U of L's Ramsey pledges transparency in Rotary Club speech - WDRB 41 Louisville News

U of L's Ramsey pledges transparency in Rotary Club speech

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U of L President Jim Ramsey at Rotary Club, Jan. 21, 2016 U of L President Jim Ramsey at Rotary Club, Jan. 21, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – University of Louisville President James Ramsey touted the school’s academic successes and took jabs at the news media during a wide-ranging speech to members of the Rotary Club of Louisville on Thursday.

Ramsey also acknowledged the recent “noise” surrounding the university, but noted that applications are up 13 percent.

Besides allegations that strippers and escorts were provided to the men’s basketball team, the U of L Board of Trustees has faced a lawsuit concerning its racial makeup and seen two of its members publicly withdraw their support for Ramsey. In October, Ramsey apologized for photo of him and other school officials in sombreros, ponchos, and fake mustaches. Two top U of L officials are under federal investigation, reportedly for their handling of grant money.

“Forest Gump said, ‘Sometimes things happen.’ We wish they didn’t happen, but they happen in all organizations,” Ramsey said. “And our approach at the University of Louisville is we’re going to determine wrongdoing. We’re going to discover and deal with it openly and honestly. You know about everything that happens at the University of Louisville because that’s our attitude. We are transparent. Don’t believe anything you read or hear to the contrary.”

Ramsey declined to speak with reporters after the luncheon at the Galt House.

But in remarks that lasted roughly 25 minutes, he rattled off a list of accomplishments during his tenure, predicted an austere two-year spending plan from Gov. Matt Bevin and said university officials are “more focused than we have ever been.”

Ramsey presented a series of slides that stated U of L’s trajectory is “pretty ‘damn’ amazing,” including a 63 percent increase in baccalaureate degrees awarded from 2002 to 2015 and more Fulbright scholars than all Kentucky schools combined in the past decade. He said U of L plans to announce a “major” $22 million gift in the coming weeks.

Responding to a question from a Rotary Club member, Ramsey said the investigation into the allegations involving the men’s basketball program is “moving very slowly.”

Katina Powell, who describes herself as a former escort, alleges in a book published last October that ex-U of L director of basketball operations Andre McGee paid her more than $10,000 to provide escorts for recruits and players from 2010 to 2014 at Billy Minardi Hall, the on-campus dorm for athletes.

Ramsey, who said he serves as the head of U of L’s investigative committee, said the university takes the allegations “very seriously.” The school has hired former NCAA compliance expert Chuck Smrt to lead the inquiry.

“The investigation is still taking place,” Ramsey said. “It’s been complicated because of the criminal investigation and all the suits and counter-suits. And so a lot of people are afraid to talk to the NCAA because they know they are going to be interviewed as part of the criminal investigation.”

“And so it is moving very slowly,” he said.” We’re determined to find out whether it was one individual, whether money was involved, whether it was multiple individuals or no money was involved.”

Several times, Ramsey used the term “noise” to describe the negative news coverage.

“Some of the noise is for show,” he said, then singled out The Courier-Journal, which reported -- along with WDRB.com and other media -- that two trustees had publicly rescinded their support for the president at the board's Jan. 14 meeting.

“I’m surprised it wasn’t more than that -- and that’s not news. I’ve got to tell you. That’s not news,” he said. In a reference to his pet pugs, he said: "They're always glad to see me at the end of the day. They don't read the paper. They use it for other purposes."

The trustees were sued last year by Louisville’s Justice Resource Center, which alleges that the board’s racial diversity doesn’t comply with Kentucky law. Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear sought to dismiss the lawsuit, but new Gov. Matt Bevin said in court filings last week that he wants the suit to continue.

Bevin agrees that the board isn’t meeting state law. His administration has asked a Franklin Circuit judge to nullify three appointments Beshear made to the board last June.

If that happens, chairman Larry Benz, Larry Hayes (Beshear’s economic development secretary) and Paul Diaz would have to exit, although Bevin could reappoint them.

Ramsey issued a statement last week saying he agreed with Bevin, and he reiterated on Thursday that “our board is illegally composed.”

During his remarks, Ramsey made veiled references to his future, saying at one point: “I’m 67 years old and I don’t know how much longer I want to have all this fun. … Other people ought to be able to have as much fun as I’ve had.”

He said he has received cards, letters and notes of support.

“The support I’ve gotten is overwhelming. And I appreciate it, but I don’t want you to worry about me -- for no one is more blessed than Jim Ramsey of Fern Creek, Kentucky.”

Copyright 2016 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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