LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville has parted ways with two of its best-known public ambassadors.

University spokesman John Karman confirmed that the school has allowed former basketball coach Denny Crum’s contract to expire and has eliminated the position held by former Cardinal basketball player Darrell Griffith as part of a reduction in workforce.

Crum, who has been hospitalized in Alaska this week after suffering what doctors suspect may have been a mild stroke, had worked for the university as an assistant to the president out of his office in the University Club since his retirement in 2001, as part of an agreement struck when he retired.

Crum received an annual salary of $338,000 out of the office of the vice president of university advancement. He appeared at many U of L functions and was involved in numerous fundraising initiatives for the university. The Hall of Fame coach, who couldn’t be reached for comment, became aware the university was considering not renewing his deal this past spring, according to a source close to him, though he did not realize his deal specifically was not being renewed until being notified by email recently. 

The source said he is expected to be able to keep his campus office. A year ago, Crum told WDRB that he planned to move to a position with alumni relations, where he hoped to build a scholarship foundation he has funded through his own small events. Crum's long-term retirement deal with the university expired last year. In the past year, he was paid a reduced amount, around $100,000 for his fundraising position, and another $100,000 went to his scholarship fund. On Crum's 80th birthday, he played host to a party that raised $200,000 for the scholarship fund.

Griffith, who also worked out of the advancement department under the title of director of advancement for community relations, received a salary of $107,870 in the last year for which public records are available. He was notified in writing that his position was being eliminated.

With projected enrollment falling, the university instituted various cost-cutting measures in June to deal with what it expected to be a $6 million budget shortfall.

The men were the architects of U of L’s 1980 men’s basketball championship, which changed the trajectory and image of the school, and was a catalyst for significant growth during the 1980s and, eventually, the building of an athletic war chest that would be the seed money for a great deal of athletic expansion that happened beginning in the late 1990s. That championship also served as a milestone moment for the city, and kicked off a period of growth and optimism for the city itself.

In February of last year, Crum said he was looking forward to extending his role as a university ambassador. He established a scholarship fund for deserving students from the area who demonstrated leadership, community service and academic achievement, and has been hoping to raise more money for that.

“We’ve never really tried to raise any money outside of just from friends and people and stuff (for that scholarship),” Crum said. “We’ve never done that. We’ve done it all with events. I cook pizza or I make bean soup or we’ve had cornhole tournaments, poker tournaments, we have golf outings. And, ironically, we had given kids to come to the university $550,000 something, and we had $600,000 or something left over, and we gave that to the university. So now, I’m going to stay here and help . . . see if we can’t get (the scholarship fund) up to $2 million, we can give a hundred $1,000 scholarships a year forever. And we’re over a million right now. We’re not going to stop doing our events. But this will let us do some different things.”

A restaurant near campus bears Griffith’s name, and a planned restaurant and bar downtown is expected to open under his name in the coming months.

At the opening of an athletic center named after him at the West End School in 2012, the school’s chancellor, Robert Cecil, called Griffith, “a unifying personality” in the city of Louisville. During the same ceremony, former U of L star and trustee Junior Bridgeman said, “If you're going to hold up someone and say, ‘He's from here. Look what he became in life and look what he accomplished in life.  It's not a matter of where you're from,' you couldn't have a better person than Darrell Griffith. It's great that we can honor him that way. He deserves it and the kids need to know about him."

In an interview last spring, Crum told WDRB: “Darrell works hard. He does a lot of good things for this university and community, and is someone you can be really proud of.”

Griffith could not be reached for comment.

This story is developing and will be updated.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story said that Crum was paid $338,000 for the length of his U of L employment. It has been corrected to reflect that in the final year of his employment, his pay was cut by one third, with another third of his pay earmarked not to him, but to a scholarship fund he has endowed for area students to attend U of L.

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