Rex Ecarma, a UofL lifer for 29 years-plus, shown the door

Rex Ecarma

Sorry to see Rex Ecarma released from his job as head tennis coach at the University of Louisville. Officially being terminated August 28th. No second chance. Just bye-bye.

The dismissal followed reports of perceived racial slights and harsh demands, coming from members of some recent teams. Not surprising that a coach would be the object of such charges in a society in which such accusations are all too frequent.

Perceived is the key word here, often in the eye of the beholder. Reality may or may not be what a small minority says it is these days. Just accusing someone of racism is enough to shade another, often damaging individuals without any fear of recrimination or reprisal.

The University conducted a three-month investigation in which 21 people around the program were interviewed, including Louisville compliance director John Carns, seasonal athletic trainer Aurelio Puga and tennis players. Apparently few players or trainers from previous teams were contacted.

“I’m deeply disappointed by the decision,” Ecarma wrote. “I’ve been a Louisville Cardinal my entire entire adult life, as a ball boy, player, and for nearly 30 years as the Head Coach. My teams have been successful and my record, including my personnel file, has been spotless.”

What’s ironic about Ecarma’s situation is that he is represented by Marc Murphy, an attorney at Stites & Harbison. Murphy is better known for his viperous cartoons in the Courier-Journal.

The accusatory tone of Murphy’s drawings seemingly designed to maliciously stir the pot of racial and anti-religion passions.  The odds of Rex Ecarma getting a second chance were probably never very good with Murphy as his legal adviser.

Must have been doing something right for 29 years. His longevity second only to Denny Crum’s 30 years for UofL head coaches. John Heldman was baseball coach for 26 years and Frank Camp was football coach for 22 years.

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An interesting couple of hours on the Drew Deaner Show on ESPN-680 on Tuesday morning with numerous players from previous teams coming to Ecarma’s defense. None of them having anything bad to say about their former coach.

The concensus from former players, friends and associates was that they were upset at the treatment of the coach. All of them agreeing that they didn’t recognize Ecarma as an individual described in the accusations.

Even Billy Reed, a lifelong liberal, was critical of the soft mentality of today’s athletes, and the “country club mentality” of tennis players, in particular.

“I am totally impressed with the total support of Rex by his former players and people who have worked with him,” said Reed, adding that it made him wonder what was else was going on within the program … or with Ecarma’s assistants.

UofL’s Bendapudi galvanizing force to rescue Jewish Hospital

Neeli Benedapudi was able to pull all of divergent forces together under a tight deadline for what appears to be unanimous support for the University of Louisville to rescue numerous health care facilities The hard part is getting it through the Kentucky Legislature..

Neeli Bendapudi has delivered the plan. Now it’s up to the state legislature.

The presence of the University of Louisville may soon be greatly magnified throughout this community, which has hopefully been spared massive losses in healthcare services for patients and jobs for health care providers.

Thanks to Dr. Bendapudi, Jewish Hospital will not be announcing plans this week to close its doors. The historic hospital, along with nine other health care facilities in the area, will soon be under the auspices of UofL.

The University will invest $10 million in purchasing all of the assets of Kentucky One from CommonSpirit Health, its Chicago-based parent company. CommonSpirit will forgive $19.7 million in outstanding promissory notes from University Medical Center Inc. UofL will receive more than $76 million of working capital in the form of accounts receivable and cash to meet future operating expenses.

The deal came together within two weeks after discussions about Jewish Hospital fell through with a potential private investor. Knowing that Louisville could not afford to be without the facilities, Bendapudi was able to marshal an almost unprecedented level of cooperation between city and state officials and political parties.

UofL also will acquire the following:

  • Frazier Rehab Institute
  • Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital
  • Our Lady of Peace Hospital
  • Jewish Hospital, Shelbyville
  • Jewish Medical Centers East, Northeast, South and Southwest
  • Physician groups affiliated with KentuckyOne

Another integral part of the deal would include a $50 million loan from the state, subject to the approval of the Kentucky General Assembly. Governor Matt Bevin has endorsed the plan, along with the leaders of both parties in the Kentucky General Assembly. Getting something this important passed in Kentucky is always a struggle.

After years of struggle with the city’s healthcare challenges, there is reason for optimism again, providing hope that Louisville will again resume its pioneering role in medical research and quality health care.

