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U of L Denies Report That Ramsey Is Considering Retirement

James Ramsey
J. Tyler Franklin
James Ramsey

Top officials at the University of Louisville are denying a news report that President James Ramsey is considering retiring from the university.

Citing unnamed sources, WHAS-11 anchor Doug Proffitt reported Tuesday night that Ramsey held a private meeting at his home with a small group of trustees last weekend, at which he discussed a "roadmap" to retire. Proffitt's story came after Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones reported something similar on his radio show.

Kathleen Smith, Ramsey's chief of staff and perhaps his closest ally at U of L, said in an email to WFPL News on Wednesday morning that Proffitt's story is "totally false."

Reached Wednesday afternoon, U of L Foundation board chair Dr. Robert Hughes echoed Smith, saying the report is "absolutely false."

“Specifically, Dr. Ramsey had no meeting personally with anyone at his home, and had no meeting with anyone about him resigning," Hughes said in an interview with WFPL.

Hughes, who is also immediate past chair of the university's board of trustees, has been a staunch defender of Ramsey as public criticism of the president has grown during the past year. He said he would have known if Ramsey was considering leaving the university.

"I would think that if anyone knew on the board of trustees, I think I would know as quick or sooner than anyone," Hughes said. "And it’s not just because I’m close to Dr. Ramsey – I’m close to the whole university.”

Larry Benz, current chair of the board of trustees, said he had no knowledge of a meeting between Ramsey and trustees.

"I have no clue," Benz wrote via email. He did not respond to a request for comment on whether Ramsey is considering retirement.

Smith also questioned the credibility of the report, saying the "source is flawed." Asked whether that means she knows who the source is, Smith declined to elaborate, saying "my statement speaks for itself."

Proffitt, who did not respond to a request for comment, indicated in the story that at least one of his sources is a member of the board of trustees.

Ramsey has been under intense public criticism for much of the past year, for matters ranging from his outsize salary to a current FBI investigation at the university.

Most recently, he has been the subject of pushback over his decision to self-impose a postseason tournament ban for U of L's men's basketball team, amid ongoing investigations into allegations that a former staff member hired an escort service to provide strippers and sex to recruits and players.

Ramsey has defended his record — sometimes angrily — amid the criticism. Recently, he has been hinting at a potential retirement:

Hughes said he hasn't had any discussions with Ramsey in which the president contemplating retiring before the end of his contract, which expires in 2020.

“After 2020, I don’t know what he plans on doing," Hughes said. "Has there been any discussion of him stepping down prior to 2020? To me, no.”

Stephen George is President and CEO of Louisville Public Media. Email Stephen at sgeorge@lpm.org.