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Transcript and Video: U of L IARP Press Conference

Syndication: Louisville Matt Stone/Courier Journal

Video available here

Interim President Dr. Lori S. Gonzalez

(Opening Statement)

Gonzalez: “Welcome everyone and thank you for being here. Today marks the end of a long road for the University of Louisville. This morning the NCAA issued its decision in the case of alleged violations involving our men’s basketball program. As evidenced by their decision, our position was well represented in the hearing and now we’re ready as a program and a University to put the past behind us and move forward. We have a new coach, a new athletic director, and a new team that’s ready to make the Cardinal nation proud on and off the court. Going forward our fans should expect a winning program and a winning culture. In entering the IARP, UofL had hoped to ensure a fair process and today’s action by the IARP reinforces that decision.

Throughout this process, the University’s been open, honest, and thorough in discovering and owning any mistakes that were made and we were aggressive in making steps to ensure that major violations would not happen again in this program. We revised, strengthened, and in some instances implemented new policies and procedures to ensure compliance with all NCAA rules and regulations. I want to reiterate that none of our current coaches and student-athletes were in any way involved in the allegations. I also want to remind the fans that the University acted swiftly and strongly to argue our case, hiring one of the top litigators in the nation. We felt and continue to feel strongly that our players and our fans deserve the best effort possible to protect our program. I want to thank all our fans for your patience and continued support during this very lengthy process. Today, we close the book on the past. We ask all of the Cardinal nation to get behind these young men and all our teams as we move into a brighter future.

Thank you.”

(On the impact of this process and decision on the University)

Gonzalez: “When you have a strong athletic program, it draws students to the school. They come to celebrate and even if they’re not on a team, they want to be part of a team. We know that when a team wins a national championship, the following year applications to the University go up and bookstores sell out of the swag that claims the victory, so we’ve lost out on that. Our enrollments have been good but we want to build student interest in athletics and I think this will help us start to do that.”

(Do you revisit decisions that were previously made?)

Gonzalez: “From my perspective, I wasn’t in Kentucky when all this happened. So, I’m not going to try and guess about past decisions. I do think that we were given a very fair hearing and our lawyers presented a fantastic case and were able to rebut most of what the CCU was arguing, and you can see that in the report. I think that past decisions are past decisions and we are where we are today.”

Director of Athletics Josh Heird

(Opening Statement)

Heird: “With the IARP announcement earlier today, we can finally turn the page on a long and arduous process. Thank you to Chairman Benck and the panel for taking the time to thoroughly review the facts of our case. We were hopeful for a positive outcome through this process and that’s what we received today. That said, let’s not forget the impact these allegations and this lengthy process have had on this University, this program, and this fan base. It should be noted that former and current players, coaches, staff, and their families have all been significantly impacted because of these allegations. At the end of the day, we’re relieved this process is finalized and we can now direct our full attention to the future of our men’s basketball program.

For our University, the Louisville community, and our loyal and passionate fans, today marks the beginning of a new chapter.”

(What does this mean moving forward now that it is finally over?)

Heird: “It means exactly that. It is finally over. There has been a cloud over this program for over five years now. Whether it was over recruiting or just the fans feeling the impact of it, the athletic staff, the university staff and for all of that to be lifted today ... obviously, we have some things we are going to have to do from a penalty standpoint. We will make sure that we do that. It is relief. It feels good.

(Whatever has changed in the college athletics landscape did not impact their decision and that the five years served wasn’t considered a factor, but was the five years some of the punishment?)

Heird: “That was a lot of the punishment. As positive of a day as this is, we can’t forget the last five years and what it has done to this program. The millions of dollars that this program has spent, the millions of dollars this program has lost, the opportunity for the student-athletes to compete at the highest level, which is the expectation when they come to the University of Louisville. It has been a big impact. I don’t think anyone can undersell how much of an impact it has been. It is not going to go away today. We are going to have to build this program back up. Today is a step in the right direction to do that.”

