Spin…Wow…keep it going and I’ll throw up on everyone.

    Krag sucks…TJ needs to move on…Anything less is a breach of HIS contract with the University

    1. You are in the no spin zone. No spinning … ever. Just facts and common sense, a generous helping thereof.

  7. To suggest that Tom Jurich needs to move on is ridiculous. For those with short memories before the days of Jurich…let me help you remember just what we had.
    A football program that had erased all the momentum that Howard Schnellenberger had built up. A men’s basketball program that was far removed from the glory days of the eighties. A women’s basketball program that was an afterthought…barely getting 500 people to a game and lack of any PR at all. Baseball, softball, field hockey…go down the list. Average contenders in a mediocre conference.

    Do you think anyone beside Jurich could have successfully built the UofL athletic program to its current status and (excluding recent football) produce teams that compete for national championships, win major conference titles.

    Pitino, Bustin, Walz, Ecarma, McDonnell, Yelin, Mann. Names that are recognized as the top coaches in their respective sports. Playing in state of the art facilities.

    Return to pre 1997 status? No, thank you. In Jurich I trust.

    1. Out-of-the-park comment, Paul! The Babe could not have done better!

      Great column, Charlie! Keep ’em coming.


  8. Any rational fan can see the tremendous impact that Jurich has had on the Louisville athletic program. The down ward spiral of the football program seems to be the result of various factors. Regardless of the reasons, it has all occured under Jurich’s watch. He deserves a good portion of the blame. Does he need to be fired? Absoutley not. But the last three years need to factored in when determining whether or not he can be defined as a great athletic director.

    For anyone that has time, google an article from the November, 1997 Texas Monthly magazine. It is about how the AD at Texas transformed the athletic department into the most successful in history. Read it and see if Kragthorpe would be the type of coach Texas would hire.

  9. I don’t believe TJ owes anybody an apology, however he does need to recognize the fact that going 7-5 or 8-4 consistently is not that high an expectation. I think the fans had every right to at least expect a bowl appearance in 2007. With all the returning talent on that team 7-5 should have been a forgone conclusion. I think Kragthorpe is in over his head and has to be done after this year. I understand he wants to recruit grade A upstanding citizens and all that won’t get in off the field trouble but sometimes you have to take a chance on these guys. Jim Tressel is a good upstanding christian man and he has no problem bringing in some of these so-called problem cases. Some times he gets burned, but some times he helps a kid get his life turned around.

    1. Make no mistake though. If Coach K is retained for another season we will see how a half empty 56,000 seat stadium looks next year. We will have maybe 1 nationally televised game if that and the program will have to resort to giving away tickets at thorton’s with a 10 gallon fill-up. If we do reach that point then it does fall on the AD’s shoulders. Right now he has a chance to right this ship as Krags would say. If he is coming back next year I’ll have to root for the razorbacks. And yes I do think Petrino is a backstabber, however I just want to watch some exciting football.

  10. You simply do not put the Athletic Director under fire because the football program doesn’t go to a bowl game for two (probably three) straight years.

    That would be like leaving a baseball game after one inning because it didn’t go so well.

    Jurich has indicated he will deal with the problem when the time is right. Who are you, or we, to tell him how to do his job?

    Seriously, some of the Jurich slappers out there remind me of a spoiled kid raising a hissy fit because you can’t get your way.

  11. Txcard, go back to humping steers because you don’t know what the hell you are talking about. In 1997 John Mackovic, the Texas coach was 4-7 and that was the last year of his underachieving run there.

    1. Typ-o. I was referring to an article written in November 2008 and wrote November 1997 in my post. Was not referring to the 1997 season. Actually the article talks about how Texas’ rise from that time to now one of the nation’s most successful athletic programs was greatly attributable to the firing of an underachieving coach (Mackovic) and the hiring of Mack Brown. FYI, not a UT grad or fan.

  12. Mentioning the year 1997 on this board will get you automatically put on double secret probation. (Coop’s final fling). You get one warning….if it happens again, Charlie drives by in the middle of the night and eggs your house.

    1. 1997 wasn’t all bad. We did go to the Elite Eight that year after all. The football was, of course, beyond terrible.

  13. In recent years, UofL has won the Big East title and Orange Bowl in football…and gone to Final Four and Elite Eight a couple of times.

    I remember not too long ago, Louisville basketball and football were both ranked in the top-10 in the nation.

    There are many teams that, year in and year out, are considered national championship potential. (In basketball, many of these teams reside in the ACC –yuck!!) In football, many of these teams reside in the SEC –yuck!!

    Examples –
    Small Wake Forest (less than 5,000 students) is competitive in the ACC. Gonzaga always seems to do great in b-ball, and it appears to me that UK is heading in the right direction in basketball — new coach and some great
    recruits. And their football team isn’t doing too badly.

    Cincinnati is playing awesome in football this year.

    Much excitement and optimisim around.

    How optimistic are Card fans these days? Do we think the football program will be competitive next year? The year after? When will we be a perennial top-20 team, year in and year out?

    Are we looking forward to the basketball season? Is Pitinio’s situation behind us? Will it impact future recruits? Can we take it up one more notch and be a contender in the national championship game?

