After the University of Louisville Athletic Association board of directors meeting Friday morning, Cardinals athletic director Josh Hurd spoke with the media and the biggest topic was the Cardinals men’s basketball team.
The 2013 men’s basketball team will return to campus next month 10 years after winning the NCAA championship, only for the title to be vacated by the NCAA after 5 years. Hurd was asked about the status of the men’s basketball program, support for head coach Kenny Payne, and about the 2013 championship banner.
Hurd provided public support for Kenny Payne, the first-year men’s basketball coach he hired whose team struggled to a 2-15 record entering its Saturday game against North Carolina.
Later in the day, Payne said he had not seen Heard’s comments, but that his boss had offered private support well before Friday.
“(Heard) sees,” Payne said. “He’s training. He’s in the locker room after games. He’s watching the morale of the players. He knows what we’re trying to build. And he’s been supportive of that. So yeah, that feels good.”
Hurd was also asked about the NIL, Indiana’s football series, where the Cardinals hold the football stadium’s naming rights, among other things. This is what he said:
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Note: Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: You have a question about basketball and obviously it’s something because they’re in season with Payne and the men’s team. They’re getting better, but they’re not winning yet. How do you deal with that? How do you feel like your role with Kenny as far as support?
a: I can promise you, I will never come home satisfied that we and Kenny are better than I am. We don’t want to go home and say we’re getting better. We are making progress. So we understand the expectations in this program, and the expectation is to win a lot of basketball games and compete at a very high level.
Do I think we are heading in the right direction? This is not just about wins and losses. That’s all about the program, you know, are we setting ourselves up to be successful? yes. Now, but obviously, more of that in the future and creating a foundation that will last longer than you hit lightning in a bottle and you have a good year. How do we create a program that’s sustainable and that’s really good year after year, because that’s the expectation here.
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And in terms of supporting Kenny, I mean, that’s very important to me. Until he does something that says, “Hey, I don’t think it should be our basketball coach,” I’ll support him 110%. But I can promise you he didn’t do one single thing that showed me he shouldn’t be our basketball coach. Now, does that mean any of us are content with two wins? of course not. Like I said, it’s very frustrating. And I can assure you that this is frustrating. I know it’s frustrating for Kenny. It’s frustrating for the staff, and it’s frustrating for our student-athletes. But if you take a step back, and that’s really hard, it’s very difficult for the fans to do, it’s very difficult for me to do that, and it’s very difficult for Kenny to do that and say, ‘Hey, what were we dealing with when we made this coaching transition’ ? Look who was on that team. Look at the track history they had previously. See who’s not on that team right now based on the staff there.
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Q: The 2013 men’s basketball team will be back in a couple of weeks, I think. The national championship logo is something everyone has been talking about since the IARP materials. It’s a process, but has any progress been made with it? Or what does that schedule or type of flight look like?
a: This is the 10th anniversary of the men’s national team in the 2013 National Championship. We want to give them, our fans, the opportunity to learn about those achievements. We will do whatever we can do. Are we going to have some conversations about some of the things we’re allowed to do? Yes, we will from an NCAA standpoint. Again, looking at the whole picture in the NCAA case decision, those penalties, it was very clear that we couldn’t identify the different teams in any way or way from a general standpoint. Is there a chance or is there a way forward to try to do this? we will try.
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Q: Can you tell us anything at this point about this Indiana stuff? (Indiana is reportedly working to cancel the three-game series with Louisville, including this year’s contest, which is scheduled to be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.)
a: We’ll play Indianapolis in 2023. There’s no chance for us and them to go look for another game. I suppose they are excited to play that game. We are so excited to play this game. I think it’s a great opportunity for each of our fanbases. I think our student athletes love to play in a professional environment. I think we have three or four pro stadiums in our area that will probably be on our schedule next year.
I know we’d like to schedule these things for the next 10 to 15 years, but it changes all the time. So now, fully committed to playing in 2023 and then we’ll see what happens in the future. If we mutually thought there was basically a better chance, this would be it, but for now, we’re committed to a three-game series. They did too, and that’s where we are now.
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Q: With the stadium naming rights, would you apply? are you getting close
a: I should tell you we’ve had a number of conversations. I think we’re getting close to some sort of agreement, but until they sign a piece of paper, I’d never say anything’s done. While I think there is an opportunity there, we just have to make sure that we stay on the path and that our partner, our potential partner is happy. Ultimately, the Board of Trustees must agree to this. So, make sure we go through those channels and then hopefully make sure everyone is happy and announce something here.
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Q: So for you, I mean, it’s not like anything that happened in your freshman year ever (laughs). What was that like in that first year just as an ad and what are you thinking of or looking to do in year two?
a: I think I’ll start the way I did a year ago and say it’s an honor and a privilege to be the athletic director of the University of Louisville. I enjoy, I wouldn’t say every day, I enjoy a large majority of the days in this role. I think we have some of the best coaches in the country. I know we have some of the best staff in the country, and the best student athletes. A lot has happened here in the past year. I go back to what I said a year ago, if we can make sure that we put the interest of the athletic department, and the university, first in every decision we make, I think we’ll make some good decisions. I’m not going to sit here and say we made the right decision every single day, but overall I think we made some good decisions. We just have to keep going that way and, like I said, stack one good day on top of another and keep trying to build one of the best athletic departments in the country.
Louisville men’s basketball reporter Brett Dawson contributed to this report.
Reach out to Louisville football, basketball, and women’s baseball beat writer Alexis Cubitt at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @Alexis_Cubit.