NCAA
Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer 34d

Louisville fires athletic director Tom Jurich after scandal

Men's College Basketball, NCAA - Other, Louisville Cardinals

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich was fired with cause Wednesday, in a 10-3 vote by the school's board of trustees.

The decision to fire Jurich came two days after the school's athletics board voted to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. Both were placed on administrative leave Sept. 27 as a result of the FBI's ongoing investigation into fraud and corruption in recruiting related to the steering of recruits to Adidas, sports agents and financial advisers.

Vincent Tyra will continue to serve as interim athletic director.

Pitino and Jurich have denied any wrongdoing through their attorneys. Jurich's legal counsel, Frost Brown Todd Attorneys LLC, issued a statement Wednesday.

"We believe that their vote to terminate his contract was done in haste with inaccurate information that should have had no bearing on continuing his employment," it read. "Tom Jurich maintained a professional athletic department that was the envy of universities across the country. He has done nothing illegal, nor violated any NCAA rules. Tom has been a great steward for the University of Louisville Athletics brand."

The statement goes on to say that "Tom has instructed us to vigorously defend his rights and reputation under his long-standing contract with the University of Louisville."

Despite the denials, the fact that Louisville is under federal investigation is just the latest scandal to befall the athletic department.

In June, the NCAA Committee on Infractions announced Louisville basketball would have to vacate wins, and potentially its 2013 national championship after it was found that strippers and escorts were paid to entertain prospective recruits between 2010 and 2014.

Also in June, a university audit showed that Jurich's son, Mark, an associate AD for development, was paid nearly exclusively from University of Louisville foundation funds. As part of the investigation into the university's $160 million deal with Adidas, it was revealed that his daughter, Haley, was hired by the apparel company as a brand manager last March.

In addition, Jurich came under fire for sticking behind Pitino in 2009 after the basketball coach admitted to an extramarital affair and for bringing back football coach Bobby Petrino, who had an extramarital affair of his own while at Arkansas.

All of that was enough to bring down a man regarded as one of the best athletic directors in the country just a few years ago. Indeed, Jurich steered Louisville athletics into a new era of prosperity after he was hired in 1997, taking over a program that was in debt and turning it into a national power.

Under his watch, Louisville made several conference leaps before joining the ACC in 2014, the culmination of a vision he had to get the Cardinals into one of the most respected conferences in the nation. The move came three years after a failed bid to get into the Big 12, but one that showed just how powerful Louisville athletics had become, to garner that much interest as a team that would add value to a major conference.

In 20 years as athletic director, Jurich oversaw the completion of the KFC Yum! Center for men's and women's basketball, a new soccer stadium, expanded the baseball and softball stadiums, added an academic center for excellence and has gotten multiple renovations and improvements to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The stadium is currently undergoing a $63 million stadium expansion.

One of the most notable votes to fire Jurich came from John Schnatter, the owner of Papa John's and namesake to the football stadium.

During a trustees meeting in April, Schnatter let his displeasure with Jurich be known when he said athletic department leadership was "invisible" as he discussed budgetary issues that had befallen the university.

"Until you fix athletics, you can't fix this university," he said. "You have to fix the athletics first. I mean I've looked at this eight ways to Sunday. You've got to fix the athletics first, and then the university will get in line."

Jurich did have the support of his coaches -- 15 of them, including Petrino, signed a letter of support sent to interim president Greg Postel on Sunday. In the letter, the coaches said: "Tom's impact on our department and institution is unparalleled. ... we fervently believe that Tom's leadership has transformed the University of Louisville and has molded thousands of student-athletes who are now graduates of this great institution."

Jurich and Petrino had repaired their relationship and formed a tight bond during Petrino's second stint with the Cards. Now that Jurich has been fired, there is a clause in Petrino's contract that would cut his buyout in half.

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