(Cover photo: Terrilynn Jurich accompanied by the family Labrador Retriever Yogi. Credit: Bill Brymer. Story photos credit: Jurich family)
By Ashli McLean
After 26 years of marriage to one of the most powerful athletic directors in the nation, much of Terrilynn Jurich’s time is still spent supporting her husband, Tom. It has never changed.
She isn’t showy. She isn’t out for the attention. And while everyone may quickly identify her because of her husband, she can hold her own.
You’ll see her standing confidently at Tom’s side at any event. She’s that whisper of peace in his ear, encouraging and uplifting the man who runs an ambitious ship at the University of Louisville. So ambitious that the 2012-2013 school year was dubbed “The Year of the Cardinal” by many major media outlets. It was even made into an ESPN documentary.
That year, the Cardinals did what no other college program has ever done in a single year. First, the football team won the Sugar Bowl with a 33-23 victory over Florida. Then, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams reached the Final Four. The women defeated Brittney Griner and the Baylor Bears in upset fashion to advance to the regional finals and, eventually, the national championship game. The men claimed the national championship title with an 82-76 win over Michigan. Lastly, the baseball team reached the College World Series by defeating Vanderbilt 5-3 and 2-1 in the Super Regionals.
Yet with all the hype and glamour, you will find a down-to-earth Terrilynn behind the scenes keeping it all together for the Jurich family. She’s grounded, pure-hearted, overly welcoming, and authentically hospitable.
The matriarch of the Jurich family gives a warm greeting to welcome us into the family home, accompanied by her “baby” Yogi: the Juriches’ mild-mannered, five-year-old, chocolate Labrador whom they lovingly nickname “Yogi Bear”. Immediate peace describes what you feel as you enter the home, and you quickly discover that family and faith are the most central parts of Terrilynn’s story. The walls are lined with family photos throughout the years- the kids laughing in their younger days, Tom and Terrilynn skiing together, plaques of family achievements. On a beautiful day, the sun makes itself known through passing clouds as it shines through the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the family pool.
With an air of tranquility and a vibrancy of love, Terrilynn shares the start of her athletic life.
“I was a barrel racer,” she said with a smile. “I had horses, and competed in that. I loved it.” She belonged to a local barrel racing club in her small hometown of Thermopolis, Wyoming. Once a week, she would compete in the all-girls rodeo events as her horses maneuvered through a timed, cloverleaf pattern around barrels. “It’s wonderful getting to grow up in a small town. You know everybody, but that’s also difficult. You know everybody, and everybody knows you,” she laughed.
A far cry from living in a town of fewer than 3,000, Tom and Terrilynn serve one of the most lucrative college sports programs in a city of roughly 1,000,000. Ask her her thoughts, and she’ll tell you she never would’ve seen herself in this place today. She came from a blue-collar family, the oldest of four children. Her father Lyle worked his way up to become the Rocky Mountain regional manager for a chemical company that treated production oil. “There’s a lot of oil and gas in Wyoming,” Terrilynn asserted. Her mother Ilene was a homemaker.
Terrilynn, who was one of the first in her family to get a college degree, dreamed of having a professional career in her own right. “I loved music,” she said. “I was a singer. I played a lot of instruments, even to this day. I think when I was growing up, I always wanted to sing professionally.”
She received an associate’s degree in music and a bachelor’s in mathematics. Interestingly, she said that the two disciplines go along quite well together “when you understand chord progressions and timing. Music is so expressive, math is black and white, and I love both aspects of that.”
Terrilynn completed two years at Casper Community College and then transferred to the University of Wyoming. She was paying for her college education and stumbled upon the opportunity to compete in pageants to win scholarship money. With the mindset of simply giving it a try, she remarked, “I just happened to win the local pageant and had no idea what I was getting into.” She would go on to win the Miss Wyoming title and compete in the 1987 Miss America pageant. “It was a great experience, and I think that it helped to prepare me for being Tom’s wife… you have to have a bit of thick skin.”
Tom and Terrilynn met through mutual friends- a basketball coach and his fiancee- while he was the Director of Athletics at Northern Arizona University. “We were both in their wedding,” she said.
