LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Vince Tyra was going to be a professional baseball player. He was that talented. Keith Madison, Tyra’s coach at the University of Kentucky, was certain of that.

Tyra threw hard, more than 90 mph. He threw strikes, and he was durable, leading UK in innings and strikeouts in 1986, his sophomore season, winning seven games.

“Vince was a big, strong guy, a top recruit. We were thrilled to get from Trinity (High School),” Madison said. “I really thought he was going to be a draftable player after his junior year (1987).”

Then came shoulder pain. Lots of shoulder pain. No surgery, but persistent pain.

“A lot of different shoulder injuries,” Madison said. “Vince pitched through much of it and was a big contributor in 1988, which was one of our best teams.”

Professional baseball never called. But this week, Tyra received another call:

The University of Louisville asked Tyra to help the school navigate its way through the scandalous mess that has resulted in an acting basketball coach (David Padgett) to replace Rick Pitino and for Tyra to fill-in for Tom Jurich as the athletic director. The official announcement was made Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m not surprised,” Madison said. “Vince has always been a guy who saw the big picture. His parents and the people at Trinity raised him to understand there was more to life than baseball.”

“Vince looks the part and he’ll fill the part,” said Dennis Lampley, the athletic director at Trinity. “I’d trust Vince with any job I had.

“I’d put him up there with Jeff Brohm and all the top kids we’ve had go through here. He’s just a special person.”

Special skills will be required to lead Louisville until a permanent athletic director is recruited, signed and put in place at a program that has become accustomed to competing at the top levels of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Pitino’s basketball program is one of several being investigated by the federal government. That figures to lead to another NCAA inquiry, even though the program is still awaiting word on its appeal of the NCAA penalties they earned during the summer for the stripper and prostitution scandal at the basketball dorm.

Fans and boosters have started to accept the reality that Pitino can no longer direct the basketball program. The split is not as one-sided about the need to move forward without Jurich, who earned regular ovations as the best athletic director in the nation during his 20-year run.

The roll of coaches that Jurich has hired has been deep and successful. They have also remained loyal and outspoken in their belief that Jurich should be retained. Tyra will be in charge until administrators craft a permanent plan.

In the old days, schools would recruit a former football or baseball coach to run the athletic program. No more. Louisville’s athletic budget was close to $90 million last season. The job requires financial management skills, the ability to generate donations and revenue and the determination to build consensus.

“The U of L athletic community has shown the ability to pull together before during difficult times, and that’s what I think they’ll do now,” said former U of L quarterback Chris Redman, one of Tyra’s friends.

“Vince will need everybody’s support, and I know he’ll earn that support because he’s a natural leader, a guy who understands how to build a team. He played baseball, but I’ve always told him that his personality is more like a quarterback, because Vince likes to take charge. He’s a natural quarterback.”

Tyra’s resume confirms that. He’s made his name in private equity, but Tyra has also worked for Fruit of the Loom, BioPharm, Isco and several other companies, while supporting Trinity and U of L.

In February, Tyra was recruited as the chairman of the finance and investment committee for the embattled U of L Foundation. In July, Tyra became chairman of the board of Elite Medical Staffing. He’s not a cruise-control guy.

Despite his degree from Kentucky, Tyra is also a University of Louisville guy. His father, of course, was Charlie Tyra, who scored 1,728 points for the Cardinals and set the school career rebounding record. Until Lamar Jackson arrived, Charlie Tyra was the most famous No. 8 at Louisville.

“We had several guys on our team back then who were big Louisville fans, and Vince was one of them,” Madison said. “I grew up in Kentucky and knew all about Charlie Tyra. But I had a home visit, hit it off with his parents and really had a good relationship with them.

“Vince always had a strong love for the University of Louisville. I’ve always been very proud of him and have no doubt he’ll do a great job.”

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