There must be one or two University of Louisville sports fans out there. If you’re one of them, Forbes magazine took a look at the school’s athletic director, Tom Jurich.
When Jurich took over the program in 1997:
Louisville athletics was a pariah. An organization so
Louisville Cardinals athletic logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
misaligned, so bloated in inefficiency that the very conference it helped form had sued to expunge the university from its ranks. A desperate attempt to prevent the department’s disease of non-compliance from spreading to the other members of the league. There was little hope for Louisville, its faith seemingly sealed as terminal.
In his influential work on organizational management, “Good To Great”, author Jim Collins refers to the circumstances Louisville had fallen into as the “Doom Loop.” The organization lacked internal accountability, failed to achieve credibility within its own community and had lost all authenticity with the college athletics community as a whole. It was not that the department did not want to change, but rather that it lacked the discipline to do so.
The program had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.
For Jurich and his leadership team, part of that process involved confronting the hardest decision a manager must ever make – replacing individuals who did not fit within the cultural boundaries they set out for the department. In fact, within the first five years of tenure, there were more than 130 changes within the staff, or almost 50% of the entire department. Such high turnover is almost unheard of from any organization with the multi-million dollar revenues, and is testament to the dire situation Louisville found itself in.
And it’s biggest problem was it was completely out of compliance with Title IX, a crucial program that stresses the importance of women in sports.
“When it came to non-compliance with Title IX, Louisville was in dire straights,” says Jurich. “We had Lamar Daniel, a leading gender equity consultant, come to campus and tell us that we were the ‘worst program he had ever seen’. Here was someone who had spent over two decades conducting investigations for the Office of Civil Rights and who was practically at a loss for words on just how bad our situation was.”
While the problem Louisville faced was evident, the solution was less clear. At the time, the department’s budget was $14.8 million, or just 17% of the $85 million it had risen to today. Just about every area of the department needed improvement and additional resources. The problem was that not only did the Cardinals need to fund-raise, but also that they needed to invest the majority of the money back into women’s sports, none of which would provide any financial return on investment.
Wow. This place is hopeless.
But the Forbes article details the steps taken to rebuild UofL’s stature in athletics.
So what does the school have to show for it?
Some 15 years after Jurich took over as athletic director, the Louisville Cardinals have made history. The university became the first to win a BCS football game, a national championship in men’s basketball, play for the national championship in women’s basketball, and make the College World Series all in one year. Even more significantly, the University received an invitation to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), a move that all but guarantees stability for many years to come in tumultuous college athletics landscape. For any other university, achieving even one of those feats would be cause for tremendous celebration, but for the University of Louisville, anything less would have been a disappointment.
The article is worth reading. (Though it seems to have dropped a section involving UofL basketball. It makes a reference to Pitino, but no reference to Rick’s first name.)