Tom Jurich Had To Go

There is no way to start a story you thought you’d never write. Uncharted territory doesn’t begin to describe it.

“You can’t make this up,” Board of Trustees chair, David Grissom, told the media.

Et Tu, Brute?

I stood on the Louisville campus and felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. Tom Jurich arrived, dressed in all black and was flocked by reporters. It was the most surreal moment of my life.

Jurich has always been in control of the moment, always calm, cool and collected. And for the brief five-minute walk from Grawemeyer Hall to his all-black sports car – he wasn’t. It was poetic, in a sense. Here it was, his final moments of total control dissolving under the shadow of the iconic ‘Thinker’ statue – the most recognizable feature of a campus he helped overhaul.

It’s worth mentioning that Jurich hasn’t been exactly relieved of his duties, but that’s a simple contract formality. After 30 days of due process has passed, he will be.

This day for the University of Louisville had to come. To think otherwise is to show the same blind loyalty that may have doomed Jurich himself. On multiple occasions over the last few months, Jurich has reportedly been asked to fire Rick Pitino. He refused then and this week was no different. Kendrick Lamar said it best: “loyalty, loyalty, loyalty.” Even when the price to pay was the highest.

Yes, Louisville has had unprecedented athletic success under Jurich.

Yes, Louisville largely received the invite to the ACC because of Jurich.

His results are unmistakable and his place in the Mt. Rushmore of Louisville athletics is cemented. There is nothing that can ever change that, no matter the size of the scandal. But make no mistake about it: Tom Jurich is not bigger than the University of Louisville.

“Doing nothing is a tacit approval of criminal behavior,” Interim Louisville President Greg Postel said on Wednesday.

I couldn’t agree more. Doing nothing would continue to smear the degrees of Louisville alumni. It would smear the fans who have given everything to the program. It would continue to damage the reputation of the many who surround a school that is much more than sports. They don’t deserve it. You don’t deserve it.

There were coaches hired by Athletic Directors before Tom Jurich, and there were milestones achieved by those Athletic Directors. There were no FBI investigations or hooker scandals. The hire of a legend in Rick Pitino was made by Tom Jurich. The hires of legends in Denny Crum and Howard Schnellenberger were made by others. There was a National Championship in basketball while he was here. There was a National Championship stripped away in basketball while he was here. There were two National Championships in basketball before he arrived. There were two National Championships in basketball that weren’t stripped away before he arrived. Louisville will be fine.

One could ask what Tom Jurich has done and you could tell them to drive down Floyd Street to look. You can’t ignore that, and it would be foolish to do so.

You also can’t ignore Tom Jurich praising Adidas for its loyalty to Louisville. Then Adidas being at the forefront of the biggest scandal in college basketball history.

You can’t ignore a guy bullying representatives that surround the University of Louisville. You can’t ignore a guy refusing to consider different viewpoints, ever.

You can’t run from facts. You can’t ignore a culture of arrogance.

There may not be a community tied more to its basketball program than the one of Louisville. There assuredly isn’t a state tied more to its basketball programs than the state of Kentucky. When you grow up here or when you move here, at any age, you realize that basketball is the lifeline of Louisville. It represents a beacon of hope and an escape for people who may not have much in their lives. For too long, it’s been full of shame. Enough is enough.

Louisville fans suffered through three of the most embarrassing years in memory. Maybe even more embarrassment than any fan of any college program has ever suffered. Today was their validation. Today somebody stood up for them.

They had to watch a team not play in the postseason and took constant jabs from those around them. How did Louisville respond? They rose basketball ticket prices. They had audits that revealed a lot of cash going to every place that it shouldn’t. They had two assistant coaches conspiring to cheat in a Las Vegas hotel. All of this only 35 days after being labelled the first team to be stripped of a National Championship. Jurich was at the forefront of that. It happened under his watch. You don’t get to celebrate all the accomplishments and have no blame. That’s called leadership. That’s why Tom Jurich made a different salary than the equipment manager.

You cannot allow a person who refused to be held accountable or to hold others accountable to be the face of a community. One of them has to happen, or you have to go. The basketball program and its years of legacy are more important than one, two, or ten people. The University of Louisville is better than that and the city of Louisville is better than that.

I’m not sure where Louisville goes from here. It is a dark day for the University. Yet the sun has to set before it can rise again. Had Louisville continued down the path with Tom Jurich, they would have been prolonging darkness. It’s time to put Louisville back in the bright light. The only way to get there is to get through the night first.