Photo Courtesy of WDRB.com
All good things must come to an end. I didn’t see Tom Jurich’s tenure coming to an end in such an inglorious fashion. I enjoyed having him as Athletic Director of my Alma Mater because I believe he cared about UofL Athletics as much as I do.
I was born here in Louisville, raised here in Louisville, and I graduated from Louisville. I am Louisville. UofL sports is woven into the intricate fabric of Louisville. I love the games, the atmosphere, the camaraderie of fans, the players, and the games. It’s all wondrous to me. And to me, the face of UofL Athletics wasn’t a coach, it was Tommy “The Turtleneck” Jurich.
I believe that, though he wasn’t born here or raised here like I was; Tom loves Louisville, it’s University, and the University’s athletics. To me, that is what made him so good at his job. He cared about UofL sports like I care about them. I think that’s why I, and fans like me, revere Tom.
Tom cared about the health of all the programs under the UofL umbrella. He made sure they were all taken care of. How? By hiring excellent coaches to run the programs and erecting gorgeous facilities for each program to practice and play in.
Unseemly empty lots and rail yards were transformed into facilities like Cardinal Park, Lynn Stadium, the Yum Center Practice Facility, Trager Indoor Practice Facility, Patterson Stadium, and Wright Natatorium. Floyd Street had been a caterpillar that Tom Jurich turned into a butterfly.
Let’s not forget that he always believed things could be improved. Hence he expanded Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. First with the UPS Flight Deck and now with the north end zone enclosure. He also made sure to upgrade already great facilities at the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex. He always wanted to make something great even more extraordinary.
The coaches he chose were usually men and women of great character and integrity. Yes, I know Rick turned out to be a dubious hire in retrospect. I understand Bobby Petrino has had personal issues that most other ADs would not overlook.
However, I look at coaches like Dan McDonnell, Ken Lolla, Jeff Walz, Arthur Albiero, Justine Sowery, and Kellie Young. All high character, quality men and women that truly run their programs the right way. They have molded the young people they coach into high character student-athletes, championship contenders, and champions.
Another important thing to keep in mind about Tom Jurich is that he cared about women’s sports. To him, they were just as important as football and basketball. Because of his belief, we see a relatively new women’s lacrosse program becoming relevant more quickly than anyone thought. We see a field hockey program currently ranked 9th in the nation. Jurich took an Athletic Department in danger of being penalized for non-compliance with Title IX laws and turned it into a model for Title IX compliance.
To Tom, UofL was like his child and he did all he could to see that his child grew up to be successful and admirable. He was a man of vision and a man of action. He saw what UofL Athletics could be at its best and used all his power to make that a reality.
His vision was realized when UofL was accepted into the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference. Never before had our program been in a conference of such majesty. It wasn’t an easy journey. Yet, Tom navigated UofL Athletics through CUSA, the Big East, and the AAC to get us to the promised land. In my opinion, this ascension to a prime time conference does not happen without Tom.
I will miss Tom Jurich. His vision and his actions created such beautiful art all along Floyd Street. His guidance led to some beautiful memories for me.
I’ll never forget seeing UofL basketball win the 2013 Championship or watching UofL Football dominate Florida in the Sugar Bowl. I’ll never forget watching UofL Baseball win Super Regionals and make it to Omaha or Men’s Soccer making it to the College Cup Title Game. Nor will I forget UofL Women’s Basketball playing in to 2 Championship Games.
All these memories are due to great players like Russdiculous, Luke Hancock, Teddy Bridgewater, Lamar Jackson, Brendan McKay, Corey Ray, Angel McCoughtry, and Shoni Schimmel, to name a few.
These great players were brought in by great coaches who sold them on UofL with the help of state of the art facilities. These coaches and facilities are here because of the vision and action of one man…Tom Jurich. Thank you Tom. Thank you for the memories. I wish it hadn’t ended this way.