By Kyeland Jackson —
Two days after former men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino was fired, U of L Athletic Director Tom Jurich was fired with cause Oct. 18.
The University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees voted 10-3 to fire Jurich after hours in closed session. Interim President Greg Postel thanked those who sent letters to keep Jurich and thanked him for his service.
“We want to thank Tom for his many years of service and contributions to the University of Louisville,” Postel said. “To our students, faculty, staff and fans, this is our opportunity to demonstrate the unity and integrity that define being a Louisville Cardinal.”
Postel said the university is confident in its new interim athletic director Vince Tyra, who said he’s unsure if he would accept the position permanently if offered.
During the board’s closed session, Jurich’s attorneys argued to keep him. Once the vote was called, Ronald Wright and Brian Cromer voiced opposition to the firing, saying Jurich improved the university.
“I appreciate Tom (Jurich) for what he’s done for this community,” Wright said. “He is owed some thanks.”
U of L Foundation Chair Diane Medley joined Cromer and Wright, saying her degree’s value increased thanks to Jurich.
But the vote to fire Jurich outranked them, ending his near 20-year reign as athletic director.
Jurich’s firing marks fallout from scandals besetting the university. In late September, the FBI said the U of L men’s basketball is being investigated for partnering with adidas to bribe a recruit to join the program. In the spring of 2016, the university banned its men’s basketball team from postseason play as a scandal alleging assistant coach Andre McGee paid women to dance and have sex with players and recruits unfolded.
Fallout from the FBI’s announcement drew blood quickly.
Pitino and Jurich were placed on leave, Brian Bowen, the player involved in the FBI investigation, was suspended and interim replacements were named. Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair, assistant coaches suspected of being involved in the investigation, were also put on leave. Weeks later, Fair was fired.
Still, Tyra said the adidas contract might continue regardless of the FBI investigation. Postel criticized Jurich’s role in securing that contract, saying Jurich didn’t adequately inform Postel or U of L’s board.
Tyra thanked Jurich for his role in the program.
“Thank you very much for all you’ve done on behalf of the student athletes and what (you’ve) done for the community and sports,” Tyra said. “It’s obvious there’s a lot of good sports out there and for good reason.”
Tyra said he would not allow the athletic department to take a backseat in discussions with the university.
Jurich’s lawyers issued a statement decrying the board’s decision, saying the decision was done with haste and “inaccurate” information. They said Jurich instructed them to protect his rights and reputation under his contract with the university.
File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal