LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Vince Tyra, a businessman who has been instrumental in turnaround efforts at the University of Louisville Foundation, will serve as the university’s acting athletics director, interim U of L President Greg Postel said at a news conference Tuesday.
Tyra steps in for Tom Jurich, whose 20-year career at U of L is in limbo following last week’s federal complaint alleging corruption in the men’s basketball program.
Tyra became emotional in the press conference announcing the move, telling reporters he is a life-long U of L fan whose father, Charlie, a former standout on the basketball team, “would be incredibly proud.”
“It’s been a difficult week,” Tyra said of the allegations. The basketball team “may have a flat tire, but we’re going to pump it back up … It’s time for our fan base to dig in deeper and be more supportive in any way they can.”
The details of Tyra’s salary and how long he will remain as active athletic director were not announced Tuesday, as the contract has not yet been finalized. He said he will resign from his role with the foundation.
Tyra spoke glowingly of the man he is replacing, Tom Jurich, who was placed on administrative leave Sept. 27, a day after federal prosecutors made the charges public. Jurich’s fate is in the hands of U of L’s board of trustees, which took no action on Monday after discussing the situation behind closed doors.
“Tom and I aren’t the same people, but we have similar philosophies” and the same passion for the university, Tyra said. “Tom has been an incredible steward for a long time. … People know how I feel about Tom and what he has accomplished here.”
At the same time, Jurich is fighting to get his job back, with his attorney arguing in a letter to Postel on Monday that the athletic director knew nothing about the alleged money being paid to recruits.
Asked about Jurich’s possible return, Tyra avoided the question, saying that was not his decision.
Tyra said he first spoke with board chairman David Grissom about the interim AD job after a meeting on Thursday. He said he will meet with coaches immediately and talk with interim basketball coach David Padgett about Padgett’s plan for the team and what to do with the current assistant coaches, Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair.
“We have an amazing group of athletes on this team,” Tyra said.
Interim University of Louisville President Greg Postel said he was confident Tyra would “have the ability to work with me, our coaches, our athletic staff and our athletes to promote stability, to promote confidence in our programs and to ensure the success of our athletic endeavors.”
Tyra (pronounced TIE-ray) is a graduate of the University of Kentucky, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in health administration and played on the UK baseball team, according to his LinkedIn profile.
From 2013 to 2016, he was CEO of ISCO Industries, a privately held piping supply company based in downtown Louisville.
Jimmy Kirchdorfer Jr., the current CEO at ISCO, said in an emailed statement that Tyra is passionate about U of L athletics and “will bring great things for a new era at Louisville.”
“It was an honor to work with Vince during his time at ISCO. He brought energy and a unique breadth of experience to his role,” Kirchdorfer said.
Tyra’s father set a number of school records on court for the Cardinals in the 1950s.
Charlie Tyra is one of only four players – the others are Wes Unseld, Darrell Griffith and Pervis Ellison – to have his jersey number (8) retired by the school, according to a 2006 obituary in The Courier-Journal.
Vince Tyra’s links to U of L grew stronger this year after he joined the board of the U of L Foundation in February.
Tyra was part of a wholesale change of the organization’s 15-member board as the foundation looks to get its finances under control following the tenure of former U of L President James Ramsey, who ran the foundation until resigning last year.
Tyra became chairman of the foundation’s finance committee, perhaps the second-most important role on the board.
He was instrumental in decisions earlier this year to slash spending from the university’s endowment to a level the foundation considers sustainable, while also writing off $38 million from the roughly $720 million fund to account for Ramsey-era loans that the foundation can’t repay.
Since 2007, Tyra has also been an operating partner at Southfield Capital, a Connecticut-based private equity firm that invests in “lower middle market” companies.
In July, he became chairman of the board of Elite Medical Staffing, of Clearwater, Florida, a company that helps healthcare providers find nursing and physicians assistants.
He is also on the board of Industrial Services of America, a Louisville-based scrap metal recycling company.
Tyra told reporters he has been “able to live my life OLP in Louisville — operation low profile,” but he knew that would end now.
While the university “may have an issue today,” Tyra said U of L is “one of the elite programs in the country. …This is the time for supporters, donors and fans to dig in. This is not the time to break away.”
Asked whether the university is “corrupt” given the recent allegations and the Katina Powell scandal, Tyra said he did not believe there was “system corruption either here at the university or in the athletic department.”
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