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Weak leadership, media fuel KFC Yum! Center mess


There is something very sad when Louisville’s toughest media punch comes from the blogosphere. Sites like NBA to Louisville, the Louisville Voice or Insider Louisville are seemingly the only ones willing to take on their villain of choice, Metro Government, Kentucky Government or University of Louisville leadership. Our forte is the NBA, but we all want a Louisville that will be better place for all who work, live or play. There is so much this city has to offer, and we all want everyone to take a look and see it.

Strong media goes beyond stirring controversy or getting scoops for stories. Strong media keeps the feet to the fire of those who make grand plans or promises. Strong media do not back down from a story that may damage a relationship. A strong media community keeps egos in check, and in turn makes that person with the strong ego work harder to show them wrong or to prove said person right.

For us NBA to Louisville fans our arch villain is UL Athletic Director Tom Jurich. If Louisville Metro Government is cast as Batman, Jurich is without question The Joker. Like in the comic book series, The Joker is Gotham’s biggest unchecked ego. Here in Louisville, U of L’s Athletic Director and Vice President has the biggest unchecked ego. Throughout the comic book series, Joker seemed to know that Batman would never put him in check for good. In real life, Jurich seems to know that Metro Government won’t ever challenge him to the point of neutralizing him. He certainly knows that Louisville’s established media will not challenge his stature of the gatekeeper of the biggest story in town.

Jurich made Mayor Fischer look silly on two occasions. Earlier this year, when the mayor was still on the NBA to Louisville kick, he tried to get the AD to meet him to discuss lease renegotiation. Jurich shunned the mayor on such talks to this day. Mr. Fischer was again put in his place when the Cards won the NCAA men’s basketball title when he went on tv and announced that there will be a ticker tape parade for the basketball team. The mayor was later rebuked by UL Athletics (Headed by Jurich) that there will instead be an event held at Yum! Center instead, leaving the mayor embarrassed once again by someone lower in rank than him. Jurich defenders will say that the Cardinals were well represented at the Pegasus Parade during the run up to the Kentucky Derby. However, this does not take away from the fact that the mayor announced a parade and the athletic department treated the Mayor’s authority as no more than a minor annoyance.

Perhaps the biggest joke Mr. Jurich pulled off on taxpayers was the KFC Yum! Center lease. In Jurich’ defense, Louisville Metro Government approved of all of the demands of the athletic department in getting them to play in the new arena. Mr. Jurich is firm in his stance to not renegotiate the lease terms. He saw Mayor Fischer’s plays for the NBA at Yum! as a bait and switch on his program, that the UL was being used as a place holder until an NBA tenant came. I see his claims as overly exaggerated, Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball is a revenue producer any NBA owner would want to partner with. Just as funny is the athletic department’s claims that an NBA team would damage their program to the point of no return. How can an athletic program, richest in all the NCAA, with a men’s basketball team who’s estimated worth is over $38.5 million according to Forbes, say with a straight face that the NBA or any other pro sport in Louisville will bankrupt the program? How can they say this and conveniently ignore the fact that when the UL enters the Atlantic Coast Conference, football revenues will grow with better competition and more appearances in higher profile bowl games. Football is the chief revenue producer for many universities, should Louisville’s football program follow suit, the anti pro sports stance will hold even less water with fans.

My biggest issue with UL has nothing to do with their team. My issue has to do with their role in keeping professional sports large and small out of the one arena that can host them today. We all can understand the NBA concerns, as it would be a big deal if the league comes to Louisville. On the other hand, U of L’s control of Yum! Center dates and arena revenues keep out other leagues like Arena Football or the WNBA. I have yet to hear anyone make an argument as to why the university should get a cut of revenue from professional sporting events it has nothing to do with. Secondly, how does the addition of these two leagues in Yum! Center during summer also damage UL Athletics? That answer is simple, it doesn’t. All of this leads me to my last point.

The Louisville Athletic Program doesn’t want to earn my money, they want it given to them. Mr. Jurich and his superiors at the University of Louisville want taxpayers to foot the bill for a stadium where their lease agreement helps keep the arena in bad financial health. U of L wants the city to suffer financially to pay for Yum!, while they make large profits off their basketball teams. It is one thing for Tom Jurich to shut out the mayor, however it is another thing to shut out the taxpayers and their desires. It is an insult to their fans for the Louisville Cardinals to have an average price of $35 for a men’s basketball ticket, then cry broke when there’s talk of the NBA in Yum! Center. Jurich is one of the highest paid Athletic Director’s in the NCAA at $1.4 million a year. While he lives a comfortable life here in the metro, many Cardinals fans work long hours, or work two jobs to come up with the money to support Cardinals athletics through game attendance or merchandise sales. State money fund the University of Louisville. The hard earned money from Louisville’s taxpaying citizens also fund the athletic program and Yum! Center. However, like the mayor, taxpayers like us are just a minor annoyance to the athletic department. If the University of Louisville wanted to put the city first as they use in their slogan “Louisville first, Cards forever”, then maybe it is time to put the taxpayer first. After all, these are the people who are the foundation the university finances is built upon.

