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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Before the Sugar Bowl, the NCAA basketball championship, the College World Series, the football stadium expansion, the new baseball park and other things that have elevated Tom Jurich to his spot as the athletic director other universities envy, Jurich came to Louisville in 1997 with two jobs on his starter-list:
Fix a sinking football program that was floundering toward a 1-10 season.
Guide the men's basketball and volleyball programs through ugly NCAA investigations.
There was fear of a death penalty shutdown ruling for the basketball program because rules had been broken while U of L was already serving another NCAA probation. Denny Crum, a Hall of Fame coach, found his career on the ropes.
Scholarships were cut. Post-season play was banned for one season. Scooter McCray, an assistant basketball coach, was reassigned to an administrative job. Salaries were frozen. But the death penalty was avoided.
No more nonsense.
That was Jurich's message as he moved the program forward from those uncertain days in 1997 to the unmatched glory of the 2012-13 season. And U of L has been nonsense free.
Except for this king-sized contradiction – on Tuesday the NCAA confirmed what Yahoo! Sports first reported several years ago: Clint Hurtt, the most important assistant coach on Charlie Strong's staff, was shoulder-pads deep in nonsense while working at the University of Miami before he joined Strong at Louisville.
And Jurich is not telling his non-compliant coach to leave. Hurtt stays.
Read it again: Hurtt stays. He will have to dance through several penalties, but the pain is minimized when you look at his W2s. Hurtt will forgo any bonuses, but his base salary stays at $350,000. Hurtt will stay even though the final report says the NCAA believes Hurt misled them while he was coaching at U of L.
Read this part of the summary by the NCAA Committee on Infractions:
"Former assistant football coach B (Hurtt) knowingly engaged in unethical conduct, including the offer of impermissible inducements and benefits and providing false and misleading information to the enforcement staff in the investigation of this case."
That is $500-an-hour attorney language for saying the Clint Hurtt broke the rules and then lied about it. In other words, a textbook case of being non-compliant.
That is the kind of behavior Jurich said would never be part of the culture of compliance at the University of Louisville. He said that if Hurtt did at Louisville what the NCAA ruled the coach did at Miami, he'd be gone before you finished reading this column.
"He knows that," Jurich said. "It's not even a discussion point."
Actually it is a discussion point. In fact, it is the discussion point. It's the talk of college football. Clint Hurtt won. Ask Scooter McCray if things turned out as well for him.
"I think he made a mistake as a young man," Jurich said "I think he wants to make it right."
The NCAA is not saying Hurtt broke the rules at Louisville, but that he lied about what he did at Miami while he worked for U of L. No penalty is forthcoming for the Cardinals, other than penalties in the court of public opinion.
But they're convinced Hurtt broke the rules at Miami and the lock on his U of L office has never been changed. At $350,000, Hurtt is the second-highest paid assistant on Strong's coaching staff, and the 33rd highest-paid salary at U of L, according to a government data base.
Strong has not flinched in his support of Hurtt – and likely never will. The two have a friendship that stretches over years. Strong has talked about Hurtt's positive influence on players.
Know this: Without Hurtt, Strong would not have pushed U of L from four wins to the Sugar Bowl in only three seasons. Hurtt is a recruiting tornado, especially in Florida, home of more than 30 U of L players, including prime-timers like quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
How good is Hurtt? He was named Recruiter of the Year by ESPN.com in 2011, although I wouldn't look for a repeat win after reading this report.
Charlie Strong has become a big deal in college football. If Hurtt's job opened, UPS would need two trucks to deliver all the resumes of replacement. Why not make a change?
"For the same reason, why would you do that?" Jurich said. "Why would you do that? Again, I continue to go back to the four years that he's spent here. That's really all I can judge him on. And he's done a remarkable job for us."
But this was not a decision for the head coach. This was a call for the athletic director, especially for an athletic director who has always talked about the importance of compliance.
His top 20 football program now has an assistant coach carrying a two-year show cause ruling which means that Clint Hurtt cannot jump to another college job unless the NCAA approves the hiring.
His pay will be frozen. He will not have any involvement in recruiting until spring of 2014. His recent five-month absence from the program has now officially been rebranded as a suspension by the NCAA. Penalties, but survivable penalties.
He will be required to take a more serious look at the NCAA rules, especially regarding recruiting. Seminars. Monthly rules-educations sessions. That is how it is described by the NCAA.
Except these are rules that a recruiting coordinator and veteran coach should know without needing a refresher seminar.
You don't arrange for a booster to pick up the restaurant tab for recruits. You don't become buddy-buddy with a booster who is entertaining your players at strip clubs. You don't ask for $2,500 loans from a booster, even if you pay him back.
Pretty much Recruiting 101.
And absolutely the kind of stuff that Tom Jurich has always said he would not be part of the athletic culture at the University of Louisville.