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Less than three weeks before University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich was placed on administrative leave as a first step toward his firing, his bosses scheduled a meeting for the stated purpose of dissolving the school’s athletic association.

Emails obtained by Courier Journal through an open records request include a Sept. 7 exchange between interim President Greg Postel and Trustee Chairman David Grissom in which Postel confirmed a Sept. 11 meeting with Jurich had been scheduled and included two draft documents for Grissom’s review.

“All looks good,” Grissom wrote, “but the key takeaway should be that we do away with ULAA and athletics comes under the exclusive jurisdiction of the UL Board (just as U.K. has done).”

“Agree completely,” Postel replied.

Presumably, ULAA stands for the University of Louisville Athletic Association.

“I knew that (dissolving the board) was probably the goal once Postel got in there,” Jurich said Wednesday. “You could see because he became chair of everything: personnel committee, finance committee, things like that.  

“But that’s their prerogative, certainly.”

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The University of Kentucky’s Athletics Association, established in 1945, agreed to disband by a unanimous vote in 2012. Supervision of UK athletics subsequently passed to a panel consisting of five members of the school’s board of trustees with input from as many as three additional members serving in a nonvoting “community advisory” capacity.

The board of Louisville’s athletic association was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in 1984, “exclusively for charitable, education and scientific purposes.” Postel serves as chairman of the board, which also includes the university’s faculty representative to the NCAA (Elaine Wise), eight other faculty members, four administrators appointed by the president, two trustees, two full-time students, one staff member and eight at-large members.

“There have been many changes in athletics in recent weeks,” university spokesman John Karman said in a staterment provided to Courier Journal. “As we continue to look to the future and what is best for U of L, reviewing the structure of ULAA and its relationship to the university could be among the considerations. No decisions have been made, however, and none are imminent.”

Larry Benz, who preceded Grissom as the chair of the board of trustees, now serves on the ULAA board. His stated preference is to preserve both bodie .

“Perhaps since that email the sentiments have changed, but I would be personally disappointed if they disbanded ULAA,” Benz said. “Athletic Associations are the norm, not the exception. And by their majority membership of faculty, staff and students serve as an ongoing reminder of why athletic departments exist. . .

“I’m only a recent member of ULAA, but in my time on the board of trustees, I attended many meetings, including their budgeting process, which I found very disciplined, sound and thorough.”

At its last meeting, on Oct. 16, the ULAA board voted to terminate Rick Pitino as the school’s head basketball coach. Jurich’s firing was the result of a 10-3 vote by the board of trustees.

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Karman said he was not sure if the idea of dissolving the athletic association’s board still had “traction” following Jurich’s replacement by acting athletic director Vince Tyra, but tensions may have diminished as a result. Jurich’s termination letter cited a “lack of collegiality best characterized as intimidation and bullying that extends from student government to the University’s senior leadership.”

U of L athletics spokesman Kenny Klein said it would be inappropriate for either he or Tyra to comment.

Jurich does not object to the proposed change – “That wouldn’t have been a big deal with me” – but added that he “always saw a great advantage” in ULAA.

“I really did because it was made up of so many faculty, staff and students,” Jurich said. “I thought it was a great reach across the community. You had very successful business people and you brought them together with faculty, staff, administrators. It was a good mix. Obviously, they didn’t (agree), but I think it worked very (well) for many years.”

Tim Sullivan: 502-582-4650; tsullivan@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @TimSullivan714. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/tims

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