TRANSCRIPT | Tom Jurich interview with Katie George and Eric Crawford
A transcript of former Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich's interview with Katie George and Eric Crawford of WDRB News.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Former University of Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich sat down with WDRB’s Katie George and Eric Crawford for an interview on Wednesday morning.
The following is a complete transcript of that interview.
KATIE GEORGE: Tom Jurich, thank you for joining us. It's been a trying time the past two months, how are you doing and what have you been doing?
TOM JURICH: You're very busy no question about it. Trying is a good word, but it's something we're going to continue to get better every day. That's what I've always tried. That's always been my philosophy, look in the mirror and get better every day.
ERIC CRAWFORD: You have, in the last week or a little more, spoken to a lot of media outlets, local, some national, radio, TV, we appreciate your time to talk to us, what message are you trying to get out? Is there an end-game involved?
JURICH: Not really. Didn't really want a message. I think you all know me well enough, for the last 20 years, that I kind of like being behind the scenes. Everybody wanted me to talk, and I didn't talk. And everybody kept coming back and back and back and saying we want to talk, we want to talk. So that's the reason I'm talking. These people have all been good to me, and it's just something I feel that I owe the community.
KG: You recently said you didn't feel like the University of Louisville was the one that took action against you, but maybe, four or five different people, can you tell us who those four or five people are specifically?
JURICH: I can't. You know, it's our thought process. We followed it and watched it. It's a shame, but that's the way life is. A lot of times, life isn't fair. And that's what I'm trying to teach my children. Things happen for a reason and we're going to hopefully get stronger from it and move on.
KG: What do you personally think their motivation may have been?
JURICH: I think they wanted a change. And that's fine. That's their prerogative, when you have a new board. They have the prerogative to do that. I have no problem with that.
EC: "Fix athletics, and you'll fix the university." John Schnatter said that in the spring and the implication is that athletics is a drain on the university. What was your reaction to that then and now, that statement.
JURICH: Well, obviously it caught you off guard. Because I didn't expect it. I certainly never had any issues with John Schnatter that I was aware of. I always believed in him and thanked him and was very complimentary of everything he did for me personally, and my family, and then the university itself. So those were kind of, they caught me off guard. But I certainly didn't think we needed to fix athletics. There's always things you want to tweak, and things you can do better. When you have problems you deal with them head on, and that's always been my philosophy. I don't think I ever changed that in 20 years. But, you know, the thing I look at last year, that was a record breaking year. I guess I just came out of an athletic board where they recapped last year and it was a record-breaking revenue year. The adidas deal was record-breaking. The affiliation with the ACC has been an incredible positive, not just for the university but for the community as a whole. So I think things are good. I think things are well over there. Obviously nobody is happy with the basketball problem. But those are something we have to deal with -- or they have to deal with -- and you deal with them head on.
EC: John Schnatter was a guy that contributed a lot, and you guys, as far as I know or ever heard, had a good relationship.
JURICH: I thought we did.
EC: Do you have any idea what happened?
JURICH: I have zero. I really don't.
KG: What's your relationship like now with Rick Pitino and have the two of you spoken?
JURICH: No, we haven't spoken because we're not allowed to, because of the U.S. inquiry that he's under. So we're not allowed to speak. But I always had a very good relationship, I thought, with coach. And I know that he loves this university dearly, and loves this community, and I think he served it well.
EC: You know, does anything keep you up at night in terms of things you didn't do or wish you'd done differently?
JURICH: Quite honestly, you can always look back, you can always Monday morning quarterback something, and say, "I wish I had done this." But I think as a whole, I have no regrets. I gave it my best 20 years. I gave this place every ounce of effort I had. My passion, I put forward. I love those student athletes. I've said it many times, the slate of coaches that we have at the University of Louisville I wouldn't trade for anybody in the country, and they produced. They did a great job. When we went in the ACC, you look at the last three years -- or the first three years in the ACC, we were the winningest program in the conference, when you put all the sports together. So that's important to me. But I think the most important is what we did academically. We did phenomenal in the academic setting, especially with the peers we have in that conference.
KG: And is that not regretting defending Rick Pitino over the past few years?
JURICH: No, I defend all my coaches. I'm loyal to a fault. But I hire coaches because I want them to succeed. I don't want them to fail. I don't want to set them up for failure, I try set them up for success. I looked at each issue, I dealt with them. I found out what I felt was the truth, and we moved on.
KG: I recently spoke to a student athlete who said, "It feels like we got sent to our room and it's like you're sitting on your bed listening to mom and dad fight outside the room." What would you say to the current student athletes and the current student body if you had a chance to speak with them?