(Could you clarify the timeline, when did you find out and that feeling when you did find out, what was it like?)

Heird: “Contrary to a lot of the text messages I sent to folks in this room, I was telling everybody the truth. I had no idea. Obviously, the IARP was intentional in that. I found out just shortly after 9 a.m. this morning, so I had a little time to digest it before the public did. The reaction was, on one hand it is positive, right? There is finality to it. You are excited to see that this team has the opportunity to compete at the highest level and try to achieve some things that they thought they were not going to be able to achieve. From Kenny (Payne) and his staff to talk to recruits and say, ‘hey, as soon as you decide to attend the University of Louisville, you are going to get the opportunity to play for a championship. That means something. It really, really means something. As good of a day that today has been, it is bittersweet. As everybody knows, I wasn’t here for all five years. But as I talk to fans and as I talk to staff, this significantly impacted this program, this basketball program, this university, this athletic department and that is somewhat in the rearview mirror now.”

(This is a pivotal moment; can you talk about the collateral damage this has caused?)

Heird: “I think if you look historically at traditionally powerful programs in football or basketball, that foundation was laid years and years ago, so while I think there is an opportunity, and I am confident we will get back to where we were, it is going to take time. You don’t just turn the page and say ‘hey, everything is okay’. We are going to have to build this foundation back up and was part of the decision that went into hiring Kenny Payne and obviously Kenny’s decisions to hire his staff. So, it is going to take some time. This gives us the opportunity to turn that page, and really head in the right direction. That is what we are going to focus on.”

(With previous and present coaching staffs, were you ever informed of situations where they said they were getting killed in recruiting as other schools were saying don’t go to Louisville because of this?)

Heird: “Yes, constantly. Coaches are highly competitive. They are going to use every advantage they can get. We were at a competitive disadvantage. Other programs tried to take advantage of it.”

(Can you speak on if the decision to go to the IARP was the right decision even though it maybe took a lot longer?

Heird: “Yeah, ultimately, it was referred there from the NCAA. Obviously, that was the route we wanted it to go. And I think the biggest thing that it did was create the opportunity for an objective group of people to hear all of the facts. And based on the decision today, I think that’s what transpired as opposed to maybe folks that had a preconceived notion going into us explaining our side of it. I think the facts were heard. Obviously, I think the panel listened to them, and I think we presented a very strong argument. And I think that’s why we got to the decision that we did today.”

(Throughout this whole process, has there been any reevaluation of the relationship with Adidas?)

Heird: “No. I think if you look at that relationship, and if you look once again at the facts, this wasn’t the CEO or the president of Adidas saying ‘Hey, go do this or that.’ This was some employees and I think they have 10,000+ employees. Find me an organization that doesn’t have a few bad actors amongst 10,000, so I think we’re committed to that relationship and confident in the future of that partnership.”

(Do you revisit any of the staff or administrative changes that were made in the past after all that’s been decided today or do you think that ultimately helped arrive at this decision?) Heird: “I would answer very similarly. I think the only thing I might add is that I’m not going to look back at any decision that was made previously. For me, this day is about looking forward. Similar to Lori, I wasn’t here. I wasn’t in Kentucky when those decisions were made. For me, we’re focused on the future.”

(How does this, if at all, affect potentially reassessing putting up a 2013 national championship banner?)

Heird: “For me, it checks this situation off the to-do list, which allows us to potentially focus on other things on the to-do list. And while I’m not going to sit up here and make any promises, I can tell our fan base unequivocally that if there’s an opportunity for us to do something along those lines, we’re going to try to do it.”

(How concerned were you in these weeks leading up to the decision that you might have a different result than schools like NC State or Memphis had?)

Heird: “Yeah, I think for us, for the group that was in that room, I think you get a tenor of how people felt about it. And I do think we felt positive walking out of that hearing room. But I always try to be as realistic as I can. It’s my job to think best-case, worst-case and everything in between, and so yes, it crossed my mind. What is the worst-case scenario crossed my mind, what is the best-case scenario? But I would tell you that I know that we’re happy with the outcome today.”