Terrilynn was still living in Wyoming, attending the University of Wyoming. Before ever meeting face-to-face, the two maintained a long distance friendship over the phone for about a month and a half. Steadily, the phone calls went from once every few days to once a day to multiple times per day. “You could tell she was for real,” Tom said about their initial conversations. And Terrilynn was assured. “I told my mom after a couple of weeks, ‘This is the man I’m going to marry.’ I just had this peace in my heart. I just knew.”
Terrilynn admitted she had been praying for her future husband, and she later found out that Tom had also been praying and waiting for five years for the type of woman he wanted to marry. He was a single father raising two sons at the time: Mark, 7, and Brian, 5. His main priority was their welfare, and so he desired a wife who would fit in with the three of them. “I certainly knew what I wanted,” Tom said, “but I never dreamed it would be delivered in the package of her.”
The two were engaged six months later. Within a year of their first meeting, they were married and, with that, Terrilynn adopted her new sons and found that her dreams had changed. She wanted to be a wife and mother foremost. There was never any talk of a “blended family”; from there on out, Terrilynn was adamant that Mark and Brian were her sons. For her, it was a privilege to raise them as her own. “Tom is a great dad. I give him the credit for allowing me to step in.” About two years later, Terrilynn gave birth to twin girls Haley and Lacey, now 24.
Today, Lacey is a nurse at Norton Audubon. Haley recently graduated with her master’s degree and is in Indianapolis completing a year-long internship with the NCAA. Brian, 32, is an administrator for Norton Healthcare and Mark, 34, serves alongside his father as Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development.
“I thought I would get a musician out of the bunch, but they’re all athletes,” Terrilynn laughed.
Brian wrestled and played baseball and football in high school, then served as a student manager for Louisville’s baseball team. Mark was an outfielder for the Cardinals’ baseball squad, and the twins played field hockey during their tenure at the University of Louisville. All four graduated as a Cardinal while their father served as Athletic Director.
Tom said his wife gave up her career for the family. “There’s no doubt in my mind she’d be in Nashville right now singing. She’s that talented of a singer.” Yet, Terrilynn isn’t overshadowed by Tom’s success. She is completely comfortable in her role of supporting him to achieve the goals he has set out for his athletic department. “As far as decisions, he’ll ask my opinion on certain things and I’ll give him my opinion, but I ultimately step back because it’s his decision,” she said. “I’m always there with him in the middle of the night when he can’t sleep and has to make the hard decisions.”
Tom added, “She’s an integral part of my entire career…She’s seen a lot of different aspects of this job. She’s seen it from all sides, and so she knows and she’s got a really good appreciation for what it’s really like. She knows what to do. She’s very, very equipped.”
Tom’s everyday relationship with his wife is marked by his admiration towards her. “The great thing about Terrilynn is she’s so genuine,” he said. “There’s not a phony bone in her body. She’s very, very honest. Integrity runs very high with her. As beautiful as she is on the outside, she’s even prettier on the inside, and that’s not a cliché. She’s just that kind of woman.”
In supporting Tom, one of Terrilynn’s priorities has always been to make sure their home is a safe place for him. “He’s not ‘on’ (here)” she said. “I felt like that was a really important responsibility, to make this place a home.” Tom added, “She’s always been there for me. This job is very demanding, there’s no question about it, you know. You can never get too high and you certainly can’t get too low, or this job will eat you alive, and she’s always been there to make sure that she was the balance for me. Always made sure that…I had a place where I could go have a safe haven at.”
Terrilynn will attest, however, that there have been some difficult decisions he’s brought to the table to get her opinion on. One was the couple’s move from Fort Collins, Colorado to Louisville. At the time, Tom was the athletic director at Colorado State. Not only would this be a job change to another state, but it would also be a move cross country. There was no guarantee of how this would turn out for his career. The couple were only familiar with the western U.S. Plus, Terrilynn’s parents were just a five-hour drive from the young family.
But, she proclaimed, “I felt such peace that we needed to be in Louisville. I wanted him to fulfill his dreams, and I felt like it was the best thing. And even staying here.”
Now, the couple has an immense love for the city of Louisville and its flagship university. Her favorite thing about the city is the warmth of the people. “From the moment we arrived, people were so welcoming and so hospitable, and they made us feel like we belong here.” She added “I love the flowering trees, the dogwoods. We don’t have them out west. That was my first surprise, the redbuds and dogwoods blooming. It’s a different king of beauty.”