14 Responses to “Weak leadership, media fuel KFC Yum! Center mess”

  1. Joe August 27, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    First, Tom Jurich does not work for the mayor. To call him a subordinate in any way is fallacious. Mr Jurich’s job is to look out for UofL athletics; a job he does quite well.
    Second, the argument that UofL receives money from the state is weak at best. Please see the recent article concerning UofL’s boom in the last decade and a half based on athletic success. It cites diminishing contributions by the state to the point that this great university would have been crippled had it not been for the success of the athletic department; a department that even donated to the academic side to fund staff raises during a wage freeze.

    All in all, I see your points as weak and feeble. There appears to be a vendetta against a successful college AD that is loved by the city and alumni alike for what he has done for our alma mater. I would love to see an NBA team come to Louisville and even have a wager against my best friend that one will in the next five years. To write an entire article with more opinion than fact and to place the blame on one man doing his job and to attack his salary is cheap and lazy.

  2. Will August 28, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    I admit I stopped reading through the first part of the article; however I just want to add a quick comment.

    I truly hope Louisville does not get an NBA team. To me it is really obvious that it will not make it. Someone, somewhere or perhaps a group look at the TV ratings every spring and have it in their collective head that there’s so much love for college basketball that a team from the NBA would flourish here. It would not. It’s a numbers game and Louisville does not have enough. What you’re asking is to have a general population to come together and support a single entity. Louisville is split and follows two very distinct programs. A general love for the sport is there, but I believe if one is out those fans follow in part just to make sure the other doesn’t make it. Look at other sports that have tried to get establish in the city and they were not trying to fill an overly large venue; hockey, arena football and to an extent minor league baseball. The later has maybe a dozen events to capacity each season and how many seats are there?

    I’m afraid it would become nothing more than a failed experiment with the tax payers paying for it. In the larger cities where the professional teams exist it’s because there’s enough of the general population to create a following. Out of the total number of people in the city of Cincinnati do the Bengals draw for a consistent crowd? How about the Reds? How many times do you see a full stadium there?

    Look at the total population of any major city with a professional basketball team. Look at the % of that number who follows and attends the games and then look at the average available incomes. Louisville would have to factor in the division of the fan base in some manner. Initially you’d probably see a great turn out, but a steady decline would follow looking at past performances. It’s simple I think, hope cooler heads prevail on this.

  3. Mr. Red August 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Interesting article, even if I disagree with many of your conclusions. One area I believe you overlook is the context in which the Yum Center/UofL lease was negotiated.

    UofL had no obligation to back a downtown/riverfront arena. In fact, the UofL athletic department was keen on a campus (or close to campus) location to complete it’s athletic corridor on Central Avenue.

    It was the Mayor and business leaders that were intent on a downtown location because of its obvious transformative capabilities for the area. UofL got on board with this plan as the community pillar that it is and it as worked out well. But you fail to mention UofL got a good deal because it SHOULD have gotten a good deal. Considering the Yum Center’s location was not UofL’s idea, nor would it exist without the Cards, I don’t begrudge them one bit for the benefits of the contract they negotiated.

    Also of note is that the Yum Center is now exceeding revenue projections (by more than 2 million dollars) under the leadership of AEG and that taxpayers haven’t paid a single cent more than what was negotiated when the Arena was constructed. Your conclusion that Jurich has his foot on the throats of taxpayers just isn’t supported by the facts. It’s that simple.

    Anyways, a good read and food for thought. In the future I’d tone down the “Jurich is complete evil aka like The Joker” rhetoric as it doesn’t do much to advance your arguments and comes off as amateurish.

  4. Tomnationwide August 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    To place any blame on Tom Jurich or the University of Louisville in any way is just poor journalism on your part. Factually speaking, the University wanted no part of the Yum Center. The University was intent on having a facility on campus and it wasn’t even a question. The City came in and offered them a sweetheart deal in order to make this happen.
    Flash forward to today. Because the University is a tenant at the facility they will not approve rearranging their schedule to accommodate another franchise playing in the building. That’s not selfish, that’s good business. The University has a responsibility to the institution to look after its own interest. They do not have an obligation to the City to look out for the City Affairs.
    That said, it would certainly be nice if the University would make some type of compromise that would allow the Yum Center to reach out and land a team, but it IS NOT the Universities fault that they were offered a deal that doesn’t work for the City.

  5. Rick August 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    Why should Jurich renegotiate a lease whose existing terms are favorable to UofL? His responsibility is to the University, not to those wanting to bring in an NBA team nor to the mayor. What does the University stand to gain in a renegotiated lease?

