Using foundation, Ramsey quietly gave Jurich extra $6 million incentive pay
If University of Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich stays on the job another ten years, the university’s athletics association will owe him an additional $6 million – and likely much more – thanks to a benefit that former U of L President James Ramsey quietly gave Jurich in 2014 without the approval of the university athletics or foundation boards.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – If University of Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich stays on the job another ten years, the university’s athletics association will owe him an additional $6 million – and likely much more – thanks to a benefit that former U of L President James Ramsey quietly gave Jurich in 2014.
Ramsey executed the deal through the university’s nonprofit foundation on Oct. 30, 2014 – but it’s the athletics association that will have to pay the benefit, according to records obtained by WDRB and U of L officials.
There is no evidence that the athletics association board, nor the board of the foundation, approved the deal. Two then-members of the athletics board said they knew nothing about it.
The agreement entitles Jurich, 60, to receive $3 million in incentive pay if he remains on the job until age 65, and another $3 million if he remains until age 70.
But the awards will likely be much larger than that, however, because the money will be marked up with the same investment returns that the U of L foundation earns for the school’s $715 million endowment -- as if Jurich’s $6 million had been invested in the endowment starting July 1, 2014.
To demonstrate the power of compounded investment returns, another U of L administrator -- Dr. Donald Miller of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center – saw his deferred compensation grow from $1 million in 2006 to $2.2 million by the time he withdrew it from the foundation in 2016, records show.
The Jurich agreement, while executed by the foundation, states that the intention is for the athletics association to “ultimately” pay for the benefit. Ramsey, by virtue of being U of L’s president, was president of the foundation -- and the chairman of the athletics association board – when the deal was signed.
The athletics association will accept responsibility to pay Jurich if he stays long enough to realize the benefit, according to foundation and athletics officials.
Elaine Wise, a U of L professor who has been on the athletics board for 18 years, said she was “totally in the dark” about the 2014 deal.
“I cannot tell you for sure that it didn’t come up, but I certainly don’t remember it,” she said.
Asked whether the athletics board should set the compensation for Jurich – the association’s top official – Wise said, “So far as I knew, it had.”
Ramsey’s attorney, Steve Pence, said he would relay a request for comment to Ramsey.
Kenny Klein, a spokesman for the athletics association, said Jurich never doubted Ramsey’s authority to award the compensation because Ramsey was chairman of the athletics association.
“Tom and his lawyer were presented with the agreement, he signed it and he moved on,” Klein said in an email. “He did not have any knowledge of the process beyond that. The president’s office was focused on trying to assure that Tom was retained for a significant period.”
Jurich was already the highest paid public university athletics director at more than $1.4 million annually, according to a 2013 examination by USA Today.
Jurich, who joined U of L in 1997, is credited with overseeing U of L’s ascendance from Conference USA to the Big East and ultimately to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, and more than doubling the budget of the athletics association.
USA Today reported that Jurich works under a pair of nearly 16-year contracts with athletics association and with the foundation that run until July 26, 2023.
WDRB has requested a copy of Jurich's athletics association contract under the Kentucky Open Records Act, but the university has not yet provided it.
Jurich's foundation contract, which the organization produced to WDRB on Thursday, entitles Jurich to a base salary of about $255,000 and annual bonuses pegged to his bonus from the athletics association. An update signed in 2009 entitles him to 0.5 percent of any donations he helps secure to the foundation for academic use.*
Other foundation records show Jurich – before the $6 million deal in 2014 – earned nearly $1.7 million in deferred pay from the foundation from 2009 to 2014. The athletics association funded that compensation, foundation executive director Keith Sherman said.
While the athletics association did not explicitly approve the $6 million deal, Klein said the association’s personnel committee may have set the agreement in motion a few months before it was signed.
Minutes of a June 2014 meeting say the personnel committee “evaluated the Athletic Director and the Associate Athletic Directors,” but say nothing about compensation.
“Apparently in June 2014 after a highly positive evaluation of Tom, Dr. Ramsey was encouraged by the ULAA Personnel Committee, in their report on his performance, to do what was necessary to retain Tom,” Klein said in an email. "The report was verbal and not referenced in the written minutes of the meeting."
But Robert Staat, a professor of microbiology who chaired the personnel committee at the time, said he has “absolutely no recollection” of the committee discussing changes to Jurich’s compensation.
“I would give a report of the committee on what we thought was Mr. Jurich’s performance for the year, and it was always positive,” Staat recalled. “I can remember no conversations on compensation.”
A copy of the agreement is below:
*This story has been updated to reflect the foundation's production of Jurich's contract documents with that organization after original publication on Thursday.
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