Meet the Tom Jurich I know, who’s nothing like you think he is

Tom Jurich and his wife

I’m not going to defend Tom Jurich. I’m not going to argue against his being put on administrative leave. I’m not going to write about how he shouldn’t be fired following the latest in a too long and too recent string of scandals connected to his tenure overseeing the University of Louisville athletic department.

I’m also not going to tell you that my opinion of the man has changed.

I first met Tom Jurich six or seven years ago now. My wife, also a sports writer, reached out to interview him for a story she was working on. Jurich, one of the handful of most powerful and prominent athletic directors in the country, not only spent a half hour on the phone with her, he invited us to visit campus at our earliest convenience where he’d love to “show us around.”

I will always remember the way Jurich greeted us.

You’d think we’d grown up next door playing with his kids. Jurich not only frantically drove us around the UL athletic village personally – he didn’t pawn us off on this Friday night to a staffer – he seemed to genuinely care what we thought.

I, personally, take a long time to warm up to somebody. Not Tom Jurich.

I write he was “frantically” driving us around because he was late – we were late – for dinner. Unbeknownst to us, Jurich had included us in his dinner plans at one of Louisville’s finest restaurants where we would be joined by his wife, who we’d never met previously, and two long-time family friends of theirs, who we’d obviously never met previously.

He included us in his dinner plans with his wife and two old personal friends and we’d known the man for a couple hours.

That’s the Tom Jurich I know.

Nobody’s a stranger. Everyone’s welcome. Open seat at the table – or bar.

We were guests of Jurich in his suite at the Louisville football game the next day where he introduced us to Papa John – yes, that Papa John, the guy on the pizza box – and after the weekend he invited us back for a basketball game.

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