CRAWFORD | 5 key statements Tom Jurich made to WDRB News
Eric Crawford shares five key quotes Tom Jurich made to WDRB.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Tom Jurich has been making the rounds of media for the past week, including a sit-down with ESPN that is expected to air soon. On Wednesday, he visited WDRB for an interview.
During that discussion, Jurich discussed his recent dismissal as University of Louisville athletics director, what he thinks might be behind it, whether he believes he should still be in the job, accusations of bullying, and whether he thinks enough evidence exists for the firing of Rick Pitino.
Portions of the interview will air throughout the evening on WDRB News at 4, 6, 10 and 11, but here are some key quotes from the 15-minute discussion with Katie George and me.
1). “I WOULD SUGGEST TO THEM WALK AWAY FROM THAT (ADIDAS) DEAL IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, AND GO CUT YOUR OWN DEAL, SEE WHAT KIND OF NEGOTIATORS YOU ARE.”
Jurich bristled several times during the interview, and one of those was when I brought up the adidas deal, and some of the questions surrounding it. Interim athletic director Vince Tyra says a review of the deal has turned up nothing improper, and interim president Greg Postel has said that the university will take a look at the deal and reconsider the school’s relationship with adidas if events warrant.
Jurich, it should be noted, views the 10-year, $160 million deal with the shoe giant as one of the major accomplishments of his tenure. And it is. Louisville was still buying its own athletic equipment, in large part, when he took over as athletic director in 1998, and hasn’t had a major cash component in subsequent deals, even with adidas.
This deal changed all of that, making U of L a flagship adidas property. That status, however, played a role in a company executive working to steer top-level recruits Louisville’s way, and using adidas money (billed fraudulently to the company as AAU travel expenses and other expenditures) to do it. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is reported to have been asked to call an adidas executive now under federal indictment to arrange money from one recruit, though no direct evidence of such a request has been produced.
This role of adidas has led some to question how the university could continue in its business relationship with the company. Jurich said the deal itself is sound, and a winner for the university’s athletic program. He also said that the president of adidas, Mark King, has told U of L it could walk away from the deal if it wanted, to which Jurich added, almost defiantly, that current leadership should do if it finds adidas distasteful.
2). “I THINK THAT QUESTION WILL BE ANSWERED LATER DOWN THE ROAD.” Jurich, when asked if there has been enough evidence against Pitino for him to make a call on firing him.
The answer is nuanced. When I spoke with him last month, Jurich said that if he had been presented with evidence that Pitino had done the things Coach-2 in the federal complaint is alleged to have done, he’d have fired him.
But the FBI, to this point, has offered little in the way of corroboration where Pitino is concerned, beyond a handful of phone calls from the coach to the adidas executive in question, followed shortly by the commitment of an elite recruit to Louisville. Pitino has not been charged.
So while Jurich’s answer leaves the question open, the underlying answer to whether he had, as of that moment, seen enough evidence to lead him to fire Pitino, the answer must be “no.”
A subsequent unsealed indictment against the adidas executive, James Gatto, offered nothing new in the way of evidence where Pitino is concerned, and is unlikely to make any difference in that reasoning from a day ago, when the interview took place.
3). “THERE'S A LOT OF CHEAP SHOTS, AND I DON'T UNDERSTAND THAT, BECAUSE I GAVE 20 YEARS OF DIGNITY TO THIS CITY.”
This was in response to Greg Postel’s allegation, in a letter informing Jurich of his termination, that Jurich had been a “bully” in the university setting. Jurich denied that allegation, called it, as he has before, “offensive,” and when I asked him to try to think of any instance where someone might’ve interpreted his interaction with them as bullying, said he could not.
Clearly, there’s a disconnect here between Jurich’s view of his own management style and the view of some in the media who have made a pretty compelling case of Jurich as a “bully.”
4). “THEY WANTED A CHANGE, AND THAT'S FINE. THAT'S THEIR PREROGATIVE.”
More than once, Jurich said these words, or some variation of them. Near the end of the interview, I asked him, “Do you feel like it was fair to be held to account” for problems in men’s basketball? He answered, “We went 18 years and never had an issue in that athletic department. So I think basketball may be tainting the rest of that department, which isn’t fair. This is one program out of the 23 that we have. Everybody else operates perfectly. We had 18 years in basketball we never had an issue. . . . Is it troublesome? Sure. We’re not going to hide from it. I’m the athletic director. I understand that. But I think there’s a lot of things that didn’t come to fruition to the very end.”
I kept getting the sense from Jurich that it was one thing if the university, or some of its leadership wanted to make a change. Jurich is disputing its decision to fire him for cause, and not fulfill the rest of his contract.
“We’re all human beings,” Jurich said. “When you see people take cheap shots at you, especially when you’ve tried to serve the place perfectly for 20 years, you know, I think that’s the difficult situation.”
5). “YOU HAVE TO TRUST HIM. THE SCHOOL MADE A DECISION TO HIRE HIM.” Jurich on Chuck Smrt.
I asked about Smrt because he was a convenient lightning rod for fans after the NCAA’s ruling on the Katina Powell violations didn’t go in the school’s favor. I also asked because of persistent word that Smrt now is investigating Jurich’s old department.
Jurich defended the job Smrt did. He said he felt the school’s NCAA attorney was doing everything as he thought it should be done, and how the NCAA has asked that it be done. He told me that it’s easy to second-guess, but that U of L promised its fans that it would attack the issue straightforwardly, find out what had gone wrong, and “take its medicine” if it came to that.
All of those things, U of L did.
“I’ve known Chuck pretty much my entire career, pretty much all 32 years of it,” Jurich said. “He’s somebody who is very well respected in the business. Things didn’t work out very well for us, but I think his advice was always advice that, in his heart, he believed was the right thing for our university.”
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