Since the firing of athletic director Tom Jurich from the University of Louisville, stories about how he tried to rule the media in his town with an Iron Fist are finally coming to light. This isn’t a new revelation, at least not to Kentucky fans.
For years, Louisville fans have scoffed at the crazy notion that Tom Jurich was controlling the media in Louisville with fear and intimidation. UK fans were called conspiratorial lunatics for having that opinion even though there were plenty of whispers and hints dropped about Jurich being a bully and a control freak.
Now, Kentucky fans are having the last laugh because according to ESPN and the Courier-Journal, Tom Jurich was much worse than we all thought.
In a recent article from ESPN the Magazine, Jurich is presented as a complicated and paranoid figure with a victim complex to match only that of Rick Pitino’s. It details his arrival at Louisville which was, at the time, a dumpy commuter school flooded with athletic shortfalls and scandals to its rise as a national power.
It tells the good and the bad of a once powerful man that held a city in the palm of his hand, only to see it snatched away due major character flaws and his blind allegiance to a pathetic figure (Pitino) that fell even farther than Jurich.
While Jurich portrayed himself as a tough wheeler and dealer business man with a no-nonsense frame of mind, the reality is that he’s a petty bully:
Jurich sought to neutralize the scandals and shape the athletic department's image by controlling the local media, according to interviews with more than half a dozen journalists and media executives -- many of whom requested anonymity out of fear of reprisals from Louisville, even with Jurich gone. They described consistent and aggressive efforts to influence coverage, including abusive calls to radio talk-show hosts and executives by Jurich and his surrogates; threats to get advertising pulled from stations; and attempts to influence hiring and firing. Jurich denies he sought to influence advertisers or pressure the media. Nearly all of the media members identified Bob Gunnell, a public relations specialist, as Jurich's main surrogate and attack dog.
I work with folks in the media and I had heard multiple times that if Jurich heard something on air that he didn’t care for, the attack would be swift. He would send emails and contact bosses via phone.
Everybody knew this was going on but there were handpicked Tom Jurich sycophants that would laugh at these stories and accuse people of wearing tinfoil hats if they believed or perpetuated the tales.
Jurich had his puppets and he used him to spread misinformation. They accused people of lying about their dealings with Jurich and defended him at every turn. Some of those puppets are still attached to his strings and will dance for him whenever he wills it in spite of everything that has happened. These sad individuals buy into the “woe is me” victimhood lament that their fearless leader is singing.
Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal talked to many of Jurich’s media victims and they all painted the picture of a vindictive man that would not hesitate to destroy the career of someone that did not tow the L1C4 line.
Bob Valvano of ESPN 680 is someone I know and he has been nothing but kind to me. He detailed his own Jurich story on air after the AD was placed on leave after the Brian Bowen story hit:
For example, after Jurich was placed on administrative leave in September, Valvano told his radio audience the athletic director had treated him like “dog crap” for years.
“I think for a number of reasons, probably professional practical reasons, there’ve been a lot of people in this city who felt the same way and didn’t want to step forward and still may not now,” Valvano said. “... I’ve never seen an athletic director that for years and years and years and years was as celebrated as he is and yet he still felt (it) necessary to bully people.”
Drew Deener, Vice President of ESPN 680 and host of The Deener Show, offered this quote this morning on his radio show:
This was in response to UofL cutting ties with Jurich attack dog Bob Gunnell and his Boxcar PR Firm. Deener is someone I have met and, like Bob, he’s been nothing but nice to me.
There are plenty of stories that could be shared about Jurich and his harsh dealings with the media. I have stories that I will not share here because I’ve been asked to keep it quiet by friends of mine, but the disdain for Jurich doesn’t just stop with those on the radio or in print.
Jurich’s legacy will be one rife with accomplishments, failings, and contradictions. While he rocketed UofL to unthinkable heights, he did it with shady dealings and a mafia mentality.
There’s a certain satisfaction and vindication that comes with writing this article.