[This article originally appeared in the American Srbobran, April 5, 2017]
LOUISVILLE, KY – On an unseasonably hot February day, Tom Jurich welcomed us to his third floor office on the campus of the University of Louisville. We were 2-1/2 hours early, but his door swung open wide despite our inability to jump time zones correctly.
Born and raised in Southern California, Tom Jurich of SNF Lodge #95-Lovcen-Los Angeles, was apologetic for the heat as if it was his fault. “We don’t turn the air conditioning on this early,” he said, an explanation we already heard from his receptionist who called her desktop fan her “new BFF.” We were immediately at ease, and the friendliness of the entire office far outweighed the heat.
It was Mercia Martich of Northridge, California, who sent us in the direction of the Tom Jurich story initially. She said he was a SNF member and someone to hoot about, adding, “He is not only successful, but a fine gentleman and a family man, too.”
We asked if he missed Southern California. “Not a bit. I loved it then, but I love it here. This is home.” And it is obvious he is firmly entrenched in his surroundings, fitting in like a native son.
He has been described as the architect that has enabled the school to reach once unimaginable heights with an athletic budget that is the envy of many. The financial boost comes almost entirely from private funding. Walking around the campus, athletic facilities are decorated with the names of donors who have happily succumbed to Jurich’s charm and answered his appeals. He gives most of the credit to his son Mark who serves as senior associate athletic director of development.
Included in his many accomplishments during his tenure was a partnership with the City of Louisville and the State of Kentucky for a 22,000-seat arena where the men’s and women’s basketball teams compete.
He came to Louisville after working as athletic director at Colorado State University and Northern Arizona University. At NAU, he played football as a kicker. “I was with the Pittsburgh Steelers for about 20 minutes,” he said with a laugh. Jurich was a 10th round draft pick. His NFL career was brief, to say the least, but his life was just beginning.
With the new blood came an abundance of victories, the greatest of which is not in any individual sport but in the unprecedented growth of the entire athletic program. On the Cards’ website it says, “Louisville has enjoyed some of its most dynamic eras on the playing field, and more importantly, has seen a complete transformation of the athletic department’s infrastructure that has improved not only the image of the athletic department, but the beautification of the entire campus.” In return, the grateful university answered the unprecedented growth with an unprecedented contract extension. Louisville is most certainly home for the Juriches until at least 2023.
Having said all of this, and considering how much more we haven’t even mentioned, one has to wonder what Jurich himself sees as his greatest accomplishment. It’s his family.
Good for him. Good for everyone.