LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Louisville has picked a familiar face, and collegiate rival, to lead its athletic department through its darkest hour.
Vince Tyra, who played baseball at Kentucky and is the son of Louisville basketball legend Charlie Tyra, will serve as acting athletic director, interim president Greg Postel announced Tuesday. The move came nearly a week after Louisville and Rick Pitino were linked to an alleged scheme to pay the family of five-star recruit Brian Bowen Jr. $100,000 with cash arranged by Adidas executive Jim Gatto.
Postel said he’s been asked why he selected someone who attended Kentucky, Louisville’s chief rival.
“My wife went to Kentucky, so I have no problem with that,” Postel joked.
No need for Cardinals supporters to worry, though. Tyra, a University of Louisville Foundation board member who will resign from his position to accept the acting athletic director role, said he’s a diehard Louisville fan.
“I’m a fan just like you are,” said Tyra, the former CEO and President of ISCO Industries, a piping manufacturer based in Louisville. “I grew up a Cardinal fan, raised my kids as Cardinal fans.”
A week after Louisville sank into its second scandal-ridden tailspin in three years, the school has installed David Padgett to lead the basketball program and Tyra to lead the athletic department.
Tyra said he was first contacted last week about the possibility and met with Postel in his suite during Louisville’s lopsided win over Murray State on Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
“We’re very fortunate,” Postel said about the week-long transition process.
The University of Louisville Athletic Association voted unanimously Monday to begin the process to terminate Pitino with cause. Pitino’s attorneys responded by sending a breach of contract notice to the school, which believes it only owes him 10 days of pay, not the $44 million attached to his contract.
Lawyers for Tom Jurich, who was placed on paid administrative leave last week but has received unanimous support from coaches, claimed Postel misrepresented his actions in a letter from the president, released Monday, that accuses the former athletic director of hastily arranging a recent $160 million extension with Adidas without consulting his superiors.
Even Bowen has retained Miami-based attorney Jason Setchen to fight for his NCAA eligibility this season, all of which means Tyra is the leader of an athletic department that may soon be wrapped up in contentious legal battles.
Postel said the university will re-examine its deal with Adidas.
Tyra said he knows he has a lot of learn in the coming weeks, but he’s most concerned with the players.
“My initial concerns when I heard about all this? Frankly, the student-athletes,” Tyra said. “I’m hopeful that I can provide that leadership to the student-athletes, to the university, to the coaches.
He also said he intends to meet with the school’s coaches Tuesday night and talk to them individually about his plans for the department.
Tyra fought back tears as he discussed his desire to lead Louisville through what might be the program’s worst moment because he wants to help.
He’s never led an athletic department, but Tyra said his experience in business will help him guide the athletic department in the immediate future.
“I find talent, I manage talent and we win,” he said.