New life for Louisville offense after Lamar Jackson

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

Expect the University of Louisville football team to have a better offense this season without Lamar Jackson, winner of the Heisman Trophy and the player who rewrote the record books in three seasons at UofL.

That’s coming from Coach Bobby Petrino who, while he would never acknowledge it, had limited options on offense, especially the past two years.  It was no secret that the offense revolved heavily around the abilities of one player. 

It was Lamar Jackson this, Lamar Jackson that, this way, that way, through the air, on the ground. Not much imagination on offense, not much guesswork on defense. Everybody knew what was coming. Lamar Jackson all the time.

The UofL offense bore little resemblance to Bobby Petrino’s offenses  prior to the Lamar Jackson era.  Probably for a couple of reasons. Jackson may have never really mastered Petrino’s playbook. Jackson even admitted he didn’t know the plays after his freshman year. He was still setting offensive records at a sizzling pace so Petrino had little option but to turn Jackson loose.

Jackson was far from perfect at crunch time. As good as he was, Jackson often had trouble maintaining  possession, fumbling an inordinate number of times and giving up interceptions. Between the turnovers, though, he was extraordinarily gifted.

“I expect us to be better,” said Petrino, during the ACC gathering in Charlotte this week. “I expect us to be more balanced, the ability to get more guys involved, particularly in the running game. I really like our receiving corps. I really think it’s one of the strongest corps coming back.”

Petrino also believes the running backs will be more of a factor again. “The running backs are a good group” he said. “Tre Smith had a great spring. He really showed his ability to run between the tackles and get yards after contact and protect the quarterback.

“Dae Williams and Colin Wilson are two big physical guys, and Colin has some special skills as far as his movement in and out of holes. Tobias Little is a guy that played fullback for us last year, and then we started giving him the football, and he’s a 245-pound guy that can play tailback and catch the ball out of the backfield.”

Jawon Pass

Watch for UofL to look more like the typical Petrino team during the upcoming season, with a more traditional quarterback in Jawon Pass. The 6-foot-4 sophomore was a consensus four-star prospect out of Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia.

A player who will rely as much on the system as his own talents to manage the offense. “He’s a natural leader,” said Petrino. “When he stepped on campus, you could see that. He’s very, very competitive.”

More talent all around is what Petrino is saying. More of a multi-dimensional approach with more of the right people involved at all the key positions.

Lamar Jackson was an incredible athlete, entertaining and fun to watch, and he will be missed. Back to the basics now, spreading the wealth around, with more of a team approach, hopefully making Louisville more competitive in the immediate future.

Mickey Clark constant companion at numerous UofL Final Fours

Back in 1982, the  family made the 12-hour trek to New Orleans for the second Final Four appearance in three years for University of Louisville basketball team.  Along with many other fans, as part of a caravan some of the way, enjoying the UofL camaraderie, genuinely fun times.

Mickey Clark was a constant companion for many UofL fans on NCAA trips.

Much of the time we were entertained by the music of Louisville’s own Mickey Clark, a country entertainer who composed and recorded his own version of “The Battle of New Orleans.” A musical tribute  to the 1981-82 basketball team, recapping the highlights while saluting the individual players.

The Springers arrive at a motel about 80 miles away on a Friday night before the game. Sleeping late the next day, only to realize that New Orleans is on central standard time. Pushing the gas pedal to the floor, arriving in the vicinity of the Super Bowl to discover there are no parking spaces. Panic stricken the observer winding up in the main U.S. Post Office parking lot, very close to the unloading level. Have to gamble that the car will still be there after the game.

We hustle over to the Superdome, finding our seats on the next last row in of the upper end zone for the Louisville-Georgetown game. Somehow making the tip off. Thankfully there’s a video screen above because the players are little more than specks on the floor.  UofL would lose the game 50-46. All was not lost, however, because the car was still in the same place after the game. And the Cards will return to the Final Four, held in Albuquerque the next year.

Mickey’s cassette tape will be played and replayed, before, during and on the return trip to Louisville. His music an integral part of the memories and the total experience. He would come out with numerous different recordings for various basketball trips over the next 30 years, including the UofL’s third national championship in the 2012-13 season.

