BOZICH| Special Assignment: One-on-One with U of L AD Tom Jurich
(Editor's Note: Rick Bozich of WDRB talked to Tom Jurich in his final interview with the athletic directors of the four Kentuckiana BCS athletic programs. Jurich's Louisville program is coming off the most successful year in school history and is primed to move into the Atlantic Coast Conference next year. Interviews with Fred Glass of Indiana, Todd Stewart of Western Kentucky and Mitch Barnhart of Kentucky are available at WDRB.com.)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Tom Jurich remembers his first reaction when he was told the athletic director's job was open at the University of Louisville in 1997. He was not interested. That was also his second reaction. And third.
He also remembers his first reaction after he was finally convinced to look at U of L's facilities on his visit from Colorado State.
"I wasn't very impressed," Jurich said. "The thing that caught my eye right away was that there was nothing for women … Obviously this job was open for a reason."
The job was not open long – and it has not been open again. Instead of pursuing his original career plan in real estate and the travel industry in Arizona, Jurich settled into his adopted hometown and started building the reputation as one of the best athletic directors in the nation – the guy in charge of a program that won the 2013 men's NCAA basketball title, finished second in the women's basketball tournament, beat Florida in the 2013 Sugar Bowl and earned one of eight spots in the College Baseball World Series.
"It hasn't changed me a bit," Jurich said. "I'm no different than I was when I was the worst athletic director in the country. To say that you have a blueprint and to be able to come in and establish that blueprint are two different things."
Jurich discussed his 16-year run as the Cardinals' athletic director. Among the highlights:
*Louisville's appearance in the 1998 Motor City Bowl, which the Cardinals lost to Marshall, ranks as one of Jurich's top five highlights here.
"I thought we'd go 0-11," Jurich said. "I'd told (coach) John L. Smith, ‘Let's build a program and not worry about a team.' "
*Not long after he arrived, Jurich called ESPN programming executive Dave Brown and told him the Louisville football program would play in any time slot. The Cards' string of mid-week games while they were members of Conference USA were critical to establishing the Louisville football brand.
"Nobody was coming to watch us play at 3:30," Jurich said. "That was music to their ears because they were having a hard time filling those dates … I would never turn one of those (prime-time) games down because I think the (exposure) is unbelievable."
*Jurich said he learned most of his management skills from his father, who was an executive at Tran-America. He planned to raise his family in Flagstaff, Ariz., where he graduated from Northern Arizona University. He ran a real estate company and two travel agencies until he was recruited to work at his alma mater, which led him to Colorado State and then to U of L.
Jurich described his move into athletic administration as "just a fluke moment."
*Jurich said he did not truly appreciate the success U of L enjoyed last season until the athletic year was complete. "We're a very humble and hungry school that wants to get better," he said.
"Jurich described the period in 2012 that began with the announcement that Maryland planned to leave the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten and ended with the ACC selecting U of L to replace the Terps as the toughest 11-day period in his career.
"I called in every marker I had in the world," Jurich said. "The great thing is we had a story to tell … Your position is always strengthened by other people talking about you versus you talking about yourself."
*Louisville's move into the ACC becomes official July 1, 2014. Considering the across-the-board quality of the ACC athletic programs as well the opportunity U of L fans will have to visit venues like Florida State and Clemson in football and Duke and North Carolina in basketball, Jurich described the move as "a gold mine for this university … We have the opportunity of a lifetime for this community."
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