Louisville Vice-President and Director of Athletics Tom Jurich met with the local and national media Thursday shortly after six guilty verdicts were handed down in the U.S. Government's case against Karen Cunagin Sypher. The woman who extorted Louisville coach Rick Pitino could see up to 26 years in prison for the six felony counts, and that would be just fine with Jurich.
When he was asked if he had any thoughts on Sypher's sentencing Jurich replied, simply, "What is the maximum?" before adding that she "had better be glad I'm not the judge."
Jurich, who says he was apprised of the situation near the end of the 2008 season when Sypher first began to request a sexual partner named Lester Goetzinger call Pitino to make demands, seemed relieved that the trial was over and that Karen Cunagin Sypher was convicted on all counts.
"I certainly think (the verdict) was something we expected after seeing all the evidence that was reported," Jurich said. "I don't think we view anything as a win because this has been a long 17 months. There's probably been a lot of damage done to the Sypher family - I include Tim (Sypher) in that - and to the Pitino family."
Karen Cunagin Sypher was convicted Thursday of three counts of extortion, two counts of lying to the FBI and one count of retaliating against a witness (Pitino). The retaliation charge came just last year when, after being charged with the first five charges, Sypher called news stations to let them know she'd be filing rape charges against Pitino.
Her claims of rape were vetted and found to be without merit by the Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel and Pitino was never charged. After her claims were dismissed by the Commonwealth's Attorney, Karen Cunagin Sypher began telling news organizations that she couldn't wait to testify in court and that "the truth would come out."
But during the eight-day trial, Karen Cunagin Sypher did not testify.
"It was a huge shock, to be honest with you," Jurich said. "For 17 months on just about every news program, we saw her face on TV saying that she wanted to get her side out, she wanted to speak and she wanted to stand up and talk. And when she chose not to, and clearly it was her choice, not anybody elses - that pretty much told everybody all they needed to know."
Jurich said he had not spoken to Pitino today, but reiterated his support for Pitino as Louisville's head basketball coach. Pitino, who signed a new deal that extends his contract through 2017 in April, was on the road Thursday.
"This was a personal matter that did not happen at the University," Jurich said when asked if he considered discipliary action against Pitino. "It was a personal matter that would not have been public had she not brought these false accusations against him. The way we looked at it - he was very remorseful for what happened, for putting his family and his wife through this, but he never once tried to make the University look bad. He has always had the greatest and best intentions for the University of Louisville, and he still will."
Jurich also expressed his support for UofL's Yum! Center Manager, Tim Sypher. Tim, who married Karen in 2004, was painted as the "mastermind" of a scheme to extort Pitino by Sypher's defense attorney, James Earhart. In his closing statement, Earhart accused Tim Sypher of orchestrating the whole plan against Pitino.
Jurich said that claim was ludicrous. "That is preposterous. I don't even know where you could even dream something like that up. He has worked very hard for our department and he's done a very good job. For that to come out at the 23rd hour of this case, it is just preposterous."
Tim Sypher will remain the University's Director for the Yum! Center which houses volleyball, women's lacrosse and men's basketball offices and practice facilities. Jurich said he feels for Tim because he is a single parent who will be tasked with raising the couple's five year old child.
Karen Cunagin Sypher is expected to be sentenced on Oct. 27. She could face up to 26 years, but a sentence of seven to eight years is more likely according to Associated Press reports.