Clark passed away Sunday night in Louisville, surrounded by his family. He will always occupy a special place in the hearts of many UofL fans.

Other music is available on Brennan Clark’s (his son) YouTube account.

Bendapudi ends Papa John’s drama quickly at Louisville

Papa John’s signs coming down at the University of Louisville football stadium.

John H. Schnatter’s name coming off the UofL’s Center for Free Enterprise.

Neeli Bendapudi not one to wait around, taking decisive action to end the drama.

Those decisions coming from University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi less than 24 hours after John Schnatter was outed for uttering the N-word during a business meeting.

Rapid-fire solutions for all the UofL supporters and fans who were so on edge after Schnatter resigned from the UofL board of trustees. The guy with the big mouth tripping over his tongue, branded forever in a super sensitive social environment.

So much resentment, so many people upset, each of them seemingly more racially sensitive than the next. Nobody happy about the situation. Many of the offended demanding that UofL change the name of the stadium overnight, the calls coming within hours of the Forbes Magazine report.

As if the name could be changed immediately, without any regard for iron-clad business contracts. Yet that’s exactly what Bendapudi did, deciding overnight that UofL had to cut any official ties with the individual and his company, wanting to disassociate his name with UofL and deal with the collateral damage later.

“Over the last 24 hours our community has been fractured by the comments made by former UofL trustee John Schnatter,” she said. “These comments were hurtful and unacceptable, and they do not reflect the values of our university.

“I have stated since my first day on this job that my commitment to the University of Louisville is to make it a great place to learn, a great place to work, and a great place in which to invest. We can only accomplish this if we truly celebrate diversity, foster equity, and aim to achieve inclusion.”

Bendapudi telling one of the university’s one of the school’s most generous contributors that UofL no longer wanted to be associated with him. No board meetings, no media posturing, no endless waits. Just a telephone call. 

Quick and decisive action. A new day at UofL.

Morgan & Morgan: Put Carol Cartwright on the stand

Call Carol Cartwright to the stand.

Highly doubtful that the lawsuit being filed against the NCAA is going to reverse the action resulting in the loss of the University of Louisville’s 2013 national championship banner.  But that team was able to overcome many obstacles.

Led by Luke Hancock, who was selected as most outstanding player in the title game, the group claims the NCAA damaged their reputations and affected their potential incomes. They want the banner and wins back, along with an admission from the NCAA that they are innocent . 

The potential witnesses in this case could be interesting, ranging from Andre MeGee to Katina Powell, and possibly numerous former UofL players and coaches. However, the person one most wants to see on the witness stand in this case is Carol Cartwright, the individual who served as chairperson of the Committee on Infractions in UofL’s case.

One sees Cartwright’s fingerprints all over the draconian decision that ignored the University’s cooperation, the investigation and the self-imposed punishment. Beyond the pale, hammering the players, the school and the fan base with unprecedented penalties.

Cartwright, the first female president at Bowling Green State and Kent State universities, was a forceful advocate for women’s studies at both institutions and was later named to the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. So a case involving a group of young women would be of  special interest to her.

One suspects Cartwright, the only female member on the Committee on Infractions, was especially aggravated by the charges of stripping and possible prostitution. One also suspects that Cartwright, as chairwoman of the committee, was the individual who recommended the severe penalties which, in turn, were rubber-stamped by fellow committee members. The extent of the penalties was unwarranted.

Coincidentally, Cartwright also has been critical of conflicts of interest within the NCAA. She served as co-chair on the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which was created to make recommendations following the revelations of an ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting.

Cartwright argued in an article she co-authored for the Chronicles on Higher Education that the NCAA should shift from being a membership association — with inherent conflicts of interest — to being an independent leadership organization to govern Division 1 college basketball and football.

“We concluded that the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and by extension the university presidents who lead it, cannot engineer that transformation under its current governance structure, even with the best intentions,” she wrote. The co-author was Arne Duncan, former U.S. secretary of education.

Cartwright is obviously quite familiar with the failings of the NCAA and with some possible conflicts of her own when it comes to judging accusations against a men’s basketball team. She should be required to answer some questions on the witness stand.

She has some explaining to do.

