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.