John “Papa John” Schnatter is a major booster to Louisville athletics. The school’s football stadium is named after his pizza company, which is headquartered in town, and he’s on the university’s board of trustees. Until this morning, he was also on the school’s Athletics Association board, but he resigned from his post today, two weeks after he went off on Louisville athletics leadership.
At a April 12 meeting, Schnatter said he and interim university president Greg Postel agreed that athletic department leadership—specifically AD Tom Jurich—was “invisible” and he called for a “fix” and compared them to a three-legged stool. Postel has since denied he ever called athletics leadership invisible.
The department approved payment for a stadium expansion scheduled to be completed at some point next year, but construction has gone some $5 million over budget on a $63 million project that’s about 75 percent funded. Athletics operates on a different budget from the rest of the university, yet Schnatter took issue with what he saw as reckless spending considering that the university is projected to have a budget shortfall of $48 million next year. He was unspecific, but he called for change to the structure of U of L athletics:
“Until you fix athletics, you can’t fix this university,” he said. “You have to fix the athletics first. I mean, I’ve looked at this eight ways to Sunday. You’ve got to fix the athletics first, and then the university will get in line.”
Schnatter never clarified what he meant, and he dodged questions after leaving a board of trustees meeting last night. The university announced that they would consider handing over control of the University of Louisville Hospital to an outside entity. This would seemingly help shore up the budget shortfall that Schnatter decried.
Schnatter did not attend a meeting of the Athletic Association board this morning, and a U of L spokesperson confirmed later that he had resigned from the board. He informed U of L’s president and did not give a reason, although he also said that he will remain a member of the university board of trustees. Athletic director Tom Jurich, the supposedly invisible one, laughed off a question about whether Schnatter was pushed out or resigned by choice.