*    *    *

According to one report, the case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Olu Stevens locally. If the name is familiar, it was Stevens who was placed on probation for 90 days by the state in 2017  after accusing a prosecutor of racism and dismissing a jury.

Not the best judicial venue for a case to be considered, but it has to start somewhere. These former UofL players are no strangers to major hurdles.

Mending wounds of old friends important to healing at UofL

One of the great things about the growth of the University of Louisville over the past couple of decades was that one always felt like he or she was an integral part of helping to transform UofL from a sleepy urban school to a dynamic and growing university.

It hurt and hurt deeply when some of the architects of that movement, the people in leadership roles, the people one got to know so well, the people one respected as friends and visionaries, were unceremoniously dismissed despite of what they had accomplished at UofL.

'They really didn’t care (about the loss in donations). UofL in the Atlantic Coast Conference became a crown jewel; they wanted it and they got it.'

Not surprising that some influential individuals in the community would want to exercise control over the University. Not surprising either that many supporters want to keep an arm’s length from people who forced  change, sometimes traumatic, upon the institution.

Dr. Bob Hughes, former chairman of the UofL Board of Trustees and the UofL Foundation, often indicated that the “wine and cheese crowd in the East End” was behind the upheaval at the school, wanting their own people in charge. 

“That was the goal from day one when they came on,” he told Card Game in a recent email. “It is only becoming more obvious with time; however, the delta on donations from the negativity it took to take control is about $50 million annually in donations to the foundation. They really didn’t care. UofL in the Atlantic Coast Conference became a crown jewel, they wanted it and they got it.”

With the Board of Trustees now under the thumb of J. David Grissom, a financial advisor to many of the community’s wealthiest families, Hughes’ theory definitely has credibility, even given all the charges of financial mismanagement and malfeasance that has been alleged. There’s no denying that UofL is now under much different oversight.

Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. Getting the community’s blue bloods invested in the future of the school would be a very positive development. Opening up new relationships and even deeper purses may be just what the University of Louisville needs to achieve higher levels of excellence. Some have criticized the school’s success in athletics, believing it may have impacted UofL’s lack of respect in academic circles. Some believed Tom Jurich’s fundraising success in athletics was crippling contributions to academics. Ironic coming from John Schnatter, who pledged $19 million in Papa John’s stock to UofL athletics.

The board most prominent recent hire, that of Neeli Bendapudi as the school’s 18th President, appears to have been a master stroke. She’s an individual with a successful track record of fundraising at the University of Kansas. But equally important, she seems to have the ability to communicate effectively with people from all walks of life. Plus, she has indicated that she very much wants UofL’s success in athletics to continue.

It’s going to take a while for Vince Tyra to  be loved by Louisville fans as much as Tom Jurich. But Tyra has been effective in retaining successful coaches and unquestionably wants UofL athletics to continue competing at the highest levels. Consider the school fortunate to have such an individual eager to step up when UofL needed him most.

Chris Mack, the new UofL basketball coach, is the exact opposite of Rick Pitino in many ways. But like Pitino he’s certainly not bashful when it comes to challenges while acknowledging the Louisville job and fan base as among the best in the nation.

Even some of the board’s most ardent critics have admitted that these hires were great choices, giving many of them second thoughts about the motivations of some board members. Could it be that the old money crowd actually knows what it’s doing, cares about the school and wants UofL to pursue even higher aspirations?

The people currently in control have had much to deal with over the past two years, making some difficult decisions. They’ve done it in a difficult environment, and their decisions have not always been popular.  Be they business or civic leaders, they are responsible to putting UofL back on the right path to respectability and prosperity.

Grissom recently decided the board, having successfully dealt with many of the school’s issues, would no longer have to meet monthly, going back to the old schedule of meeting quarterly. That’s another good sign, indicating that the Board of Trustees has high levels of trust in Neeli Bendapudi’s leadership abilities.

Now with so many of the problems in the past, the University can begin to restore many of the relationships that made the progress possible in the past two decades. Bendapudi may be the right person in the right place at the right time, with her unique ability to relate to the old money crowd and the everyday fan and supporter.

Time to look forward again, this time with a deeper base of support.