A man held a sign supporting Tom Jurich outside of the UofL board of trustees meeting Monday morning. | Photo by Joe Sonka

The attorney for suspended University of Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich sent a forceful letter to interim president Greg Postel last week, pushing back against claims that Jurich improperly negotiated a $160 million contract with Adidas and criticizing the “lack of respect” shown for his client by the university.

Postel is set to announce a new interim athletics director Tuesday at 3:45 p.m., though allies of Jurich are hoping that Postel will be convinced to reinstate him. A source close to the athletics department told IL on Monday that Vince Tyra — a UofL Foundation board member and operating partner of Southfield Capital — was in the running to be named the interim director, though Tyra did not respond to our inquiry into the matter.

The letter sent by attorney Alison Stemler of Frost Brown Todd last Friday was in response to the letter given to Jurich by Postel two days earlier, which stated that the UofL athletics director was being placed on paid administrative leave due to the federal indictments and recruiting bribery scandal that had rocked the school’s basketball program last Tuesday.

In the Sept. 27 letter from Postel to Jurich — released during Monday’s UofL board of trustees meeting — the interim president stated that Jurich negotiated the Adidas deal “without timely or appropriate consultation with me” or members of the UofL Athletic Association board. Postel also stated that Jurich’s contract requires him to supervise coaches and assure their adherence to law and NCAA policies and that the negative publicity this scandal had caused UofL was “unacceptable.”

The Sept. 29 letter from Stemler to Postel — released to the media Monday evening — restated Jurich’s past statements that the longtime athletics director was “crushed by the allegations” and “had no knowledge of, and would not have tolerated, the alleged criminal conduct.”

Responding to Postel’s claim about the Adidas negotiations, Stemler wrote that this accusation “is simply not true.” She also wrote that Postel’s chief of staff, communications director and UofL attorneys “actively participated in the negotiations, and assisted with at least 11 meetings,” adding that the previous interim president that Postel replaced in January had been a part of most of the negotiations, “so perhaps you are not aware of all the communications with the President’s office and with the ULAA Board.”

Stemler wrote that Jurich agreed that the alleged misconduct and negative attention to UofL were unacceptable, but countered that Jurich “had no knowledge of the alleged misconduct and criminal activity, and Tom did not cause or contribute to the negative publicity.” She added that Jurich worked hard to ensure coaches comply with NCAA and university rules in “ways too numerous to mention here.”

Jurich’s attorney added that “the extraordinary and unprecedented alleged wrongful behavior was kept from Tom precisely because everyone in the Athletics Department knows that Tom will not tolerate any violation of law or NCAA rules.” Noting that Postel thinks it is “necessary to start over with an entirely new” staff, Stemler said, “the lack of respect being shown for Tom and his hard work for the University over all these years is regrettable.”

While stating that Jurich will cooperate with any investigation of wrongdoing by the NCAA, UofL and federal law enforcement, Stemler noted that “because Tom is on leave, and you have publicly stated that he is not to undertake any of his job responsibilities during the leave, Tom cannot meet any enforcement or investigation obligations that involve providing information or actions that need to be taken within the Athletic Department.”

Again noting Jutich’s commitment to help UofL overcome its current challenges, Stemler added that UofL “will need to act immediately to restore Tom to his position of Athletic Director and begin working collaboratively with Tom rather than in an adversarial manner.”

Stemler also wrote that Postel placing Jurich on administrative leave was “not consistent with his contract or university policy.”

“Given the lack of discussion with Tom and the announced intent to appoint an interim Athletic Director, it appears you do not plan for Tom to return to his job in the foreseeable future,” wrote Stemler. “If so, that is a constructive termination of his employment not in compliance with his” contract.

Stemler wrote that a section of his contract requires Jurich to be given “90 days advance notice of termination without cause,” and if Postel was attempting to lay the groundwork to fire Jurich for cause, “please note that Tom has not, and has not been alleged to have, engaged in any knowing or intentional conduct that could give rise to a termination for cause.” She added that if UofL attempts to fire him for cause, Jurich’s contract requires that he “be given 30 days to cure any alleged violation of his obligations,” though he is not in any position to do so due to being put on leave.

The letter from Jurich’s attorney to Postel last week can be read in full below:

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]