The fallout related to the NCAA basketball scandal continues without a pause. This past week it was announced that Louisville has parted ways with athletic director Tom Jurich after that school was outed as one of the primary offenders in a scandal that has led to a federal investigation of college basketball. This was no arbitrary or cursory decision. Jurich has been the AD at Louisville for 20 years, two decades in which that school has built a strong reputation for college hoops. Immediately after the scandal story broke, Jurich was placed on paid administrative leave, but he had to have known the writing was on the wall.
The Story Gained Attraction Everywhere
As this scandal continued to stay near the top of the sports news cycle, more and more big names in college hoops were drawn in. The Louisville trustees didn’t belabor the firing, releasing a terse statement that included the following: “We want to thank Tom for his years of service and many contributions to the university… To our students, faculty, staff and Cards fans, this is our opportunity to demonstrate the unity and integrity that define being a Louisville Cardinal.”
Bottom line, a head or two had to roll…and they needed to be significant heads. Longtime head basketball coach Rick Pitino was the first. Jurich followed soon after. It’s tough to say who was more important to Louisville’s longtime success. It was Pitino who tended to personify the school’s program, year in and year out. But it was Jurich who helped bring Louisville into the ACC, and he used the basketball team’s prominence to help upgrade multiple athletic facilities. There’s no doubt he’s made an indelible mark on the program.
Students, Staff and Alumni Support Jurich
But there was nothing positive Jurich had done that could erase the “disappointment” that trustees felt at the “unacceptable” allegations of conduct by members of the Louisville basketball leadership team related to the current fraud scandal. Jurich isn’t speaking out about the firing, but his attorney is telegraphing that he might fight the dismissal on contract grounds. Jurich also has supporters among students, employees, and alumni who have made their opinions heard since the firing.
At this point, those voices aren’t too loud, but Louisville might end up in a situation where they have major heat coming from outside the school as well as a growing fire inside the school. To keep that from happening, the school needs to be much more proactive in creating a different narrative than the reactionary feel of the recent steps. Yes, the scandal is embarrassing, and something needed to be done. But, so far, the moves have not improved the mood of fans or school supporters.