Thank you, Tom Jurich
My tweets about UofL sports are usually obscure stats such as Louisville’s win-loss record on the fifth Tuesday in February or how many new records Lamar Jackson has broken on any given Saturday. I have a lot of fun with those as I try to convey the accomplishments of Louisville players and coaches in 140 characters.
I don’t often delve into debate, opinion or prose because it’s not my thing. I like to watch UofL sports, compile stats, and tweet what I find interesting. I don’t enjoy arguing on the internet.
The last few weeks have been painful. I love UofL and hate to see it suffer like it has. Making things worse has been my struggle with what to say without being divisive or negative.
I didn’t think Louisville should fire Tom Jurich, as I’ve tried to express in my tweets.
At the same time, I’m a Louisville fan and want UofL to succeed in the future. I’m encouraged by the fact that Vince Tyra comes into the athletic director role with a passion for UofL and track record that sets him up for success.
The difficulty for me since Tom was fired has been how to express support for Vince and UofL while also expressing my disappointment in UofL’s decision to fire Tom. To decide how to move forward, I had to look back on my experience as a UofL fan.
I became a Louisville fan in 1979 through random circumstances. It wasn’t because my dad took me to a memorable game or because I had a cool encounter with a Louisville player. It happened simply because my family moved from Louisville to Lexington when I was in the sixth grade. I didn’t follow sports much, but I did have pride in my hometown.
That fall I borrowed my older brother’s jacket and walked to the bus stop. The jacket was a red windbreaker with white block letters on the back that said LOUISVILLE. I had no idea that was a fashion faux pas in Lexington, but I soon discovered the significance of what I had done. “Why are you wearing a Loserville jacket?” was the general theme of the comments I got that day.
My civic pride kicked in and I became a Louisville fan on the spot. The timing couldn’t have been better since Denny Crum and Darrell Griffith delivered UofL’s first national championship four months later.
After a couple years in Lexington, I moved to Russellville, Ky., for high school. It’s a great town, but I was the only Louisville fan there. One of my favorite high school memories was being with a couple hundred Kentucky fans while watching the Cards destroy UK in overtime of the Dream Game in 1983.
After high school, I went to college in the northeast. I enjoyed football games and we even won a national championship in hockey while I was there, but my passion for college sports remained focused on UofL. It wasn’t easy following the Cards from a thousand miles away in the days before the internet, but I found a way.
Fast forward to 1997. I was sitting in Cardinal Stadium watching Louisville lose to Houston to fall to 1–7. The program that Howard Schnellenberger had resurrected was crumbling. Conference USA, which Louisville had joined the previous year, was in the process of expelling UofL from the league. During that game, some guy I’d never heard of was introduced as UofL’s new athletic director.
How many people in the crowd of 21,432 that day would have believed everything UofL would achieve during Tom Jurich’s career?
· Joining the Big East
· Joining the ACC
· New venues for almost every sport
· Expansion of the football stadium to 65,000 seats
· First-time NCAA Tournament appearances in 18 sports
· Establishing new women’s sports to ensure Title IX compliance
· Replacing academic eligibility issues with exemplary academic success
· Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl wins
· Four College World Series appearances
· Two national championship game appearances in women’s basketball
· National championship appearance in men’s soccer
· Heisman Trophy and Golden Spikes Award winners
· Campus transformation from a commuter school to a residential campus
Over the past three weeks I’ve agonized along with all Cardinal fans at the horrible news surrounding the basketball program. I’ve watched helplessly as things haven’t gone the way I hoped. I wanted Tom to be retained. I wanted him to lead UofL Athletics out of this crisis and on to new heights. I’ve struggled with how to reconcile my disappointment in his termination with my lifelong passion for supporting the Cards.
The first thing I had to resolve was how to prevent my disappointment in Tom’s dismissal from affecting my support for his replacement.
I have faith that Vince will succeed as UofL’s new AD not only because of his passion for UofL and leadership experience, but because of the incredible foundation built by Tom and the talented coaches and staff he’s assembled over the past 20 years.
To anyone feeling the urge to cancel their season tickets or quit supporting UofL because of their disappointment and anger over Tom’s dismissal, I recommend you step back and ask yourself how you can show appreciation for Tom and support UofL at the same time. I think one way to do that is by doing your part to ensure that what Tom has built at UofL flourishes and becomes bigger, stronger, and better.
What greater tribute could there be to Tom than for the next generation of UofL fans to enjoy following the Cards and be reminded of what a great athletic program Tom helped build?