LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Tom Jurich was loyal to the coaches he hired at Louisville almost to a fault, supporting them through good and bad times during 20 years as the Cardinals athletic director.
None more than men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino.
Jurich and Pitino faced many embarrassing transgressions during the coach’s 16-year tenure, but the negative attention generated by a federal investigation of college basketball was the last straw for Pitino — and ultimately Jurich.
Louisville trustees fired Jurich Wednesday in the wake of the school’s involvement in a national federal investigation of college basketball.
The Board of Trustees voted 10-3 to part ways with Jurich. The 61-year-old administrator had been placed on paid administrative Sept. 27 by interim university President Greg Postel, who placed Pitino on unpaid leave at the same time.
Louisville’s Athletic Association fired Pitino in a unanimous vote on Monday.
Two days later, Jurich was shown the door.
Postel did not take questions about Jurich’s firing with cause after more than three hours of meetings behind closed doors.
“We want to thank Tom for his years of service and many contributions to the university,” Postel said from a prepared statement.
“To our students, faculty, staff and Cards fans, this is our opportunity to demonstrate the unity and integrity that define being a Louisville Cardinal.”
Jurich’s legal team said in a statement afterward that it was “disheartened” by the trustees’ decision, and stressed his adherence to NCAA rules and the law.
“Their vote to terminate his contract was done in haste with inaccurate information that should have had no bearing on continuing his employment,” the statement said. “He has done nothing illegal, nor violated any NCAA rules.”
Jurich has played a major role in Louisville’s success on the field, and how the school has handled issues off the field.
He shepherded Louisville’s 2014 entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference. Jurich also was responsible for facility upgrades and saw numerous sports thrive under coaches he hired.
Vince Tyra was named acting AD on Oct. 3, a move the athletic association approved on Monday before firing Pitino. The former University of Louisville Foundation board member said he doesn’t have a timetable for how long he’ll have the job.
Louisville’s acknowledgment of being part of a federal probe into bribery of college recruits proved to be Jurich’s undoing. Postel’s Sept. 27 disciplinary letter to the AD called allegations in the complaint “disturbing and unprecedented.” His letter also called “unacceptable” the level of misconduct, alleged criminal activity and the negative attention it has brought to Louisville.
Postel also criticized Jurich for failing to update or consult the athletic board about his negotiation of the department’s sponsorship extension with Adidas.
Several Jurich supporters carrying signs urging trustees to retain the AD gathered Wednesday outside the Grawemeyer administration building and briefly inside the meeting room. Jurich’s lawyer, Alison M. Stemler, and members of Jurich’s legal team joined the meeting shortly after it began.
Trustee board secretary Brian Cromer was among those that opposed the motion to fire Jurich. Before the vote he said, “There are major issues in basketball, we all know that. …. What I would favor doing is trying to pursue discussions with Mr. Jurich to address concerns, maybe have a revamped arrangement.”
Trustees ultimately followed the same path as the ULAA, deciding to part ways with Jurich and move forward.
Jurich departs as construction continues on a $63 million expansion of the football stadium due for completion by next season. He had a long record of accomplishments that helped Louisville build one of the nation’s top athletic programs.
Jurich hired Pitino as coach in 2001 and celebrated Louisville’s third NCAA men’s basketball championship trophy 12 years later in perhaps the school’s most successful year in athletics.
The Cardinals’ women’s basketball team reached the NCAA championship game that same season and has remained a perennial NCAA Tournament contender. Both programs play in a 22,000-seat downtown arena that opened in 2010.
Lamar Jackson became Louisville’s first Heisman Trophy winner last year when the Cardinals flirted with a berth in the college football playoff. The Cardinals in 1998 began playing in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, which is undergoing its second expansion from its original 42,000-seat capacity.
The baseball team is coming off its third College World Series berth in five years and is also preparing to expand its stadium.
Jurich was scrutinized for his decision to re-hire football coach Bobby Petrino in January 2014, less than two years after Arkansas fired Petrino for misleading school officials about a motorcycle accident in which his passenger was later revealed to be his mistress.
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