(How can you contribute to fans getting back on board with the program?)

Heird: “It’s everything. If you’re a University of Louisville fan, and you don’t feel better after today, after this morning, then I’m not sure you’re a fan, so I think that’s the beginning. And then as I’ve constantly said to our staff, as I’ve said to you guys, we just have to stack one good day on top of another. That’s happening with football right now, so how do we make sure that it happens

with basketball? It’s not just wins and losses. Winning cures a lot. We all know that. The folks in Knoxville can tell you that right now. But we have the tradition, from a basketball standpoint, to be one of the elite programs year in and year out in this country. That’s our expectation, that’s our fans’ expectation, and that’s what we’re going to try to achieve.”

(More thoughts on the 2013 NCAA Championship banner)

Heird: “You have to make sure that you know where your priorities lie relative to the things that you’re tasked to do, and this was priority number one from an NCAA standpoint. Like I said, with this off of the to-do list essentially – we obviously have some things that we’re going to have to follow through with. I think it give is the opportunity to say ‘is there the potential to do something there relative to a completely different topic.’ Like I said, we’ll take a look at it and if there is an opportunity, then we will.”

(The panel and NCAA seemed adamant that the change in landscape over the past few years with NIL and such didn’t really play a factor in this, but as an athletics director, do you view this through a different lens now with the changes that have been made in the past five years?”) Heird: “Once again, I think you have to base decisions in the moment. So, they based their decisions on what the rules were five years ago. Those rules have changed. Now it’s our job to make sure we are adhering to the current set of rules and so that’s what we are going to do. Once again, NIL is an important piece of college athletics now. And so we need to make sure we are staying abreast of it, we need to make sure that we’re staying within the rules and that’s what we’re going to do as we move forward.”

(With all of the ups and downs through this whole process, what has it been like to try to stay positive throughout?)

Heird: “I think that’s the job of a leader, to try to stay as positive as you possibly can and that’s what we’ve tried to do. I’ve tried to be positive, but realistic when Kenny (Payne) and I had conversations as we were going through the process of hiring a head coach, it wasn’t ‘it’s no big deal, Kenny.’ It was realistic, yes there could be a postseason ban here, worst case scenario, it could be more than one year. Best case scenario, I thought it was probably going to be the reduction in some scholarships and some things along those lines. I think you wake up every day and try to be as positive as you can possibly be, make sure that you’re prepared for everything else. I think that’s where we were with everything that transpired here. I think we stuck to the facts of the case, I think we presented them effectively. I think our outside counsel, our counsel that worked for the university – I think they did a terrific, terrific job. We walked out of that room feeling optimistic, but once again, we needed to be prepared for everything in between and that’s where we are at right now.”

(What would be the criteria to raise the banner again and is the title not vacated, how does that work?)

Heird: “Those are conversations that I need to have with the NCAA. This isn’t as simple as rolling down to the arena tonight and.... In all seriousness, 2013 was an extremely, extremely important year to this program. And I think everybody knows what happened during March and the first week of April in 2013. So, while that’s never going to be taken away from our fans, from our student-athletes that played in that game, to recognize them is important to me and if there is an avenue to get that done, then that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

(That was a different NCAA case than the one that was ruled on today, are there new mechanisms in place to make you confident that this won’t be an issue going forward?)

Heird: “The IARP mentioned that in their brief – I don’t know if 220 pages is called a ‘brief’ – but they do mention all the mechanisms that were enacted, and a majority of this was before I was in this seat. We’ve got our compliance department that doesn’t report to the athletic director, we’ve got regularly scheduled meetings with each of our various teams, rules education, you can just go right on down the list. They literally outlined them in that brief. The other piece of it for me is just making sure that every day, everybody’s showing up to work and doing the right thing. And we have to stay on top of that. Once again, it goes back to you have X amount of employees, you’re bound to have somebody who says let’s do it this way or that way, and we have to say that we’re going to do it this way, all the time.”