The Jurich lie

Whenever someone has questioned the exorbitant salaries made by coaches of major NCAA sports programs, the response was always:

They do so much for the university! They bring in all of that TV money and advertising revenue, and that’s what attracts students to go here.

They point to Forbes magazine articles about how Louisville basketball is the most valuable program in America, including the 2011 story: “Louisville Athletics Program Is A Winner Financially.”

How could anyone question what UofL sports was spending on coaches, stadiums and facilities when the program was sold to us as such an invariable revenue machine? If someone in academia asked the questions, one couldn’t help but also hear the undertones of condescension in the answers:

What would you nerds know about sports anyway? That basketball team pays for your science lab, nerd.

Well, on behalf of the nerds — the academics, professors, adjuncts, taxpayers, donors, alumni and, oh yeah, the students — check the scoreboard again. UofL used this institution of higher learning to build its sports franchise.

Suspended UofL Athletics Director Tom Jurich isn’t just smarter than every other AD in the country. As it turns out, Jurich built his sports empire on the backs of students and not by dint of his own merit. And, like most corrupt leaders, he used his position of power for personal profit.

It could be said that Jurich was just doing his job: The AD builds locker rooms, not classrooms. And in many respects, he was effective in achieving that goal. It was no small feat to land in the Atlantic Coast Conference. But, being in the ACC doesn’t mean anything if it comes at the detriment of academic programs and students.

In doing his job, Jurich knew those headlines were lies — UofL sports were not as valuable as we were told. He didn’t correct the lie but used it to further his profit.

Thanks to great reporting by The Courier-Journal’s Andrew Wolfson, we now know what it cost to build UofL into a public institution of higher athletics. He reported that UofL was subsidizing the Athletics Department by about $7 million a year.

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And, when crosschecked against increases in student tuition and the school’s financial hardships, it’s a damning indictment that shows greed and abuse. It is a picture of a university that more closely resembles a corrupt oligarchy than public institution.

With the UofL Foundation underwriting Jurich’s athletic department, Jurich was treated to unbelievable luxuries.

Some of the highlights: “gross-up” compensation, meaning the university paid his taxes; memberships at three country clubs, including his dues, bar and food minimums; $30,000 a year for financial advisors; $12,000 a year for two vehicles; Skye Terrace tickets to Oaks and Derby worth $24,000 a year; and lifetime tickets to UofL football and basketball games… for his and his kids’ lifetimes.

All of this in addition to base pay and bonuses. As Wolfson points out: Jurich’s income last year was more than the university set for its departments of Biology ($3.3 million), English ($4 million), History ($2.4 million) or Mathematics ($3.5 million).

While Jurich enriched himself, UofL cut its award-winning climate action and sustainability program, about $300,000. Jurich got $30,000 per year for financial advisors, while UofL cut $20,000 a year for The Louisville Cardinal, the student newspaper.

Meanwhile, student tuition has increased, often by the maximum allowed. Students love their teams, but they’d probably rather not have a lifetime of loan debt.

It’s clear Jurich took credit for success that he didn’t deserve. After all, who could question $280 million in new sports facilities? But, with disgraced, former President James Ramsey as his co-conspirator and enabler, Jurich was rewarded for blurring the lines. As Wolfson reported, even on the years when UofL athletics “returned” money to the university, it went right back to Jurich’s coffers through the Foundation.

Jurich’s success and outrageous compensation were built on a lie. Students paid for it. Taxpayers underwrote it. Donors were conned into supporting it.

Just over 10 months ago, Jurich went on a radio rant about the sacrifices he’s made for the city and UofL, threatening to pull sports teams from the KFC Yum Center. Jurich said, “If they don’t want us in there, just tell us — we’ll leave.”?

Well, good riddance.

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