Comments from Tom Jurich on Joining the BIG EAST
Nov. 4, 2003
"It's a great day to be a Cardinal fan and a great day to be a Cardinal student-athlete. It is a helluva great day to the be the athletic director of the University of Louisville. It has been a six-year work-in-progress to make it to this point today. I would be remiss if I did not say that we owe a debt of gratitude to Mike Slive and Conference USA to get here. Mike put us on a level and gave us an opportunity on a stage to be able to move into a new arena. I am most appreciative the way Britton Banowsky has handled this situation. In a phenomenal way. He is a class act and is the one person I will truly miss. He works so well behind the scenes HE has been open and honest in the way that Mike Tranghese and he put the deal together it was magical and more importantly it was classy. Mike Tranghese is one of the finest commissioners in the not only in the NCAA now but has ever been. He has a vision and handles obstacles with grace as he has proved here. President (James) Ramsey has been behind us 110 % and has helped me every bit of the way. I wish he was with us today to enjoy this moment. Jim is a terrific president and I think he will go down in history of our greatest president. It is a great day in university history and a wonderful day to be athletic director."
"We went after the Big East there is no doubt about it. When I got here that was all anybody ever wanted or talked about was getting to the next level and we were being held back. Not by Conference USA but by not being in a conference with being branded a non-BCS school and that hurt us. John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino have found ways around obstacles and the way they did it was phenomenal. It is difficult when you are out there recruiting as a non-BCS schools There were other schools in BCS conferences who couldn't even dream at actually being in a BCS bowl that used that to sway recruits. It was something we had to focus on. But first we had to clean up our image."
"To backtrack to my arrival when I got on board in Oct. 21, 1997, I knew we had to clean our image. We were a tainted university. We have great people in place and this is all due to my staff's efforts . I don't think anybody can put a value on what Rick Pitino has done for us. His relationships on the East Coast and with Mike Tranghese and his popularity certainly go without saying.. His heartfelt love about and his memories in the Big East propelled us into the Big East. Very fortunate to have Rick."
"It puts us on a level playing field and, to me, that is the most important. It lets Bobby (Petrino) have a chance. As Rick said before it didn't matter much to Rick if we stayed but he wanted to make sure Bobby had a chance to compete for a national championship. Bobby and I had an understanding that when I hired him on we would work on it as hard as we could and he has certainly done his part."
"We had to have a strategic plan right off the bat. We had to be compliant and strong in gender equity. We were criticized heavily for investing so much in gender equity. It is something I believe in and I have a passion for it and it is the right thing to do. It is something that when we invested heavily into our facilities to make sure our women had nothing but the best and I think that is what got us to the table. We had to really make ourselves attractive to other conferences. I always said the Big East was the best fit for us simply because we could create rivalries. We have the West Virginias, the Pitts, the Syracuses. I am naive about these things but I think another school that has it going on is UConn. I think we will emulate each other as we develop. It is good that Cincinnati is coming with us because we have that traditional rivalry with them. And our fans will continue to fill their stadium for them. And having South Florida along was a brilliant move."
"I would like to add one more sport and have gotten board approval to investigate adding women's lacrosse. I am not going to do this quickly, I am going to look at it and the other thing is investing heavily in rowing because it is a very big sport in the Northeast and we have a wonderful coach in Richard Ruggieri and I want to make sure we give him the opportunity to compete for a national title. It has been amazing the support rowing has gotten from this community."
"I don't have any guarantees about (keeping BCS status in Big East) but knowing these commissioners that sit around the table like Mike Slive, Kevin Weibergs, Tom Hamptons and Joe Delaney's etc. I think their relationship with Mike Tranghese is strong. I think it would be very difficult to look him in the eye and tell him that a Syracuse that played in the 1999 Orange Bowl and entered as No. 3 in the nation, and a Pittsburgh who has won a national title and a West Virginia who blows out Virginia Tech and should have beaten Miami. How can you tell those people that they are going to stay home and instead, to use as an example, a Duke is going to go. How do you do that? I think it is impossible. I truly believe the BCS is going to get larger I think the access is a issue. Now that I am on the other side of the fence so to speak, I still want to fight for the other schools who aren't because I have been there and I knows what it feels like. The healthiest environment is for all the schools who have invested in Division IA football to all have the opportunity to play for the national championship. I am not saying I am an advocate of the playoffs but if that is how we get there then I am for it."
"That is all of our wishes to go in 2004. For all the obvious reasons. I think it is good for the student athlete and great for Conference USA which has already accepted their new members. I think everybody just sitting around for the next year and a half is not a positive situation. But it is handled at the Presidents' level. I know Dr. Ramsey has been out in front of it and working it. There are some people against it in our current conference. I don't know if that is jealousy standpoint or trying to be roadblocks. But there are some people that I am disappointed in."
"I don't think there is one (a big obstacle) to getting that done. I think we can all do it. I think the presidents of the Big East will not be the ones that will force the issue, it will have to come from Conference USA. We want to explore the opportunity to add on to the football stadium. But we want to see how our fan base reacts to this. They have promised me that if we change conferences we better double the size of the stadium and I will call everybody at their word on that one."
"We are looking at a moderate expansion with loge seating and specialty seating as Eric (Crawford) put it in the paper today. I thought that article was very accurate. I would like to build in more suites because they are so very popular. They are very much in demand. If we could get to 60,000 seat stadium with 50 sky boxes and 1000 speciality seats that would be a great start. We will start with a committee to create a very good business plan before we start it."
"We are going to be very conservative. I don't want anyone in our department that there is going to be any great windfall because there is not . IT is going to cost us money to leave and cost us money to get in. We need to make sure that gets taken care of. There are three or four sports that we really need to invest in to give them a chance. When I got here I promised all the coaches they would be able to compete for conference championships. I want to keep that promise. Obviously track comes into mind. We are going into a league with a great track program and track would be a wonderful possibility for us to make progress. We have a wonderful facility and the cross country team just finished third in our league. We are going to sink some money into that. We hired a new swim coach and broke ground on a natatorium, so that is a program that we can invest in. Those are the two that can really make the move upward and will be competitive across the board with everybody."
"Tom Collen has the toughest job. I am very, very pleased that we have Tom because I have seen him in action and that makes my comfort level a lot higher. But he has his work cut out for him and we have met with all of our coaches these past two weeks. I am going to continue to preach that this is not something that is going to happen overnight. He is not going to be competitive with UConn overnight. But that league with UConn, Rutgers, Notre Dame and Villanova you have that are literally always at the top. We will make sure he has a good base and gets a handle on recruiting ... those are things he does very, very well. I want him to build this program and not worry so much about the team record."
"I am going to make an appeal to our fans that we have to make it a great place to play. This is a wonderful opportunity to see some tremendous teams coming into Freedom Hall and I foresee excitement in this area. We know what Tom can do for this program. I would imagine with UConn, Villanova, Rutgers and Notre Dame coming in that it would be a sellout in Freedom Hall."
"Our affiliation with the five bowl games are the BCS Bowl, Gator Bowl, the Charlotte Bowl, the Insight.com Bowl in Phoenix, the Bowl in San Francisco's PacBell Stadium."
"I don't know that there is any projects in any new arena talks. Freedom Hall is a great venue for us. I am tired of talking about a basketball arena. Louisville is not going to agree on it. I am very content with what we have. WE might just have to make that a better place."
"Two weeks ago I started to feel confident that it was definitely going to happen."
"Coach Pitino says it will be the best basketball conference in history of the game. It is going to be a remarkable conference."