U of L’s TJ>AD Imposition

This comes at a moment just when the Cardinal men’s basketball program has gained some ballast, when there is legit hope for the days to come, when the fan base for the first time in several years is energized and engaged. And looking ahead.

This comes at a moment when Scott Satterfield appears to be gaining some traction in recruiting and the transfer portal, and fans have set down their torches, stopped calling for the Louisville football coach’s head on a spike, when the faithful are thinking positive. And looking ahead.

The this is this.

Seems a posse of the rich and influential have saddled up on their’s the finest of steeds, and ridden into town to insinuate their swagger into the decision making process for U of L’s next Athletics Director.

The image that comes to mind. As beautifully hand-crafted as those saddles of this gang may be, it appears they are galloping into the fray turned around, facing backwards. Looking into the past.

Tom Jurich is their guy.

Have they no memory?

Do they simply desire back their seats in the Influencers’ Room?

These are intelligent people. Captains of Industry. Entrepreneurs. Leaders of the Community. People who can obviously read the lay of the land, who ostensibly care about the wellbeing of the university.

I don’t get it, frankly.

 * * * * *

Let me be clear on my position viz a viz TJ.

When he was good, he was good. Better than good. Great. Arguably among the finest ADs in the land, if not the.

Facilities. Elevation of women’s sports. Incredibly astute hiring of coaches. Fund raising. Seeing the future of football, and having the Cards be the centerpiece of midweek, nationally televised pigskin.

The coup de grace: His engineering of U of L’s ascendency to the Atlantic Coast Conference. A membership that even a few years prior was unfathomable, inconceivable.

Any praise he has received and continues to receive for all that and more is well deserved. I stand and applaud, along with all the other Cardinal fans.

  * * * * *

That said, Tom Jurich deserved to be terminated. For which, he received millions of buy out from the university.

He made three major miscalculations. Three mistakes, fatal mistakes.

Two of which were arguably direct causes for the recent malaises of football and men’s hoops. The third, a long standing, never resolved feud with the one person, but for whom, none of the above would have ever been possible.

 * * * * *

Just briefly, as we Cardinal fans have hashed these out too much already.

Number One. When Tom Jurich arrived, Denny Crum, let’s admit, had lost his mojo. It was time to move on. Sad, but true.

But, TJ failed to read the room, failed to comprehend the iconic status of Denny, how beloved he was then and remains to this moment in town. Failed to realize Crum was to U of L as Bear Bryant to Alabama, Adolph Rupp to UK, Dean Smith to North Carolina.

Any stature that U of L has nationally in collegiate athletics is directly related to the success of Cardinal basketball under Denny Crum. I daresay Tom Jurich probably would have never considered coming to U of L, but for the possibilities engendered by the Crum era.

Crum’s removal was handled hamhandedly, to say the least. I have no personal knowledge how their continuing to this day feud evolved. Yet, once Jurich had developed standing in the community — he was in Rodes’ ads for heaven’s sake — once he learned more about the city and Denny Crum’s status, he’s the one who should have reached out to heal those wounds.

He obviously did not.

 * * * * *

The mouthpiece for the posse has been quoted as saying this about Tom Jurich: “And we have someone who is integrity driven, who always does the right thing.”

Which brings me to . . .

Number Two. Knowing the commodity first hand, he still rehired Bobby Petrino, who had already proven himself here and elsewhere to be a man without a scintilla of integrity. And who had already jilted the school once, after almost doing it previously except he got caught flirting with Auburn, who still had a coach.

Then Jurich compounded the felony by giving Bobby a contract worth millions of dollars. Which the school paid, after Petrino decided he didn’t wish to be bothered by anything as mundane as, oh, recruiting, team unity, actually trying to win football games, etc, etc.

Those moves don’t seem so “integrity driven, or “the right thing.”

All of which directly caused the recent suffering of the football program.

Number Three.

Rick Pitino was an admittedly brilliant hire by Jurich.

Rick Pitino very publicly, and to the considerable embarrassment of and damage to reputation of the university, had an extramarital tryst with a woman not his wife on a banquette in a local restaurant.

Not only did Tom Jurich not terminate the coach, but, as best I recall, did not discipline him.