  6. Greg August 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Very shotty journalism here. Why on earth would U of L want an NBA team in our city? Louisville basketball has proven that even a small city can pack a 20k seat facility for 15-20 home games a year. As you pointed out many patrons spend large portions of their earnings on attending these events. Now you want the Cardinals fans living in Louisville to choose which event they would rather attend since both is not a practical option (no one has 60 nights a year and $3,000+ extra dollars to spend on tickets for both). All adding an NBA team would do is slightly decrease U of L attendance and eliminate scheduling flexibility. Nothing positive is gained for U of L in any of this. In reality all it does is hurt them/us.

    The ignorant people clamoring for a NBA franchise are the same people that want to suppress U of L’s imagine and success in the state. Hmmmm I wonder who wants that? Hint, their name rhymes with kensucky fans. They want to literally and figuratively kill two birds with one stone by suppressing U of L and creating a sports event in the city of Louisville that BBN could support. The argument made by the author of this piece that Louisville already makes enough money from basketball and should share it with and NBA team is as dumb as dumb gets. Why on earth would U of L want to lose potential revenue to something they have no affiliation with? The reason you claimed “for the good of the city” is not true. It is good for UK fans in Louisville. It is not good for U of L fans in Louisville. Here’s a thought for all you people blaiming Jurich for not wanting an NBA team. Why don’t you get one in Lexington? I’m sure Barnhart would love to renegotiate your schedule so that an NBA team could squeeze in 40 games a year.

  7. Ken August 28, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    I smell a UK fan.

  8. UofLgrad07 August 30, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    This was a pretty poorly written article

    #1. Mr. Parker begins by stating that his “arch villain” is U of L Athletic Director Tom Jurich and that the mayor “has been embarrassed once again by someone lower in rank than him”. The latter statement seems to imply that Mr. Parker either a) views the position of “mayor” as a form of social class standing or b) believes Mr. Jurich is a subordinate employee of Mr. Fisher. For Mr. Parker’s benefit, I will explain why both of these viewpoints are incorrect.

    The mayor of Louisville is the highest-ranking executive officer elected within Metro Louisville’s municipal government. The title of “mayor” simply means that Mr. Fisher is serving as the chief executive officer of Metro government. Becoming mayor did not make Mr. Fisher a noble (he is still just a citizen like you and I) nor did it give him authority over the actions of everyone in Jefferson County. Mr. Jurich reports to the University of Louisville, which the last time I checked, is in no way, shape, or form a part of the government of Metro Louisville. Therefore, Mr. Jurich is no more a subordinate of Mr. Fisher than I am of the CEO of Humana. Mr. Jurich’s job is to run UofL’s athletic department, not report to the mayor’s office or do whatever Mr. Fisher wants.

  9. UofLgrad07 August 30, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    #2. Mr. Parker continues by stating the “Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball is a revenue producer any NBA owner would want to partner with” and that he does not believe that “an NBA team would damage their program to the point of no return”.
    The problem with Mr. Parker’s first argument is that it depends heavily on what you define as being a “partner”. Would an NBA team be willing to evenly split all parking, signage, concession, etc. revenue with UofL will also agreeing to not receive any money from UofL sporting events (ticket sales, suites, merchandise sales, etc)? In addition, would an NBA team be willing to function as a co-tenant with UofL so that neither received priority scheduling over the other? Or would the NBA team demand UofL accept secondary tenant status, surrender all parking, signage, concession, etc. revenues, and give up a portion of the profits from UofL sporting events? I don’t see the latter as being a partnership and that is what occurs at every other shared NBA/college arena.

    The problem with Mr. Parker’s second argument is that it is a straw man. No one is arguing that UofL’s finances would be damaged “to the point of no return”. They are arguing that UofL’s finances would be significantly damaged. Could UofL remain profitable if an NBA team moved into town? Absolutely. However, the question becomes what would the university have to do to stay profitable? If you have less revenues coming in (an NBA is guaranteed to reduce income streams for UofL without a question), that means that you have less money to put towards things like giving Coach Strong and other UofL coaches a raise after a wildly successful season (or a raise to keep them here at UofL). There is less money available to expand / improve athletic facilities or to put towards retiring PJCS very large debt service faster (this is where most of UofL’s “profit” actually goes).

  10. UofLgrad07 August 30, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    #3. Mr. Parker states that his biggest issue with UL is that they are “keeping professional sports large and small out of the one arena that can host them today”.

    The problem with this line of thinking is that it ignores one basic fact. Without U of L, the KFC Yum Center would not exist. U of L’s popularity as a basketball program and their willingness to commit to being the arena’s primary tenant is what allowed the city to secure the bonding for the arena. The NBA had ample opportunity during the arena’s bonding process to commit to the project as a primary tenant, but no franchises were willing to do so. Why should U of L step aside for the NBA when it was UofL’s involvement as an anchor tenant that got the place built?

