Its Halftime of UNC/Duke and I am enjoying my Thursday night of force-fed ESPN College Basketball Hype. But while perusing the internet (and figuring out which piece of Tom Jurich memorabilia I am going to buy), I came across this article by Eric Crawford summarizing the Press Conference by new UL AD Vince Tyra. I admit that I skipped watching the Presser, since the only one that I care about is the one the NCAA will do very soon, but after reading Eric’s wrap-up column, I found myself having a very weird feeling. In fact, it was so alien to me that I wasn’t exactly sure how to process it and I had no choice but to come to the computer and bang out some thoughts on it.
I found myself actually being impressed by the new UL Athletic Director. What’s more, I was impressed in a way that is actually noble…as in, I had genuine admiration for some of the words and behaviors. I was impressed at times by the last UL Athletic Director before, but it was in a scheming, admire-the-criminal-audacity way, sort of like the way you feel when you watch Tony Soprano…knowing he is a societal rogue whose comeuppance is coming but admiring how he still finds a way to survive. This was different. For what Vince Tyra showed today is that the new Athletic regime at UL, at least the interim one, intends to get rid of the swashbuckling, bullying, rule-breaking, corrupt ways of the past and actually run an Athletic Deparment like (GASP) how an Institution of Higher Education should be run.
Tyra said today that he was voluntarily decreasing his salary from $1.2 Million to $850,000, thereby giving back the large amount granted to him by the interim President. His came to the number by averaging the amount made by the top 3 Athletic Directors of the ACC and then taking $4,000 less. To me, that is an impressive act…without being forced to, a person voluntarily took a pay cut as an example of some of the larger cuts that were soon going to be forced upon the Athletic Department. A leader showcasing self-sacrifice in order to set a positive example for those in his organization before making future tough decisions? UL, I hardly know ya! In contrast to his predecessor, the highest paid AD in the country, whose greed is so large that he would not allow the University of Louisville to use the Athletic Department’s Card logo without first paying the Athletics Department royalties (I am serious), Tyra seems to get that Athletics is a part of a greater whole. That is to be admired.
In addition, Tyra noted (finally) that the Papa John’s unnecessary seat expansion will be 6,000 seats instead of the 10,000 that Tom Jurich continuously promoted when the silliness was first announced. Folks around the project have been whispering about this for two years, but insisting that Tom wanted the larger number to be announced so they would have more seats than Commonwealth Stadium. One wonders if Jurich were still in charge, if he would note the actual seat addition or continuously lie in the future, exaggerating a la the WWF and Yokozuna’s weight, assuming no one would ever challenge and audacious boasts would become accepted fact. The admission continues the theme of the past year of noting actual attendance at games, in numbers far lower than the smoke blown in past years and making fans realize that the dreams of unlimited dollars don’t coincide with the truth of financial difficulties.
Tyra also noted that while it was not easy, the decision to fire Mark Jurich from the UL Athletics Department was needed. The fact that this was even in question showcases the way that the norms created by the absurd accepted behavior of the Jurich regime will take time to shift back to the reality of competent organizational management. There is a reason nepotism laws are in place in Kentucky and nearly every state…because hiring family members is almost ALWAYS a terrible decision and makes the removal of said members a constant headache. Having little Jurich in the UL Athletics Department was going to be a constant distraction and removing him was the only way to get rid of the issue. Whether it was fair to Mark or not is almost irrelevant…his entire existence there was due to familial favoritism and if his removal was due to familial bias, well so be it. If you don’t want your family members fired when you mess up, don’t hire them to begin with.
As anyone who reads this site, listens to my show or probably knows my name is aware, I have been possibly the biggest critic of Tom Jurich and UL Athletics for the last 5 years. While Jurich oversaw an Athletics Department that overflowed with success, like the culture created by “The Wolf of Wall Street”, the success begat corner-cutting, feelings of invincibility, dictatorial behavior, and in the end scandal that brought the entire operation down to its knees. In both cases the FBI delivered the final blow, but the knife was given by the actions of larger-than-life figures who thought rules did not apply to them. The good times were great but the fall was predictable, except to all those that became blinded by the green and chose to be #L1C4LIFE instead of level-headed viewers of reality.
Without blasting his predecessor by name, Vince Tyra’s actions are a direct refutation of the Jurich era and the mindset that accompanied it. Win at all cost and crush everyone that gets in the way may work in the short term. But in the long term it breeds enemies that will help to plot your downfall and creates accepted behavior that ultimately guarantees your undoing. Tyra seems to be getting rid of the problem by root and branch. I still won’t root for Louisville to win any game, but I can’t help but respect that the new regime seems to do for Card Nation what Mitch Barnhart has done in Lexington. You can win and do so in a manner that doesn’t sully everything around you. If the Cards keep doing that, hating them is going to be a lot harder.