UofL President Postel scorches Jurich in dismissal letter; AD’s lawyer responds, threatens lawsuit

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By Russ Brown
Kentucky Today

Turns out that Rick Pitino got off easy.
 
Although Pitino’s “firing” letter from University of Louisville interim president listed the reasons for his dismissal and the former men’s basketball coach charged that it impugned his integrity and damaged his reputation, the letter seems mild now that the charges leveled against former athletics director Tom Jurich have become public.


While the formal notice of charges sent to Pitino used such benign phrases as failure to “adequately overseeing the men’s basketball program” and failure in “promoting academic integrity and ethical conduct,” UofL threw the proverbial sink at Jurich. Or more accurately, the entire house.


In explaining the justification for firing Jurich with cause, UofL Gregory Postel scorched him for “deliberate dereliction of duties, unprofessional conduct, bullying, ineffective management and breach of. . .fiduciary obligations.”


And Postel was just getting started.


He claims in the letter that Jurich was lax with compliance, fostered a “culture of tolerance. . .for behavior that falls short of NCAA” expectations, did not supervise, discipline or even properly evaluate coaches, bullied others at the university “from student government to. . .senior leadership,” and “repeatedly engaged in willful misconduct by entering into multiple purported agreements or understanding with former President (James) Ramsey for your own financial or other benefit with the intent of concealing them from campus or public knowledge.”

Gregory Postel


Postel added that under Jurich’s management and oversight, the university has been “portrayed negatively, both locally and nationally, as a result of multiple compliance lapses occurring in multiple sports.”


In conclusion, Postel wrote that the alleged bullying, unprofessional conduct and the other charges “cannot be considered isolated events. Instead, they are illustrative of a pattern and practice of willful misconduct resulting in substantial detriment to the university.”


In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Jurich’s lawyer, Sheryl Snyder of Frost Brown Todd Attorneys, said he will file suit against the university if the two sides can’t reach a “satisfactory” settlement. He added that they plan to recover “every penny” from the remainder of the contract.


Jurich’s base salary last year was $1.3 million, but through various other arrangements, he actually was paid an average of about $2.76 million over the past seven years, which made him the highest-paid AD in the country. Snyder declined to say how much Jurich is seeking or set any deadline for filing a suit.


Snyder defended Jurich’s record and opened his remarks by noting that what was missing in the termination letter was important, saying that there was no reference to the Adidas contract or any refusal by Jurich to fire Pitino. When Jurich, 61, was placed on administrative leave, the Adidas agreement – a 10-year deal worth $160 million – was cited as a reason because Postel kept other administrators in the dark about the negotiations.


”There’s no reference at all to the Adidas contract,” Snyder said. “Suddenly that’s not an issue. It’s not mentioned in the termination letter at all … so that issue which, was a big issue in the beginning, has become a non-issue.”


And Snyder said the reason the letter doesn’t mention Pitino is “that there was no demand on Tom to fire Coach Pitino.”


Snyder added that the termination letter makes no allegation that Jurich was involved in any wrongdoing related to an FBI bribery investigation involving Adidas and the men’s basketball team. He also disputed the bullying allegations and called the claim that Jurich had tolerated a culture of non-compliance “demonstrably false.”


”First of all, there is nothing in that evaluation that alleges that Tom is bullying anyone,” Snyder said. “The gratuitous allegation that Tom is a bully is simply over-the-top and not true.”


In the letter, Postel offered no specific examples to back up his charges. After the firing, Postel said he couldn’t get into details due to legal concerns, an indication that UofL expects a lawsuit.


The letter was intensely personal, caustic and inflammatory – much more so than most communications where firings of this nature are involved. Its scathing tone and seeming contempt was a significant departure from Postel’s comments when Jurich was fired by the board of trustees on Oct. 18 in a 10-3 vote. At that time, Postel thanked Jurich for “his years of service and many contributions to the university.” Jurich was hired as AD in 1997.


Jurich had reportedly been at odds with Postel for various reasons since Postel was named interim president after Ramsey was fired earlier this year. David Grissom, president of the board of trustees, is also known to be critical of Jurich’s leadership.


Jurich initially responded Tuesday afternoon through a statement from his attorneys, who said the allegations were an attempt to “smear the reputation of Tom Jurich.”


”Tom Jurich unequivocally denies all the allegations, and implications emanating from those allegations,” the statement said. “The letter of termination is an after-the-fact effort to justify an unwarranted termination ‘for cause’ that the Board of Trustees voted without specifying any charges at all and character assassination of a man who has done so much for Louisville.”


”There are also no allegations that Tom Jurich was involved in the current investigation or had any knowledge of NCAA compliance issues,” the statement said. “The accusation of ‘a culture of tolerance’ of noncompliance is the exact opposite of what Dr. Postel argued himself to the NCAA in April, including in the pending appeal of the penalties in the April NCAA hearing.”


The latter statement refers to an appeal to the NCAA Committee of Infractions of Louisville’s penalties resulting from the escort/stripper scandal. The committee has issued a sealed response and now UofL has until Oct. 31 to respond again.


WHAS Radio personality Terry Meiners, a close friend of Jurich, said Wednesday that he had talked to  the former AD Tuesday night and that Jurich was “really hurt” by the allegations. In response to the bullying charge in particular, Meiners said Jurich told him that the UofL coaches have “continued great affirmation and support” and have told him on multiple occasons that they enjoyed the atmosphere in the athletics department.


Without naming a source, Meiners also said that before the firing, Jurich had been asked to resign, but that the university offered a settlement that was only “a small amount. . .an embarrassingly low amount, almost insulting.”


Snyder confirmed that such an offer was made and rejected because “with everything Tom Jurich has done for this university the past 20 years, it was an insult.”


NO PROBLEMS WITH ADIDAS: Interim athletics director Vince Tyra told the University of Louisville Athletics Association (ULAA) board of directors Tuesday that in reviewing the Adidas document he has found no problems with it.




Postel has said the university wants no part of the deal if it is “tainted” as part of the pay-to-play recruiting scandal that led to charges against Adidas officials and Pitino’s firing.

”I’ve been through that thing quite a bit,” Tyra said. “The contract itself does not raise concerns for me. We’ll go through that and flush out more details this week as we move along. But today I don’t have a report that there’s anything negative tied to that contract.”


However, he did tell reporters afterwards that he has spoken to Mark King, president of Adidas North American, to discuss the apparel company’s business relationship with UofL and “I think there are some things we can change in how we do business together.”


The Courier-Journal reported this month that Pitino received 98 percent of the $39 million that Adidas owed to the university under the current deal signed in 2014 – including $1.5 million in 2015-16 – under his personal services agreement with Adidas. Adidas terminated its contract with Pitino a few hours after his firing, and the former coach has filed a lawsuit accusing the company of deliberately damaging his reputation.


TYRA’S AD SALARY: Tyra will receive a $1.2 million salary, or $100,000 per month, under a one-year contract that went into effect on Oct. 3.
 
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports for Kentucky Today. He can be reached at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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