    It should be pointed out that U of L did not want an arena downtown (campus and KFEC were the university’s first and second choices) and it did not want its reputation and stability used to bring in an NBA team after construction was complete. Sports are a business and U of L’s actions to protect itself against competition are no different than what other businesses would be doing. Do you think UPS would be fine with the city recruiting FedEx to an expanded airport that UPS help build? Would Churchill Downs support an expansion only to have another horse racing company move in and host races there?

  11. UofLgrad07 August 30, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    #4. Mr. Parker states that “U of L wants the city to suffer financially to pay for Yum!, while they make large profits off their basketball teams”.

    This is an ad hominem and a poor method of trying to construct a logical argument. Furthermore, U of L does not want the city to suffer but it does want the city to honor the legal contract they signed. The university pumps millions of dollars into the local economy every year and is one of the city’s largest employers.

  12. UofLgrad07 August 30, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    #5. Mr. Parker states that “it is one thing for Tom Jurich to shut out the mayor, however it is another thing to shut out the taxpayers and their desires”.

    This is an example of two different logical fallacies: false consensus and argumentum ad populum (i.e. appeal to the people). In the case of the former, Mr. Parker is making an assumption that his desire for an NBA franchise in Louisville is shared by the majority of citizens in Louisville (“their desires”). There are many taxpayers who do not care about the NBA or who do not want to see U of L treated poorly. In the case of the latter, Mr. Parker attempts to appeal to the masses (i.e. the taxpayers) as a basis for his argument. Politicians often use similar phrases like “the American people believe” or “the American people want” because it is a way to target an emotion response without forming a real argument for why a proposition is true or good.

    In addition, Mr. Parker does not seem to understand how the arena deal was financed. The taxpayers and city were always the ones who were going to be paying for the arena. The TIF revenues, taxes on luxury seating at UofL events, taxes on NBA player salaries, Metro Government dollars through the contract city leadership agreed to, they are all forms of tax revenues. The only real question is who exactly would be paying those taxes – UofL fans, NBA players and coaches and fans, downtown restaurants and businesses within the TIF district,Metro Government itself, etc.

  13. UofLgrad07 August 30, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    #6. Mr. Parker follows his taxpayer comments by stating that it is an “insult” to fans for U of L to charge high prices for tickets and that “many Cardinals fans work long hours, or work two jobs to come up with the money to support Cardinals athletics”.

    There are two major problems with Mr. Parker’s arguments. First is that Mr. Parker is ignoring the fact that sports spending is discretionary and that it operates according to basic market principles (i.e. supply and demand). Economics 101 states that if demand for tickets is extremely high while the supply of tickets is low, prices should rise until demand falls. NBA owners are not offering cheap tickets to games because they are generous patrons who care about offering high quality sporting entertainment at affordable prices. They offer cheap tickets to games because they have an ample supply of tickets but a demand that is too weak to charge higher prices. The reason why U of L charges high prices for basketball tickets is because a lot of people in this community are willing to pay top dollar to go to games. No one is forcing U of L fans to pay high ticket prices or to spend their money supporting U of L athletics. Those fans are making a choice to pay top dollar for tickets and support U of L just like NBA supports would be making a choice between whether or not to buy tickets to an NBA game. That is simple economics.

    Mr Parker’s second problem is that he commits the logical fallacy of appeal to emotion. By stating that fans should be “insulted”, he is using emotion (e.g. anger at high ticket costs, look at the terrible condition U of L fans have to endure to support U of L athletics) as the basis of his argument rather than factual evidence that logically supports it. As I stated previously, sports spending is discretionary and no one is forcing fans to pay those prices or to attend games. There may be fans choosing to work long hours or two jobs because they WANT tickets, but there are no fans doing so because they NEED tickets (they could stay home and watch the game on TV for example). Working extra to fulfill an individual want (e.g. sports tickets) is a lot different than working extra to fulfill an individual need (e.g. rent, food, etc).

  14. TJ September 8, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

    Glad to see all of the comments tearing down the idea of Louisville ever becoming an NBA city. As a resident of a nearby city competing w Louisville for millenials, tech jobs and overall positive growth attributes to help attract more visitors and new residents to our city, having Louisville remain a generally overlooked, non major league city will just help my city continue to grow faster and keep out-pacing Louisville in terms of national and international media attention, overall attractiveness and continued strong economic growth. Real growing, powerhouse cities do more than one or two things well. If Louisville can’t handle growing into at least a one sport major league city, it likely will always just remain another “also ran” city, steadily fading away into irrelevancy. As a representative of a competitor city, that’s fine with me.

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