LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – University of Louisville board chairman J. David Grissom said in a rare interview this winter that he predicts the “Power 5” college conferences, including the Atlantic Coast Conference, will eventually “peel away” from the NCAA.

“The NCAA has been essentially toothless in terms of enforcing its rules and regulations, Grissom told sports journalist Billy Reed in an hour-long interview on KET Jan. 23. “The NCAA has applied these rules in an inconsistent way.”

The interview with Reed came a month before the NCAA ordered U of L to vacate its 2013 men's basketball championship and strike years of wins and player statistics from official records, doling out a historic punishment for a sex scandal that tarnished one of college basketball's most successful programs.

Grissom told Reed the Power 5 conferences – the ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-12 and SEC – have already started acting more independently from the NCAA, though he did not cite examples and the men quickly moved away from the topic.

In addition, Grissom expressed his doubt about the long-time financial viability of the KFC Yum! Center, where U of L men’s and women’s basketball teams play and implied he would have preferred tearing down Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Exposition Center and build a new arena on that site.

While he has not before given a lengthy interview as U of L board chairman, Grissom said he sat down with Reed, a former Courier-Journal sports columnist and reporter for Sports Illustrated, because Reed is a “good old friend.”

Grissom, 79, has declined interview requests from media outlets, including The Courier-Journal reporter Andrew Wolfson, who wrote a lengthy profile of Grissom in January.

He said he pays little attention to social media – at one point calling it the “transom” - and has no media strategy, saying his goal is to “work myself out of a job,” staying only long enough to stabilize the university and then let someone else take over.

During the hour-long interview, Reed and Grissom talked about the need to change U of L’s negative reputation in the wake of back-to-back scandals in the basketball program.

“The old girl has taken a couple of body blows,” he said. “There is no question about that…. (But) she’s going to be just fine.”

In that vein, Grissom said of immediate importance is to address and resolve litigation with former coach Rick Pitino and any possible litigation with Tom Jurich, saying while there is no current court case involving Jurich, “it could very well happen.”

“Those are significant reputational distractions to the university and if they could be resolved in a way that leaves a good taste in the mouth of the public, I’d be very much working hard to help that happen.”

And Grissom pointed out that athletics have become too much of a focus. U of L is first and foremost an academic institution, he said, with a total budget of more than $1 billion, while the athletics department has a budget of about $100 million – or 7.5 percent of the total, he said.

“Unfortunately (the U of L president) has had to spend a whole lot more of his time than 7.5 percent of his day on athletics,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be great if people were as inclined to support the archaeology department, the English department, or the political science department as they are to make sure the end zone of Papa John’s stadium gets built? These things are getting a little out of whack. Wouldn’t it be good if we could sort of even it up a little bit?”

Grissom also said the athletics department became a “separate silo” and “governed itself with very little oversight form the (board of trustees) or the president,” a subject being reviewed by the current board.

The result, he said, will likely be greater oversight of the athletic department by the president and board.

However, Grissom went on to say that it’s a “total red herring, the idea that I want to deemphasize the great athletic program the university has and stands for. What I am interested in is a clean athletic program that is characterized by integrity that starts at the top. That’s all I’m interested in.”

And he said they are working hard to choose a university president, using a search firm to look nationally and continuing to evaluate interim president Greg Postel.

While there is an ongoing national search to replace Jurich, Grissom said he has been consistently impressed by Interim athletic director Vince Tyra.

“You will never have to worry about Vince as far as integrity is concerned,” Grissom said.

Grissom also praised interim basketball coach David Padgett. The interview came shortly after U of L beat Notre Dame in January – a win he said that “will go down in my view as one of the more significant athletic events in the recent history of the university.”

Asked by Reed about his own “managerial style,” Grissom acknowledged he has “lots of critics who think I don’t suffer fools gladly” but lives his life and is guiding the university by asking in each instance, “What is the right thing to do?”

While saying the current environment of college athletics has made for a “tough environment to do the right thing,” Grissom said there are plenty of programs showing it can be done the right way. He cited Stanford, Virginia and Notre Dame as programs that are competitive and “characterized by integrity,” even though those athletic departments have not been unscathed by scandal in  recent years.

 “I think if that becomes our mantra, that we want to do things in the right way, .. if that’s what the next president stands for and basically says this is we are going to be about, this is the culture we are going to follow, yes we could have a few lean seasons … but it’s a small price to pay I think.”

“As it says in the Bible, this too shall pass.”

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