Culture change in high gear for Louisville football

Editor’s Note: Rarely will the Observer go with a release verbatim from the Sports Information Office but this one, penned by UofL’s Stephen Williams, is just too good to pass up:

Culture has been a commonly referenced term for the University of Louisville football program amidst the transition to head coach Scott Satterfield.

Scott Satterfield is rapidly gaining respect in the Louisville football complex.

When Satterfield was introduced as the new head coach of the Cardinals on Dec. 4, culture was a consistent theme of his opening message.

“It starts with our culture, so that’s what we’re going to work on,” Satterfield said in his opening press conference. “That’s what this offseason is going to be about. When you get that stuff straight, then the wins will start coming.”

Satterfield inherits a Louisville program that struggled in 2018, but a roster hungry to put it in the rearview mirror. As winter workouts have reached the halfway point, current Cardinals have taken note of the culture change in progress.

“A lot of it came from the team,” rising junior safety TreSean Smith said. “Guys came in with new energy. They want to get better. Everyone wants to compete at the highest level and get better each and every day.”

The culture change is a process that starts at the top however, with a new coaching staff pushing to get the most out of its players.

“There’s a new vibe from the new coaches coming in from different areas,” Smith added. “They bring in a little bit of their energy and combine that with a little bit of our energy and it works out for us.”

Before the Cardinals step on the field under Satterfield’s watch, the work begins in the weight room under the direction of the new head of strength and conditioning for football, Mike Sirignano.

“They kill us every day, in a good way,” rising sophomore defensive back Chandler Jones commented. “Coach Mike (Sirignano) is real energetic and gets into us and is able to get the best out of us. A lot of us are going to get a lot faster this year.”

Hard work and an increased energy level have been at the forefront of the change in culture, but there’s been an added focus from Satterfield’s staff in one particular area.

“Accountability. They’ve changed a lot of things around,” Smith stated. “You have to be accountable for everything that you do. You’re not late to anything, you’re at everything on time five minutes before. They show no leniency to anyone.”

The Cardinals take the field for the first practice of the spring on Feb. 11.

Louisville football poised for attendance records in 2019

A no-brainer really.

A bold prediction here as the schedule is announced for the 2019 University of Louisville football season, based on the combination of a new coach and one of the sport’s most hallowed programs.  

The opening game against the University of Notre Dame will set an all-time  attendance record for a football game in Louisville, attracting between 63,000 and 65,000 people to Cardinal Stadium. 

Even higher if Athletic Director Vince Tyra wants to fill every cavity in the stadium, which was expanded from 55,000 to 61,500 prior to last season.

The current record for a UofL home game was 55,642 on Sept. 16, 2016. The game was featured on ESPN’s Game Day. Louisville fans were attracted by a tenth-ranked Louisville versus second-ranked Florida State. No contest that day, with the Cardinals throttling the Seminoles 63-10.

Scott Satterfield’s first game as the new head coach signals a whole new beginning for UofL football, bringing with him a whole new staff, a fresh outlook and a commitment from the University to compete at the highest levels. 

Notre Dame, of course, has one of the largest fan bases in the country and attracts capacity crowds wherever it plays. Always has, probably always will.

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If Louisville football is on the uptick under the new staff next season, expect another capacity crowd to be on hand on Saturday, Oct. 19 for a game against Clemson, the defending national champion, with Heisman Trophy candidate Trevor Lawrence.

Clemson has played in Cardinal Stadium twice since UofL joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, attracting 55,396 and 55,588 during the 2015 and 2017 seasons, respectively.

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UofL fans will also help Western Kentucky establish a new all-time attendance record at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green. That is if WKU officials can somehow increase the stadium’s capacity for the game against Louisville on Sept. 14.

Louisville owns a 20-12 advantage in the series. The current WKY record is 23,674 for a game against Vanderbilt on Sept. 24, 2016. One can easily anticipate at that many UofL fans making the two-hour trip for this year’s game on Sept. 14.

UofL hasn’t played a football game in Bowling Green since 1949.

 2019 Schedule:

Sept. 2 — Notre Dame

Sept. 7 — Eastern Kentucky

Sept. 14 — At Western Kentucky


Sept. 21 — At Florida State


Oct. 5 — Boston College


Oct. 12 — At Wake Forest


Oct. 19 — Clemson


Oct. 26 — Virginia


Nov. 9 — At Miami


Nov. 16 — At North Carolina State


Nov. 23 — Syracuse


Nov. 30 — At Kentucky

 

 

Not possible, no way, no how, but Louisville throttles North Carolina

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

Never. Be real.

The last thing anyone expected, especially among longtime diehard University of Louisville basketball fans. Go ahead and pencil in another L, no way to avoid getting mopped off the floor at Chapel Hill. A certain North Carolina runaway.

No rush switching on the TV, no hurry to see a blowout, tuning in less than a minute to tipoff. Afraid to watch, knowing no lead is safe, expecting the worst. No chance in hell. Bring it on, getting used to the bad news.

Except that the worst wasn’t to be. Not this day.