Rick Pitino was in command of the men’s basketball program, when it became the first school in NCAA history to have a national hoops title taken away. Among other sanctions. Which was the cause of considerable embarrassment and further damage to the reputation of the university.

Tom Jurich did not terminate the coach.

“Integrity driven.” “Always does the right thing.”

In the immediate aftermath of those extreme sanctions, U of L men’s basketball was again charged with violating NCAA sanctions.

Tom Jurich would not terminate the coach, even after a third strike.

“Integrity driven.” “Always does the right thing.”

So, the university was forced to terminate Pitino. Tom Jurich’s firing was more than peripheral damage, though he did get a handsome buyout settlement.

  * * * * *

Again, I do not think Tom Jurich is a bad person. I wish him well.

I do not think he is without integrity. Nor do I believe he doesn’t understand when and how to do the right thing.

But, during the situations mentioned above, those character assets were missing.

University athletics is still trying to dig itself out of the mire. The consequences directly related the those actions and inactions have caused financial hardship, significant ignominy nationally, and several seasons of diminished performance by the humiliated flagship men’s programs of the school’s athletics department.

And, people who should know better want Tom Jurich back?

After he was paid millions to go away?


 * * * * *

A parable.

Before Kenny Payne was hired, when the fan base was throwing out names of possible hoops hires, expressing preferences, I got an email from a Cardinal fan.

“The school needs to get $15 million dollars and hire Billy Donovan.”

After chastising my pal for the absurdity of his suggestion, I wrote . . .

. . . “Louisville should not hire Billy Donovan, Louisville wants to hire the next Billy Donovan.”

I say the same about the situation at hand.

Louisville should not rehire Tom Jurich.

Louisville wants the next Tom Jurich.

 * * * * *

Which begs this point.

Several months back in the aftermath of Vince Tyra’s blessed abdication, I had conversations with people who have been in communication with the former AD.

These people told me TJ had no interest in returning to U of L.

Of course, the former AD might have changed his mind.

If not, it behooves him, if he really cares about the school and this community, to publicly declare his disinterest.

 * * * * *

One more thing.

The only other name I’ve heard around here is that of interim AD Josh Heird.

I’ve got another one for you, and should it come to pass, remember where your read it first.

Karlton Creech.

(Google him up yourself. I’m tired of talking.)

— c d kaplan

10 thoughts on “U of L’s TJ>AD Imposition

  1. I only know of two really successful returns: 1) Douglas McArthur and 2) Muhammad Ali. Actually, Ali did it thrice. Jurich’s communal fiduciary credibility is irretrievably broken.

  2. Thank you CD for cogent commentary and for bringing needed balance and context to this discussion.

  3. Joshua Heird. Thirteen years experience at UL (2007 – 16) and (2020 – present). Slam dunk !

  4. A very thorough and compelling brief for the Jurich opposition. The only un-turned stone might be the ill-timed message Jurich’s rehire would send to the NCAA, as they continue swinging that sword of Damocles over our heads. Count me as a Heird fan too, he’s earned his shot.

  5. Agree with most of your take. I don’t hold TJ responsible for the Petrino 2.0 result. I thought it was a brave and correct call at the time, and you have to admit the things that were concerning about the Petrino 1.0 did not cause his downfall. My theory – the things we didn’t like about Bobby were the things that once made him a good coach. Once he became a nicer person he didn’t seem to have that intensity and drive.

    Another big problem that I don’t hear discussed much was the level of autonomy Jurich had, and that goes back to Ramsey. Ramsey’s reign of organizational disfunction never required the AD to act like he was accountable to anyone.

  6. When Kenny Payne was introduced, I felt that our long years of suffering (nine) had come to an end. Spring had sprung. When I first read word of the move to restore Jurich, my heart sank again. After all we’ve been through?! Really? A $20 million buyout of Petrino. $7 million to Rick. The Only DI Men’s B’ball Championship ever VACATED, due to a tawdry sex scandal that occurred on the watch of He-Who-Had-Just-Previously-Himself-Most-Notoriously-and-Excellently-Engaged-in-Tawdry-Sex. There was always talk about “The Brand.” Louisville’s Brand had become one of pathetic humiliation. We were just now beginning to see the possibility of redemption. And then …

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