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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tom Jurich to be inducted into Flagstaff Hall of Fame -- Wednesday Cardinal Couple


In NCAA circles, the name Tom Jurich is synonymous with Louisville. After arriving on the UofL campus in 1997, the Cardinals have become the best college sports town in America. Not too many are aware, however, that T.J. had two decades of successes under his belt before he hit the Belknap Campus.  

He spent his collegiate student-athlete career at Northern Arizona University as a punter, placekicker and backup quarterback and received first-team Kodak All-American honor in 1977. He was the first kicker ever to make the Kodak All-American team. That led to a brief NFL stint and time in the private business sector before a return to NAU to become the athletic director. 

Jurich spent eight years in Flagstaff before taking the Colorado State A.D. job in 1994. Three years later, he accepted the UofL A.D. position.

Replacing Bill Olson...Jurich looked around the UofL campus and saw that there was work to be done. The Cards had a new football stadium in the works...but the football program was in a shambles after Howard Schnellenberger had left in 1995. Louisville men's basketball was a decade away from their 1986 NCAA Championship and some were questioning whether the Cards were still headed in the right direction with Denny Crum at the helm.

The women's basketball program had lost Bud Childers, who had taken Louisville to the NCAA Tournament two out of the last three years, to Old Dominion...of all places. There was no softball or lacrosse on campus and South Floyd Street was a collection of warehouses, salvage yards, gravel lots and small businesses once you neared the railroad tracks. 

It is a testimony and tribute to vision of Tom when you drive the UofL Campus these days. Trager Stadium, Ralph Wright Natatorium, Bass-Rudd, Lynn, PCJS, YUM! Practice Facility, Jim Patterson Stadium, Ulmer Stadium, Louisville Lacrosse Stadium and...well...the list goes on and on.

Would this dramatic growth and proliference have happened if Jurich had decided to stay at CSU? Probably to some extent....change and growth in inevitable...but certainly not to the magnitude and splendor that exists today. 

Louisville has gone from the Metro to Conference USA, The Big East, American Athletic Conference and the ACC over the last 20 years. Somewhere, I have polo shirts with the logos of each conference on them. Along with my leisure suits and polyester shirts...

In 1997, a few guys gathered together with then Stadium Coordinator Al Parrish at an old, abandoned CSX Railroad diesel repair warehouse at the corner of Floyd and Boxley and thought that it might make a pretty decent tailgate facility with a bit of renovation and if this Jurich guy could get a coach that could turn Louisville Football into a contender again. Us guys, well...we guessed right. 

Thank you, Tom...for coming here, for your early visits to the Parrish House, the encouragement you gave me to start this website and making Cardinal Sports the unqualified success they are today. Congratulations on your award. Thanks for being Tom Terrific.


1 comment:

  1. Hey Paulie - Nice piece. I didn't know about Jurich's history, particularly his AZ roots and background on the gridiron. I don't remember what conference NAU competed in during the late '70's but I know they've spent some time in the Big Sky Conference over the years, so having matriculated at Montana State it's pretty cool to me to discover he's a Westerner by background.

    It also explains why I used to be a bit mystified as to why he talked about going snow skiing on vacation. Now I get it. Flagstaff is a great place.


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