Getting Furious (Again): National Media Recounts Louisville Basketball’s Embarrassing Scandals

Posted on Dec 15 2017 - 3:50pm by Ethan Moore

Photo – AP

One article was released this past Sunday by ESPN, UofL’s lawsuit against Coach 2 was announced on Wednesday in addition to the Bloomberg article and Pat Forde of Yahoo! published his scathing piece on Thursday.  Ugh.  I thought I was over the embarrassing, ridiculous, and nonsensical scandals that have made the UofL basketball a national punchline, but alas, I am not.  Just when I was finally simmering down from all the drama, the scab was forcibly peeled away and the wound was found to be just as deep.   When the Powell allegations were made public – I like the vast majority of Louisville fans – brushed them aside as someone just stirring something up.  And while some of them were exaggerated by Powell, (shocker) they proved to be true and the rest is history.  The painful postseason ban and the distinct possibility of losing two Final Four appearances and a national title with 123 wins total has and is now facing us as a fanbase head on.  The latest articles have nothing new, but each stoke the flames of my anger as a fan during this time.  Shame, embarrassment, shock, apathy are all adjectives that can be used to describe the fanbase at the present time.  

The ESPN-OTL show and article discussed the Jurich tenure with all the good and bad (and/or shady) things he’s responsible for.  This focus was on his adidas deal and how it much of the financial dealings at UofL were done in secret. While Jurich deserves blame for his blind loyalty to Pitino that helped these scandals take shape, any criticism for the adidas deal and Yum! Center is misguided.  The city, state, Arena Authority or whoever was responsible for agreeing to that sweetdeal for UofL should be ashamed.  I’m all for UofL basketball getting a great deal, but that agreement in place?  WTF.  That was never going to be economically feasible.  The troubling part was Jurich’s shady side deals with disgraced former President James Ramsey.  The “bonuses” and “deferred compensation” without others’ knowledge is bad business. 

MUCH OF THE athletic department’s finances was shrouded in secrecy, hidden from the Louisville Athletic Association and the board of trustees. Two former trustees told Outside the Lines that they were unaware of large real estate transactions involving the athletic department and the Louisville Foundation, the school’s endowment, which raises money for education and research.

Also, the rumors of Jurich and his associates trying to control the media were finally made public.  He was an elite Athletics Director, and deserves all the credit for building the UofL athletics empire and getting Louisville into the ACC.  That move saved UofL sports as we know it and will sustain the basketball program currently going through this mess.  But what about the few things that warranted criticism?  The Kragthorpe hire, the blind loyalty to Pitino, and his ‘WakeyLeaks’ response….those are the type of examples that deserve harsh critique.  That didn’t mean that Jurich should be fired or that he wasn’t good at his job, it simply meant media – and others – had a right to share their opinion without fear of threats of funds being pulled.  You would think someone so successful wouldn’t resort to such bush league tactics.  

Jurich sought to neutralize the scandals and shape the athletic department’s image by controlling the local media, according to interviews with more than half a dozen journalists and media executives — many of whom requested anonymity out of fear of reprisals from Louisville, even with Jurich gone. They described consistent and aggressive efforts to influence coverage, including abusive calls to radio talk-show hosts and executives by Jurich and his surrogates; threats to get advertising pulled from stations; and attempts to influence hiring and firing. Jurich denies he sought to influence advertisers or pressure the media. Nearly all of the media members identified Bob Gunnell, a public relations specialist, as Jurich’s main surrogate and attack dog. The Louisville athletic department has a sports information group that employs 11 people, but contracts obtained by Outside the Lines show Jurich paid Gunnell’s outside PR firm, Boxcar, up to $130,000 per year dating to 2014. Shortly after Jurich was fired, Gunnell cut ties with the university. He now represents Jurich personally.

In the middle of the week, the Bloomberg article was published and it made known how influential Pitino and Jurich were to stopping the NBA from coming to Louisville.  Whether or not you’re a fan of the NBA in town or not, it would’ve helped the Yum! Center’s dates stay filled.  

The city burghers even had a nonbinding agreement with the Charlotte Hornets, which wanted to relocate. The plan centered around building a downtown arena that the Hornets and the Cardinals would share.

Jurich and Pitino had other ideas. They had no intention of sharing an arena with an NBA team—they didn’t even want to share the city with an NBA team. Louisville was theirs. David Stern, who was then commissioner of the NBA, recalls thinking, “If Rick Pitino doesn’t want us there, why are we going there?” The Hornets went to New Orleans instead. 

That’s not the most maddening part of the piece.  It’s how once again Pitino is whining about being a victim when instead he is the cause.  It’s infuriating because of all the good Tom Jurich did while he was here, his refusal to discipline Rick for any of the scandals and bad press he brought to UofL aided in UofL’s current situation.  

That leads us to the lawsuits.  Coach 2 sued UofL and now the school is counter-suing.  It will either get settled or end up in more – continuous – bad press for the school we all root for.  This isn’t faulting Pat Forde for writing what he wrote – UofL is deserving of the negative press because of morons like Andre McGee and Jordan Fair and Pitino not knowing what was going on in his program.  Things are so bad that we appointed Louisville Basketball “College Sports Dumpster Fire of the Year”.  Maybe that title got me all riled up, but unfortunately it’s true.  Look at this debale from a national perspective.  Louisville got hammered by the NCAA for allowing strippers and prostitutes in the dorm.  They’re currently appealing the penalties while we have to wait and see what happens to the program because of the OTHER scandal.  

But the winner of the College Sports Dumpster Fire of the Year is Louisville. What an effort by the Cardinals. Hit with major NCAA sanctions in late spring for the tawdry “StripperGate” scandal, Louisville didn’t stop there. By late September the place was better known as “University 6,” the label applied by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of New York in its federal complaint alleging corruption in college basketball.

The complaint says that Louisville entered into multiple schemes with its apparel partner, Adidas, and others to pay players to sign with the Cardinals – with the previous NCAA mushroom cloud hovering over the program. Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino became “Coach 2” in the complaint. Already suffering extreme scandal fatigue, this bombshell led to the quick-trigger firing of both Pitino and renowned athletic director Tom Jurich. Two of Pitino’s assistants were sent packing shortly thereafter.

And now, because quiet accountability is nowhere near as fun as backbiting and finger-pointing, we are in the lawsuit phase.

Attendance is down because of scandal fatigue and that will continue.  The black cloud remains over Louisville Basketball because of wrongdoing from only a few people in a shockingly short amount of time.  Every time I see Louisville’s name drug through the mud it pisses me off. Remember when we could actually talk smack to UK fans?  Again, because of the embarrassingly long list of scandals at UofL, we can’t.  A new President, AD (hopefully Vince Tyra), and basketball coach is needed.  Only then can we start the massive rebuilding project.  Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich continue to play the victim card and it’s getting old. While TJ has a right to in some regard, Coach 2 certainly doesn’t.  

Rant over.

Go Cards, still. 

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