JURICH: Well first I'd thank them all. And I'd put you in that group, because you were a phenomenal student athlete with us. I would say to them, you stay the course. You're there for a reason. You're there not just to grow athletically, but to grow academically, grow spiritually, grow socially. That's what I always wanted. I always said the greatest joy I had as an athletic director for the past 32 years is to watch the development of the student athlete. That's my reward. My reward is not the trophies and bowl games and Final Fours and national championships. My reward is seeing those kids develop into great young women and men.
EC: There are a lot of fans and alumni and students and whoever that are overwhelmed by this past month and just all the events that happened. In your mind, in your opinion, can you think of anything at the center of all these actions? Any motivations?
JURICH: Well you can think of a lot of motivations, but that's not for me to say. It really isn't. I just think they want to go a different direction, and like I say, that's their prerogative.
KG: Do you think that you should still be the athletics director at the University of Louisville.
JURICH: Sure. Absolutely. I loved it. That's why I stayed here for so many years. That's why I never entertained any other offers, because I wanted to be here. This was my home. I got to raise my children. All four of my kids are graduates of the university. All four are going to end up with Master's Degrees. It's an important place for us, a great destination for us. I have nothing but great things to say about this community and this state and this Kentuckiana region. And I really include Southern Indiana, because we put such a great effort into Southern Indiana and bringing them to be part of Cardinal athletics, and they supported us like nobody's business, which was fantastic.
KG: Do you think that Vince Tyra is the person to follow in your footsteps?
JURICH: Oh, I don't know. I really don't know Vince that well. My son knows him a lot better than I did. But all my interactions have been fine with him. I don't know.
KG: Would you give him any advice?
JURICH: I don't give advice. I don't. I really don't. That's not for me to do. They've got to do it the way they want. I want them to be very wholesome and move on and lead the kids. That's all I care about is the outcome of the kids.
EC: You've had some time to think about this since that letter came out, can you think of any incident, with anyone at the university, that would give them reason to call you a bully?
JURICH: No. No. That is offensive, Eric. That really took me back. To stoop that low. You look at the last six weeks, let me ask you. Who are the bullies? Who are the bullies?
KG: Why is it so offensive to you?
JURICH: Because that is a word that I would never associate with me. I think I went out of my way my entire life to make people feel good. Katie, you know all the coaches over there and how I treated them. You know how I treated the student athletes. Whether it's janitorial or secretarial or whatever, everybody was the same to me, and I always wanted those people to feel very important. I learned at very young age from my mom and dad, you treat people the way you want to be treated. And I've always lived that way in my life. So I look back at that, and it's just a cheap shot, and there's a lot of cheap shots that they threw out me. I just don't understand it, because I gave 20 years of dignity to this city and this university, and I'm certainly not getting that back, that's for sure.
EC: We've heard even people in the media describe you that way, and run-ins you may or may not have had. Is it possible people misconstrued, or just accepted things a certain way?
JURICH: Well you've known me since I've been here, Eric, so I'll leave that up to you. You've known me since I've been here.
KG: Have you been watching the games recently?
JURICH: I have not. But I wish them the best. I did get a chance to see a little bit of the field hockey on TV the other day and obviously my girls are following that very closely. And what a great finish and a great job that Justine did with that team. Hope she does well this weekend up in Michigan. I've gotten to follow basketball just a little bit, but I haven't gotten to sit down and watch anything.
KG: How would you say that you spend your days now. Athletics, for 20 years of your life and beyond, what do you do?
JURICH: I've got a beautiful wife, and she keeps me busy. We're certainly planning for our future and looking at what that might hold. It's an exciting time too, in a sense. We want to make sure we do things right by our family. Because that's the most important thing to us, and we're a very close-knit group and we'll continue to operate that way. But I just want to do things moving forward with class and integrity like I've always tried to operate with.
KG: Do you think you'll be an AD one day again?
JURICH: Don't know. There's a lot of things going through our mind right now. We're just going to sort things out and see what happens.
EC: Twenty years ago you came in and had major violations in men's basketball, and you go out, and there are still major violations in men's basketball. And I know there's a lot of water under the bridge and a lot of things went on in that interim time, but how difficult is it for you to leave under the same conditions that you got there under, to some degree, with men's basketball? Do you feel like it was fair to be held to account, maybe, for some of that?
JURICH: Well I think, Eric, the first thing I look at is 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. You know everybody else operates perfectly. You know, like I said, we had 18 years in basketball we never had an issue. So when this came up, the Andre McGee thing, it was a very difficult thing to swallow. But the first thing we wanted to do was deal with it head on. We're the ones that went to the NCAA when we first heard about it. We're the ones that hired Chuck Smrt and got involved and tried to cooperate. We're the ones that the NCAA said did a marvelous job in cooperating with them. Does it bother me, those things? Is it troublesome? Sure it is. We're not going to hide from it. I'm the athletic director and I understand that. But you know I think there's a lot of things that didn't come to fruition till the very, very end.