Whether it was the people or the scenery, it appears the move to Louisville continues to pay off. When the Year of the Cardinal happened, Tom was named a finalist for Athletic Director of the Year by Street & Smith’s Daily Global Journal. “I was so happy for him,” she remarked. “In fact, I remember even before that, standing at the Orange Bowl when we had just won. We looked at each other and I just started weeping because we knew where we had started.”
That was in 2007.
She reminisced on Tom’s role at Northern Arizona, a Division I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) school and all the challenges he faced there. At the time of his appointment, he was the youngest athletic director at the NCAA Division I level. Fast forward to today, Tom has most recently managed a successful transition of his athletic department from the mid-tier American Athletic Conference, which was birthed out of the breakup of the Big East Conference, to the powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
More competition, more exposure, more money.
“To know what you’ve been through, to look back at all the hurdles you’ve overcome, and to get to this point, it was incredible,” Terrilynn said. “And I am so proud of his coaches.” She also credited the student-athletes, the support staff, and the administration. “Everyone gets to enjoy it together, so you’re happy for the whole athletic department.”
Being a Cardinal has also taken on a meaning of its own in Terrilynn’s life. “I love the fact that the fans are so passionate about their college and their university. We have the best fans, and they’re intelligent fans. They’re just fantastic.” On the student-athletes, Terrilynn added, “I also love seeing [them] grow and blossom. When they come back and you talk to them, it’s just so neat because the University of Louisville had such an impact on their life in helping them become who there are.”
Although Terrilynn’s athletic life was mostly comprised of rodeos, being the wife of an athletic director has expanded her perspective on women in sports. “That’s the cool thing about sports today. Women have an opportunity in sports. When I was growing up…there weren’t many girls playing sports. It just wasn’t as competitive and in the community. It’s been nice to have daughters involved in sports.”
There are a few things that keep the passion going in Terrilynn’s life. One is the women’s Bible study she leads every Tuesday morning. “I love it. I think that a woman has such an impactful place in the community and especially in her family. As a wife and a mother, you give for your family. But (this is) a place for women to come and be filled up. I just believe that if she is healthy and strong and growing in her faith, that it really affects her entire family.”
Also, now that she has an empty nest, Terrilynn is passionate about the time she and Tom get to spend together. “We still have date night once a week.” When Tom travels for games or meetings, Terrilynn is right there with him. The duo enjoy getting away to ski, hike, golf, and ride bicycles. They also go boating. “That’s Tom passion. I’m just the beneficiary of it” she laughed.” Individually, Terrilynn notes one of her favorite pastimes is spinning. “Health and fitness are really my passion. Eating healthy. I’m the food police in our house.”
Additionally, her three grandchildren by Mark and daughter-in-law Lainey keep the passion going in her life. Jay Ryan is five and “loves anything with a ball,” said Terrilynn. Jack, 3, enjoys trucks and the “Toy Story” movie. Remy, 1, is a happy baby who loves to be held.
Terrilynn treasures the moments she shares when the whole family gets together. Both her father and Tom’s have passed, and their mothers followed them to Louisville. They live about three miles away from Tom and Terrilynn. “It’s nice to have both of our mothers here.” On the family being together she added, “I love hearing my children’s laughter. When they’re all home, that is one of the greatest joys to me, is hearing my grandchildren and my children all laughing together. Truly a great blessing to me…(When I go) to bed, I’m just so thankful.”
Terrilynn was asked what two things she can absolutely not live without. She thought carefully, then responded, “My faith and important relationships”.
On her faith, she said growing up in a Christian family had a strong impact on her life. She attests that it is their faith that has gotten Tom and her this far. They have experienced the highs and lows of the industry, and she added, “When you go through hard times and difficult times, that’s when your faith really grows… (The Lord has) blessed us so abundantly. And He’s blessed Tom’s career so abundantly.”
On relationships, she noted, “I think relationship are the most important thing in life. They’re also the most challenging thing in life, but the most rewarding and fulfilling too. You can do without all this [referring to accolades and physical pleasures], but you can’t do without your family, your children, your husband, your friends.”
She added that the other most important relationship in her life is with “my Yogi,” as she lovingly rubbed around his ears and on his back. “He’s my favorite chocolate!”