UofL Athletic Director responds to Schnatter comment controversy

Published: Apr. 27, 2017 at 9:45 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2017 at 10:53 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's been two weeks since Papa John's founder John Schnatter sent shock waves through the normally unified University of Louisville athletics community. Schnatter made a public comment that the athletics department needs to be "fixed" and indicated leadership was "invisible" at meetings, but Schnatter didn't explain his comments.

The questions surrounding where those comments were based led UofL Athletic Director Tom Jurich to speak out at the Athletics Association Board meeting Thursday.

"For anybody to think this has been a closed door among this board, well you're sorely mistaken and I want to make sure these points get on record," Jurich said.

The rebuttal is the next move in what seemed to be a public feud between two of Louisville's biggest power players. The pizza magnate is not only a big financial contributor to the University, but also Vice President of the Board of Trustees and is on the UofL Foundation Board.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Papa John's CEO John Schnatter resigns from UofL Athletics Association

One role he no longer holds? He resigned from the Athletics Association Board without saying why, but is still keeping his other positions at the University.

A UofL spokesman says he is being replaced by trustee Jim Rogers. The biggest problem in this public controversy that snowballed out of control is that the comments came with no explanation which seemed to lead to Jurich's response.

"I'm very, very disappointed to hear all the bantering that's going on because all we've tried to do is our job," Jurich said.

A clearly upset Jurich was anything but "invisible" Thursday, defending his athletic department front and center at the UofL Athletics Association Board, the same board the pizza mogul just resigned from.

"We've tried to do everything by the book," Jurich said. "Have we made mistakes? Absolutely. We do we have a lot of moving parts. We have roughly 300 employees, 700 student-athletes and things are going to happen. But what we've tried to do is take things head on."

During the meeting, Athletics reported 15 successful audits in the past year from the NCAA, to Title IX and the IRS. Interim UofL president Greg Postel said after a review, he's certain the program is well-run and transparent.

Board member Bill Stone said Athletics is not what needs to be fixed at the university.

"We've got to get the Foundation where people are confident to write checks to this place again," Stone said . "Those are the real issues facing us,
this thing (Athletics) works, and it works with excellence."

After the meeting Stone also defended Schnatter to reporters.

"John Schnatter is sort of an icon at the University of Louisville," Stone said.

He also insisted Jurich wasn't aiming at Schnatter.

"Tom has tremendous pride in what he has done, what his coaches have done, what his department has done and he just wanted all the members of the board to know he's sensitive to anything that would criticize his family even by implication."

WATCH: Connie Leonard's report here

When asked for his take on Schnatter by reporters after the meeting, Jurich wasn't going there.

"He's entitled to his opinion," he said.

Postel was asked about talk of changing Jurich's deferred $6 million compensation deal that was signed by former President James Ramsey. Postel said no action was taken on it yet.

Jurich plans to be at board meetings from now on, saying he was never asked to attend before. We were not able to reach Schnatter for comment.

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