Sidelines with John Clay

Louisville’s new acting athletic director has a UK connection

Vince Tyra speaks to reporters after being named acting athletic director at Louisville, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. Tyra played baseball at the University of Kentucky.
Vince Tyra speaks to reporters after being named acting athletic director at Louisville, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. Tyra played baseball at the University of Kentucky. Associated Press

When Louisville held a press conference to name its acting athletic director on Tuesday, a media member pointed out that the choice was a University of Kentucky graduate.

“My wife went to Kentucky, so I have no problem with that,” joked U of L interim president Greg Postel.

Indeed, Vince Tyra was a pitcher for Keith Madison’s baseball Cats from 1985-88. He led UK in innings and strikeouts as a sophomore in 1986 before shoulder problems curtailed his career.

“I really thought he was going to be a draftable player after his junior year,” Madison told WDRB’s Rick Bozich on Tuesday.

Now three decades later, the son of U of L basketball legend Charles Tyra, has accepted the job of trying to steer an athletic department rocked by last week’s announcement of an FBI investigation into college basketball that caused the school to start steps toward firing coach Rick Pitino and place athletic director Tom Jurich on leave.

A Trinity High School grad, Tyra was previous CEO and President of ISCO Industries, a piping manufacturer based in Louisville. He has also worked for Fruit of the Loom, BioPharm and several other companies. Those that know him describe Tyra as a natural leader.

The elephant in the room is Jurich, however. His backers, many of them important U of L donors, are staging a public campaign to have Postel re-instate the once celebrated AD back into his former job.

U of L’s coaches have been outspoken in their objection to Jurich’s ouster. And Jurich himself has said that if he knew Pitino was “Coach-2” in the federal criminal complaint issued last week, as has been alleged, he would have fired the basketball coach.

“His legacy is all around us,” said Tyra of Jurich, whom he considers a friend.

Indeed, Jurich did a terrific job building Louisville from a mid-major in every sport but basketball to a national power. But, as Erick Crawford of WDRB points out, “The problem, then, is not that Jurich let the Louisville basketball program -- one of the two largest rooms in the house, one of the rooms with all the money in it, one of the front rooms that everyone sees from the road – get a little messy. He let it catch fire. Twice.”

Now a former UK baseball pitcher is charged, at least temporarily, with sorting through the damage.

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