Two hours after comparing this group to a friend at Kroger with a bunch of YMCA basketball junkies, telling him not to get his hopes up. This Louisville team had wrapped up an 83-62 win over North Carolina before 21,000-plus fans on their home court, the 21-point loss the largest ever for UNC under Coach Roy Williams.

Two hours after comparing this group to a friend at Kroger with a bunch of YMCA basketball junkies, telling him not to get his hopes up.

Exactly what UofL fans needed, those expecting a long, long season, losing faith, having resigned themselves to the worst. A win at the least expected moment, over one of college basketball’s blue bloods, a giant booster shot three games into the heart of the ACC schedule.

Think maybe Coach Chris Mack’s message about keeping players in front of them and out of the lane finally reached its audience? One kept expecting that perpetual flurry of UNC fast break layups, alley oops and back door slams. But they never came. Rarely has a North Carolina team thrown up so many bricks.

Jordan Nwora bringing his game face, with a different look, ready to rumble, no hint of ambivalence. Steven Enoch tired of riding the bench, bringing a different game, one that some had given up ever seeing, probably  his best ever. Dwayne Sutton again bringing that warrior mentality, fearless and aggressive.

The three of them sharing team-high scoring honors with 17 points apiece. Sutton with an amazing seven assists, Christen Cunningham with five assists. Only five turnovers during the game, compared to 14 for North Carolina. Out-rebounding the Tar Heels, 40-31. An unlikely 11 rebounds from Enoch, 10 rebounds for Sutton — first time double-doubles for each.

The most impressive performance by a Louisville basketball team in quite a while, coming on the heels of an ugly loss to Pittsburgh. The players maybe ready to listen. Mack with the same old message, keep the ball in front of you, keep them out of the lane. “When you do that, they will have a tough time scoring against you,” said Mack.

Keep that in mind, guys, and there could well be many more good times ahead this season.

Jeff Walz maintains cool during officiating clown show

A great basketball game between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in women’s college basketball marred by a clown show of officiating.

Jeff Walz

Here’s to Jeff Walz for maintaining his demeanor during the loss to Notre Dame, the outcome for the game heavily influenced by numerous controversial officiating calls. There have been occasions in the recent past when he would have let the officials have it with both barrels.

Notre Dame would get 39 shots at the free throw line while UofL was limited to only 16. The home crowd at South Bend had to be pleased.

The University of Louisville women’s basketball team in foul trouble early, Jasmine Jones collecting two fouls less than two minutes into the game.  Arica Carter and Dana Evans would have three fouls at the half. Asia Durr, Sam Fuehring and Kylee Shook would also have two apiece.  UofL with 15 fouls, Notre Dame with six in the first 20 minutes.

The disparity was even more apparent during the late stages of the game. The Irish’s Arike Ogunbowale plowing over Carter at one point, then twice aiming her tennis shoes at Carter’s head during the pileup. A personal foul called on Carter, but no technical for Ogunbowale who badly deserved one.

The worst was the technical called on UofL’s Bionca Dunham in the fourth quarter, when Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner flopped to the floor. Officials hovering several minutes over a video that clearly show Dunham had not made any contact.

A sad commentary on the status on women’s college basketball when officiating is so blatantly inadequate, having a direct effect on the outcomes of many games. Even at the highest levels, in the Final Four and Championship games. Mindful of the old days of the World Wrestling Federation with the blatant fakery dominating a so-called sport.

Yahoo Commentator Pat Forde tweeting at one point, “I don’t watch a ton of women’s games, but the officiating is consistently cringe-worthy. No matter who is playing.”

Louisville women’s basketball deserves better. Women’s basketball deserves better.

Restoring Louisville basketball not expected to be easy for Chris Mack

Lots of ups and downs for Louisville basketball during the first season under Coach Chris Mack (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The challenges confronting Chris Mack faces in returning University of Louisville to the elite ranks of college basketball were never more obvious than in the 89-86 loss to Pittsburgh. Those easy wins UofL fans were expecting in January are suddenly doubtful and elusive.

If 2018-19 was supposed to be a rebuilding season under the new Louisville coach, he is still frantically searching for the building blocks for the foundation. Though they never quit in Wednesday’s game, the Cardinals never really got started. Strongly resembling last year’s team,  struggling against an Atlantic Coast Conference bottom feeder.

Certainly not a good night for Jordan Nwora, the team’s leading scorer.  He appeared to be least likely player getting the ball with the game on the line. A poor shooting night, making only two of 14 field goal attempts, while making four turnovers. Many of his shots didn’t have a chance, some of them seemingly thrown at random.

Point guard Christen Cunningham again forced to provide the offensive leadership, recognizing what needed to be done. Fearless in going to the basket, taking the sensible shots, finding open teammates. He would score a team-high 23 points and make five assists, all without committing a single foul.

Cunningham actually contributing what his team needed most, a sense of urgency. Playing within the system, on a night when some of his teammates appeared unsure of their roles and how they fit within the system. Whether they can get it, recommit and get their collective act together, or if they are capable of getting better, remains to be seen.

If they are not paying attention to their new coach, if they unable to grasp what he wants them to do, or if there is just not enough talent to overcome these disparities, this season could easily become a placeholder until Chris Mack’s first recruiting class takes over next year.