EC: If I'm hearing you right, it's one thing if the university wanted to make a change. But I know that some of the things that were said in that letter sent to you haven't sat well. Was it the way it was done? Or is it the whole situation altogether that leaves you with a bad taste?
JURICH: Well, I think we're all human beings. When you see somebody take cheap shots at you, especially after you've tried to serve the place perfectly for 20 years, I think that's the difficult situation. Because I don't think they would want to be treated that way. And as I said, who are the real bullies?
KG: Kellie Young was a lacrosse coach that you brought in to start the program and you stood by here through some allegations back when I was in school. She was recently let go by the university. What was your reaction to that?
JURICH: You know, I'm certain they did their due diligence and that's what they felt they needed to do. You know, we were watching the developments. Her sport supervisors were working very, very close with her, the people that she reported to, and they were keeping me abreast of everything, and I felt they had a very strong handle on it. But obviously something didn't go right the last seven weeks.
KG: Just to wrap things up, you left this community rather abruptly, maybe not on your decision, what would you say to the community or leave them with that maybe they haven't heard yet?
JURICH: I would always say the same thing, thank you. Thank you for the phenomenal support that they gave not only me, but this university, and I would hope that they continue that. Because this is a fantastic university. Like I said, I have nothing but admiration for the school, and certainly nothing but admiration for that athletic department and all those kids and coaches and administrators that make up such a beautiful place. I just want them to have success, that's what I would say. But I would say thank you. Their generosity, all those buildings we were able to build, that came out of people's pockets, we didn't get any help from anything.
EC: I had a couple more things. You might not get another arena question, ever.
JURICH: I bet I will.
EC: May yet, at that. How much of the current arena funding troubles, is it fair to say, have anything to do with the University of Louisville?
JURICH: I don't think there's anything to do with the University of Louisville. They gave us a contract. They're the ones that asked us to come down there to play. We wanted, we were very adamant about wanting to be on campus. And it was selfishly something we wanted, because we wanted to continue to build the campus. I wanted the student-athlete atmosphere. But when the community asked us to come down, the business people, we said sure. So we came down. They signed the contract with us. They offered us the contract. The only thing I wanted that was the only kind of adversarial, controversial thing was I wanted the women to be part of it. And I wanted the women to come down there and enjoy that Yum! Center and have a great home, and I think the women's team has really flourished because of it. But I think they have great leadership. Scott Cox will do a fantastic job running that arena authority. They've got great leadership internally running it. I think they feel that they're on solid ground and solid footing now, and I think things are going to work out great for them.
EC: You mentioned Chuck Smrt, and you know how this goes, you win games and people love you and you don't win and they don't. He's been kind of a lightning rod in the wake of some of the NCAA violations that were handed down. With the way things played out, would you have done anything differently at all, and what do you think of the job he's done?
JURICH: Well you have to trust him. The school made a decision to hire him. And we leave that with the legal counsel, Leslie Strohm and her group are the ones that work with Chuck on pretty much a daily basis and they probably have better comments than I would be able to have, but Chuck is somebody that I've known for pretty much my entire career, all 32 years of it, and so he's somebody that I know is very well respected in the business. Things didn't work out well for us. But I think his advice was always advice that he felt from his heart was the best thing for our university to do.
EC: There's been a lot of talk about this adidas deal. Do we even know, can we say from what we've seen, whether adidas was involved in perpetuating a fraud on some of these schools that had athletes getting money, or maybe whether adidas was the victim of an executive who was defrauding them? Do we know yet?
JURICH: I don't know. I don't even know the executive involved. But I can tell you from our standpoint, the last 20 years that we've been with adidas, they've done nothing but support our student athletes at the highest level. Much more than we could have ever anticipated. And this new deal that they gave us, which was the third- or fourth-highest paid deal in United States history, is phenomenal. And to show their generosity, and how it is so far-reaching, not only to the student-athletes but to the non-student athletes on the campus, where the school of engineering was going to be involved, the school of business was going to be involved, our exercise and sports science, all these new things that we, our ideas came to fruition, was going to be such a positive. And then you read about some of the people, our decision-makers on campus slamming this deal, that have never been involved in a deal like this, well you know one thing they can do is walk away. Mark King, the president of adidas, says you can walk away from the deal. So I would suggest to them walk away from it if you don't like it. Just walk away and go cut your own deal, let's see what kind of negotiators you are.
EC: You have said if you'd seen any evidence, with Rick Pitino, of wrong doing, he'd have been gone.
JURICH: And he knows that.
EC: And you know that. You're not in the chair anymore, so you aren't seeing all the evidence.
JURICH: No, I never saw any of that.
EC: But have you seen enough yet to say that you think Rick Pitino should not be the basketball coach?
JURICH: I think that question will be answered later down the road, I really do.
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