On Wednesday, “Papa” John Schnatter took direct aim at Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich during a meeting of the U of L Board of Trustees.
Schnatter never mentioned Jurich by name, but his consistent references to U of L athletics and the “leadership” of the athletic program left little to the imagination. It also bears mentioning that he chose to do this before the Board’s closed session, making it obvious that he wanted these comments to be heard and reacted to by the public.
What sparked this and why Schnatter — who, it should be noted, has had a representative on the Board for the past two decades — chose to do voice his concerns in a manner that was bound to spawn headlines are a pair of questions that only the Papa himself can answer. Regardless, his actions seemed to have garnered the reaction he was shooting for. Louisville websites and talk radio have been overloaded with “Schnatter v Jurich” discussion for the best 24 hours. Some have applauded the man whose business name adorns the U of L football stadium (which Schnatter referred to as “my stadium” on Thursday), while more have defended the man whose direction turned that football program into a national player.
I feel like I’ve said this a thousand times over the last 10 years, but I’ll say it again: It is perfectly acceptable to be a fan who voices concerns about the state of things from time to time. I’ve done it here recently, I’ve done it in the past, and I’m sure I’ll do it again at some point moving forward. It doesn’t mean you get to celebrate victories any less or that you have an easier time stomaching defeats than everyone else.
Having said that, we seem to have reached a state where any criticism of something or someone that a group doesn’t like is met with a standing ovation from that group. Reverse the roles and the attitudes in the previous statement and the phenomenon holds true. It’s almost as if the actual message doesn’t matter anymore.
I suppose that this will all be labeled as some sort of “typical” defense of Jurich and U of L in the eyes of media members or rival fans who don’t particularly care for either, and if that’s the case then so be it. But how desperate are these same people to rip on anything negative regarding Jurich/U of L when they’re willing to cape for Papa freaking John after a rant that sounded more like the Kenan Thompson “Fix it!” character from SNL than anything else.
That’s the main question I have for these people: What exactly about Schnatter’s rant do you agree with? And you can’t just say “the fact that he’s mad about things and willing to say something about it.” I get that it’s modish these days to speak out strongly against things you think are bad or that need to be changed without serving up factual specifics or any sort of alternative plan of attack of your own, but that doesn’t make it applaudable. We’re smarter than this. I know we are.
The only thing Schnatter said that was especially troublesome or seemingly substantive yesterday was related to the conversation he said he’d had with acting U of L President Greg Postel. Schnatter said that Postel had voiced concerns about Jurich himself, calling him “invisible” and saying “good luck” when Schnatter had mentioned that Jurich needed to appear in front of the Board of Trustees to address some concerns.
That’s a troubling conversation.
In an interview following the meeting, Postel said Schnatter did not accurately characterize the conversation.
"What we had talked about was simply the fact that, historically, the director of athletics and folks from the administration of athletics have never participated in the activities of the U of L board of (trustees)," Postel said. "That is just historically something that has never happened before."
Postel added that it would not be difficult to get Jurich -- who reports to the separate board of the athletics association -- to appear before the board of trustees.
"I meet with Tom Jurich on a regular basis ... he is easy to get a hold of," Postel said.
So the crux of Schnatter’s entire rant was bunk according to his star witness. That’s not something you can easily push aside and say “well that’s neither here nor there” or “regardless, the point still stands.” That’s something that sort of invalidates the entire diatribe.
To my knowledge, no one before yesterday has ever criticized Jurich for not being available enough. It’s not something I’ve ever seen voiced publicly, and it’s not a grievance I’ve ever heard voiced privately. In fact, the man whose concerns had appeared to light a fire under Schnatter went on the record to say that the athletic director was “easy to get a hold of.”
Again, reality matters. Or at least it should.
The easiest thing to do with all the events of the past year and-a-half has been to immediately take an extreme position and hold firm in the face of everything that transpires in the succeeding months.
Pitino has to be fired
Pitino has to stay forever
Go get ‘em Papa
No one should ever criticize Tom Jurich for anything he’s ever done
I urge you not to do this.
It is perfectly ok to not be 100 percent satisfied with the state of the athletic program you support. That’s your right. You can do this while also believing that Papa John’s comments from Wednesday were disingenuous and held no actual weight. That’s your right, too.