By Matt Bradshaw —
With an annual revenue surpassing $120 million and plethora of successful sports, U of L athletics requires a strong and steady hand to run the program. Vince Tyra has repeatedly proven he’s up to the challenge through a productive first year as athletic director.
Son of men’s basketball great Charlie Tyra, Vince was named acting athletic director Oct. 2017 before officially taking the position March 2018. It’s been a hectic 13 months to the say the least, with coaching changes and concerns for several teams.
Athletics has another milestone ahead with the need for a new full-time football head coach. In preparation for the change, here’s a review of the successful coaching decisions made by Tyra across the past 413 days since replacing his predecessor Tom Jurich.
Nov. 2017 – Scott Teeter introduced as lacrosse head coach
The outlook of Louisville’s lacrosse program appeared grim late last year. Eighteen players had departed the team due the allegedly abusive leadership of 10-year coach Kellie Young and a “toxic off-field environment.”
Tyra took action to turn things around only one month into his interim job and hired Scott Teeter to replace Young as head coach.
Teeter came to Louisville from Canisius College as the most successful coach in MAAC history with 130 career wins. While in Buffalo, he changed the culture of the lacrosse program and led the Golden Griffins to six postseason championships.
Tyra’s first big decision proved his ability to be effective under pressure. Not only does Teeter have NCAA tournament experience, but he has served as coach of the Canadian Under-19 National Team for nearly 10 years.
The 2018 season turned out to be difficult, nonetheless, for Teeter rebuilding the program. The Cardinals recorded their first losing record (6-11) since 2012 and broke a six-season streak of NCAA tournament appearances.
Expect Teeter to continue improving his squad year-to-year and build the foundation for a new era. In 2019, he will return his top-scorers from last season in sophomore Caroline Blalock and senior Tessa Chad.
Mar. 2018 – Chris Mack becomes men’s basketball head coach
There’s not much to say about the past men’s basketball situation that hasn’t already been said. The terminations of former coach Rick Pitino and Jurich, brought about by the pay-for-play scandal, led to Tyra becoming interim athletic director.
The 2017-18 season ended with a loss in the NIT quarterfinals, then Tyra was tasked with filling the void left by a Hall of Fame coach. After taking over as the official Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics on March 26, Tyra wasted no time and immediately hired Chris Mack as the new head coach.
Previously at Xavier, Mack’s teams have participated in the NCAA tournament eight of his nine seasons as coach. Most Cardinal fans expected a slow rebuild after sanctions imposed by the NCAA, but Mack came to Louisville and got to business by recruiting a 2019 class ranked No. 4 in the nation.
Amidst all his decisions, hiring Mack was probably the most important one from Tyra so far. Few programs have taken hits like Louisville men’s basketball and recovered so quickly in terms of talent, recruits and ability to compete.
The Cards started their 2018-19 run with three victories. An extremely tough schedule lies ahead, but Mack appears to be the perfect fit to lead men’s basketball.
June 2018 – Dan McDonnell and Jeff Walz remain head coaches
The beginning of this past summer saw contract enhancements for two of the most successful coaches on campus: baseball’s Dan McDonnell and women’s basketball’s Jeff Walz.
McDonnell has stayed among the nation’s highest-paid collegiate baseball coaches for several years, and for good reason. His program has registered seven straight 40-win seasons and seven straight regional championship appearances.
Rumors swirled after the 2018 season that Mississippi State had been targeting McDonnell for their head coaching job. Tyra helped make sure McDonnell stayed, adding a $1 million increase to the salary of his contract running through 2026.
Walz, the winningest coach in women’s basketball school history, received a three-year contract extension through 2025 and a $1.15 million salary bump. In one fell swoop, Tyra kept two top-notch U of L sports running as smoothly as ever.
“They’ve been happy here, and we’re just trying to keep them happy here,” Tyra said. “That’s my role, to make sure that we’re on the same page and we make it possible for them to be a part of the University of Louisville.”
July 2018 – Holly Aprile takes over as softball head coach
Some sports programs have known only one coach since their inaugural seasons at the University, and softball is one of them. Sandy Pearsall retired this past season following 19 years as head coach of the team.
Over the course of her career, Pearsall acquired 718 wins and 13 NCAA regional appearances. In 2018, the Cards finished with a 33-20 record and ACC tournament quarterfinals appearance.
Tyra kept Louisville’s winning tradition alive by hiring Holly Aprile as Pearsall’s replacement. Aprile spent 10 seasons coaching Pittsburgh and guided the Panthers to a 2018 ACC Division Title. She also earned 2018 ACC Coach of the Year.
Nov. 2018 – Tyra fires Bobby Petrino
Petrino’s final stint as a Cardinal coach finished poorly with seven consecutive losses. Tyra finally pulled the trigger last week and fired the head coach to provide a clean slate for the football staff.
Lorenzo Ward is currently interim coach, and Tyra’s choice for the next full-time head should be revealed shortly after the current season is over.
Whatever the case, his previous coaching decisions seem to demonstrate Tyra only hires the best for U of L athletics.
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File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal