At ESPN: “Perhaps more than any other place in America, Louisville came to embody the contradictions of college athletics — a multibillion-dollar industry built on amateur athletes.”

Rich Pitino’s house for sale in Miami, now
discounted to move at only $24 million.

The long read is at ESPN: The Magazine.

How a midlevel school became The University of Adidas at Louisville, by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada

It’s about the delightful implosion of Tom Jurich’s non-academic sporting money machine at the University of Louisville, and it’s highly recommended even if you’re not a jaded cynic like me.

(Tom) Jurich was so successful generating money that “I wished I could turn them upside down and shake out their pocket change for the academic side,” says Thomas B. Byers, a professor emeritus in the English department. Perhaps more than any other place in America, Louisville came to embody the contradictions of college athletics — a multibillion-dollar industry built on amateur athletes.

Whenever the hypocrisy and corruption of big-time college sports becomes too blatantly obvious to ignore, and bloviates like me start chortling, back comes the well-rehearsed rejoinder: Well, just look at how the bountiful cash generated by the athletic departments helps the entire university community.

Then someone like the deposed (if not disgraced in the eyes of the fanboys and girls) Jurich decides to speak honestly.

Told about the frustrations expressed by several professors, Jurich wonders why some academic departments can’t rebuild themselves in the same way he built up the athletic department. “They couldn’t have gone out and raised money?” he says. “Why is it I’m accountable for everything and all we’ve done is been successful? But these other people get a free pass? If I was a humanities professor, do you think I’d sit there and say, ‘Man, I can’t get it done, poor me’? I’d never say that. I’d go find a way to get it done. You know what? Those schools have alumni too. Those schools have very rich graduates too. Nobody handed me anything when I walked into this place. Nobody. It was quite the contrary.”

So much for spreading the wealth. In other words, lazy-ass academics, go out there and fill an arena with folks willing to pay to watch you conduct scientific experiments or make philosophical arguments, and you can have a piece of the pie, too.

Of course, when even a trained physician confuses sports funding with the mission of education, such a result is almost inevitable.

Jurich built $280 million in arenas, playing fields and athletic offices by convincing rich people of the facilities’ vital importance. “I can give $5 million to stem cell research and it’s gonna help stem cell research,” says Dr. Mark Lynn, an optometry-chain owner whose name adorns the soccer complex. “I give $5 million to a soccer stadium and it’s gonna help everything.” Lynn says sports bring the school visibility.

Ultimately, it’s like this …

“I don’t think Tom Jurich gets this, and I don’t think Jim Ramsey got it,” says state Rep. Jim Wayne, whose district includes parts of Louisville. “The University of Louisville is a state facility … and it is not their kingdom. They are not the kings, and the princes, and the nobility in the kingdom. They’re temporary stewards of these programs. And instead of seeing this as something that they should be responsible for and hold high ethical standards as they execute their jobs, they’re doing just the opposite.”

… and this.

F. Chris Gorman, a former Kentucky attorney general, says: “I think that the tragedy here is this is probably the only community that uses public money to fund a Division I athletic program. That’s what led to all this corruption: They had all this money — money from the foundation, money from the arena, money from the students. You add all that up, and then they have a budget to compete with the Ohio States of the world. But they haven’t done it in an honest way. They’ve done it by fleecing the taxpayers and by taking money from the foundation, men and women that worked all their lives and thought they were giving money to education.”

Bread and circuses. Somewhere behind the curtain, there’s an institution of higher learning. Has that occurred to any of you?