Jurich talks Big East, on-campus construction

Prior to heading to Florida for the Big East Conference meetings, University of Louisville Director of Athletics Tom Jurich visited with Inside The Ville and discussed everything from new construction projects, to the recent success that the school has found in Big East Conference play. Read inside for a few of the highlights from our conversation...

Among the topics of discussion at the spring Big East Conference meetings will be the new contracts with the Birmingham, International and Meineke Car Care Bowls, the success of the numerous conference championships just completed and further discussion of a new television package with CBS and ESPN. With so much on the table, including the direction of league basketball scheduling, we asked U of L Director of Athletics Tom Jurich what he thought would be the big items of discussion at the meetings.

"We've been working on a television contract with ESPN and CBS and think that we may be able to get some result on that. I've been on that committee with Mike Tranghese. I think that will be a big thing. I think basketball scheduling and how they're going to do that will be a big thing to talk about. Certainly all the bowl tie-in's in football. I think the league is growing by leaps and bounds in football, because every school has made a huge commitment for football. I think you're really going to see football take off in this league."

Any chance that the league scheduling for basketball will change for the upcoming season?

"I do think there's a chance. One thing that was a consensus from all the coaches and all of the administrators is that everyone wants to play everybody. I don't like to sit out from playing a couple teams. We joined the Big East, and we're very lucky and fortunate to have, but I want to be able to see everybody. I think the beauty of this league is the 16 teams, so I think we'll try to take full advantage of that."

"You want to see everything – you want to play everybody."

**********

Season tickets for football have sold out – talk about the change this football program has seen from the time you arrived at U of L in 1997 through today.

"It's a tribute to our fans and it's certainly a tribute to our players and coaches, and the job that they have done, but I think we have become a very stable program. We're a program that is certainly on the rise and continues to ascend. I think we've done it right – we built it with a great framework. I think the coaches have taken full advantage of everything – the job Bobby has done is phenomenal. The sky is the limit and I think we can get a lot better, I really do. I don't want to be satisfied as a top 15 team."

As the team improves, the ticket demand will only continue to rise. Expansion of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium has been a frequent topic of discussion on our message boards, as well as on the radio program. Is that project getting close to becoming a reality?

"I don't know if it's close to becoming a reality. We have the plans all done – we have a great plan in place. I want to be very proactive with this, but I want to make sure that we don't jump into something we can't handle. I want to make sure that there is a very solid business plan attached to this project, because it's a big number to do this, it's about a $50 to $60 million expansion."

"It's a beautiful drawing and the architects have a done a terrific job with it, but we're looking at a new arena coming on too, so we want to make sure that we handle those very sensibly. Important thing to me is that we can't try to sell them both at the same time. We'll stagger one and I think football will wait a little bit behind, because the arena seems like it is off and running."

The current expansion plans have Papa John's Cardinal Stadium adding more than 20,000 seats.

"I think the number (of seats) is 63,600 and another 45 sky boxes. It will have a walkway in the south end. It will really be beautiful. I'm not going to bowl it in. We want to preserve the aesthetic value that we have there, which is the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex, the museum and the Johnny Unitas statue – television loves that. I would probably just bring (the expansion) to those corners and that would be it."

An expanded stadium would also include a walkway that would join the east and west sides, similar to what is found at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

"I think one of the drawbacks of our stadium is that's is very difficult to get from one side to the other. That would make it real easy and you could have concessions up there – it would be a really festive atmosphere."

**********

With the groundbreaking set for this summer, a new basketball practice facility is becoming a reality for the Cardinal program.

"The Yum! Center will hopefully have ground broken on it by July 1. The bids are on the street right now and it's drawing a lot of interest. Pete Cautilli, my Associate AD for facilities told me the other day that they are coming out of the walls to bid on this project, so there's a lot of interest and hopefully that will translate into a good price for us.

"It's going to be a beautiful facility – I think it's going to be state-of-the-art. It will really help us a lot with our women's program, because they are going to take that area vacated here by Coach Pitino and the women's team will now have their own practice facility. Volleyball and women's lacrosse will go down there, so you'll have three sports using it. It's going to be right next to the lacrosse stadium, which will be a terrific location."

**********

You recently added a game against Arizona in the Jimmy V Classic to the men's basketball schedule.

"I know it's very important to coach, because he was a good friend of Jim Valvano's and he always supports the Coaches vs. Cancer - he wanted to play in that event. He's been working on it for two or three years. There were a lot times where things fell through that he had in place for last year and the year before, so he was finally able to get it worked out and I think playing Arizona will be a great game."

**********

Do you ever envision a day when there is nothing to build for the U of L sports programs?

"No. When that day comes, I'm going somewhere else."

More from our visit with Tom Jurich, including his comments on the Heisman campaigns for Michael Bush and Brian Brohm, the new Big East Conference bowls, a new downtown arena, competing against the NBA, his thoughts on the upcoming hoops and gridiron season and more, will be featured in an upcoming issue of Inside The Ville Magazine. Subscribe today to be sure to reserve your copy and take advantage of our current promotion, which includes a year subscription to Sports Illustrated ($39.95 value), by clicking here.


Cardinal Authority Top Stories