    Many questions – hopefully Jurich has the answers. And, bring some excitement and spark to our programs.

    It seems lately — and for a long time now — that all I hear about is from Cardinal fans is how bad Kragthorpe is, when will he get fired, how come Jurich isn’t doing something about it NOW, is Pitino going to keep coaching, why did he do it in a restaurant, will Jennings miss any time because he tried to beat up a cop, why did two UofL b-ball players get tased, what were they doing in Indiana anyway..and on and on and on.

    I’m ready for the vibe to be about POSITIVE aspects of the program – good recruits, growing the programs, a new basketball arena (no one is talking about that), excitement, growth, and opportunity!!! Oh yeah..I can hear the GO CARDS loud and clear now.

    We can all continue to bitch and moan about Coach K – but what good does that do?? We all know he’s terrible…we all know our team isn’t any good…does it really matter if we win 3 games or 4?? I want to know when we’re going back to the Orange Bowl. I don’t want to be mediocre…I want to WIN. Go Cards.

    Git R Dun!

  14. Wow. Very convenient of you to leave out his comments slinging mud over our former coaches, players and accomplishments. His comments taking jabs at fans just shows that he is petty, but the ones demeaning former players and coaches crosses the line. He doesn’t owe an apology to the fans, but rather to CBP, Brohm (Jeff Greg and Brian), Wood, Douglas, etc., for slandering their character and hard work. CPB may have been a jerk, but he did his job very well while here and shouldn’t be painted as a criminal to prop up Krag.

    Don’t assume that fans unhappy with Jurich’s comments are unaware of all he has done for the university. As a former SA, I have experienced first hand what he has done. Driving by Cardinal Park now even makes me jealous, because they have done so much more there since I’ve been gone.

    Getting back to the point, the above posters mentioning Jurich growing thicker skin are right on. Why should he feel the need to go out of his way to insult message board posters and members of the media? Let the results speak for themselves. In our case they have spoken loud and clear.

    The rumor reported on the NFL network about the year 2 buyout was very encouraging. However, if Krag returns for year 4, the decision regarding the coaching situation should be removed from Jurich’s hands.

  15. Well, I guess we could dig up a lot of situations but the post was primarily aimed at the folks offended by the Orange Bowl and great coach comments. Since we’re not that close to the former players or coaches, any references to them would have been conjecture. You’ll never hear me complain about an Orange Bowl win. There were enough questions related to the situation you mention, however, to merit serious consideration. Maybe some day we will have more facts about that situation. For now, we will stand by the original intent of the posting. I never once said Tom Jurich was perfect but there’s no denying he has made this a much better athletic program. I guess you could nitpick anyone and anything.

  16. I want kragthorpe gone as much as anyone and the funny thing is if it weren’t for Tom Jurich and the coaches he brought in here, some of our jerkwad fans wouldn’t have this delusional sense of entitlement. A four year blip doesn’t create tradition. We didn’t even fill the stands for Petrino’s last home game.

  17. I don’t really care about an apology. Jurich just needs to do what needs to be done and fire kragthorpe sooner rather than later. He’s already given him more than enough time.
    Fire the guy. Say something brief but nice about him in the farewell press conference, or don’t say anything at all. Nothing at all is actually better because it eliminates the potential for any public sniping at the local media or the fanbase. No “Steve’s a great coach, but he just couldn’t succeed because of the fan’s negativity” or “The Fanbase is just not knowledgeable about football and doesn’t understand the difficulties Steve inherited.” Just say “Steve is a good man dedicated to developing strong men of character.” Because that’s really all that you can legitimately say about Kragthorpe at this point that won’t set the fanbase’s blood boiling.
    After that Jurich should never mention Kragthorpe again. And as long as he makes a good hire for the next guy, the fans will do the same.

  18. Tom Jurich has done an unbelievable job. While I do not like how he has handled the Kragthorpe situation, it does not erase his otherwise impeccable record as an AD. That said, I do believe he owes an apology to Bobby Petrino and the players who played under him. To characterize the Petrino years as a “mess” is a slap in the face to all of the hard work these guys put in over a four year period. Jurich and his team, by feeding false information to the media (most notably ESPN), have deliberately tried to deceive both Cardinal fans and the nation in order to protect Kragthorpe.

    Jurich was fully aware of the happenings of the football program under Petrino. In fact, he praised Petrino for both his on-the-field AND off-the-field work when he gave Petrino a new contract before the 2006 season. He thought Petrino was doing it the “right way”, and indeed he was. How many disciplinary or academic issues did we have under Petrino? Very few if any. Jurich got stung by Petrino and in turn tried to deflect blame on him. It was unprofessional and borderline unethical.

    I have absolutely no problem with his hiring of Kragthorpe and giving him three years. No one foresaw Kragthorpe struggling so mightily, and because he hasn’t been absolutely abyssal and has not been in any trouble, it would would have been unprecedented to fire the guy after two years.

  19. The common thread of the posts I have read on many web sites is simple.

    There are a small percentage of fans who are down on Jurich. In general they are rebuted by a vast majority of posters.

    There is a huge percentage of fans who want Kragthorpe gone. There are very few who support him.

    Jurich will stay as he should. Kragthorpe will be gone as he should.

    Then the healing begins.

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