She has a long list of names of people to credit, and their involvement was absolutely necessary, but Neeli Bendapudi is the driving force.

Vince Tyra: Louisville football ready to win again

Thomas Jackson, a senior wide receiver, and Luke Massad, a senior long snapper, enjoyed the kickoff luncheon at a table with University of Louisville fans.

“It’s another day, it’s another season, and in the spirt of looking forward and not looking back at last year, this has been a traditional winning football program and it will remain a winning program.”

Vince Tyra enters the 2019 season with high expectations for the UofL football team under Scott Satterfield.

With that promise, Athletic Director Vince Tyra greeted a crowd of between 1,400 and 1,500 fans during the University of Louisville’s annual Kickoff Luncheon on Monday at the Downtown Marriott Inn. A crowd wanting to put last season in the past, eager to write some new chapters in UofL football.

“Winning in the classroom, winning in the community, and winning on the field are key attributes of this program and this athletic department,” he continued. “We have hungry players who are ready to go. They’re talented,  they’re ready to be competitive today. Right now. They are anxious to show you the real them. The players believe they are ready, and so do I.”

Not sure who Tyra was seeking to persuade the most, the coaches, the players, the fans or himself. But he certainly wanted everyone to know he is setting the bar high for Louisville football, even during a rebuilding year. A year after everybody gave up on each other in one of the most disappointing football seasons ever.

“The key to leadership is the transfer of beliefs and values to those you are leading, essential to the culture we have created in the athletic department and which Coach Scott Satterfield has created in our football program,” Tyra continued.

“The transferring of beliefs is contagious. We are seeing our players infect each other on a daily basis with a positive approach — otherwise known as attitude and effort. It has been a tremendous eight months getting to know Coach Satterfield, his family and a terrific staff he has assembled. I bought into his leadership and program attributes last December and I am going to be committed to working my butt off to make him successful.”

Tyra believes something special is happening with Louisville football, noting that season ticket sales are up by more than 2,000 seats and rising. “The fans play a key role,” he concluded. “We need to you create that home field advantage. The players won’t let us down, they are going to lift us up, and we’ll see you at Cardinal Stadium on Sept. 2.”

Losing is not an option for Vince Tyra.

 

Hey Vince, UofL Golf Course a great setting for Cardinal Caravans

Bring back the Cardinal Caravans.

The observer made it out to Simpsonville on Monday for the annual Press Box Classic at the University of Louisville Golf Club. A welcome respite from the dearth of UofL activities in which to become engaged over the past several weeks.

A reunion of sorts for many of the sportswriters, the bloggers, the broadcasters, the personalities gathering once again for a fun event. The decibel meter reaching peak levels, with the media types and occasional golfers enjoying the free golf, the pulled pork sandwiches, the door prizes and familiar faces.

Kenny Klein is there, of course, overseeing the 21st annual event, along with Athletic Director Vince Tyra, Baseball Coach Dan McDonnell and Volleyball Coach Dani Keely, and Women’s Athletic Director Christine Herring.

“We’re just here to have fun, have a good time and enjoy each other,” he says. “One of my favorite events every year, getting to know people we work with on a more casual basis in a great setting.”

And what a great setting it is.

The UofL Golf Club has undergone significant changes since being purchased by the University five years ago, investing more than $11 million into the golf program’s home course. Changes include numerous new water hazards, new tee sites and longer holes, and continued modernization of the clubhouse and dining facilities.

One thing that has been missing on the UofL calendar the last three years has been the Cardinal Caravan. These were great events, enabling fans, coaches, players, cheerleaders, Ladybirds and pep band members to mingle in an informal atmosphere.

The need for such an event is even greater considering all the changes that have occurred over the last three years on campus. Fans deserve opportunities to get to know UofL people better, the people they have remained faithful and supportive of during some very challenging times.

Having the event at the Simpsonsville venue would be a great way to show off one of the University’s most desirable facilities, a great promotion for the club, probably resulting in some new memberships and strengthening relationships between UofL and its many fans.

Bring back the Cardinal Caravans, Vince. There’s no better setting than the UofL Golf Club.

Notre Dame right opponent to welcome new era for Louisville football

Notre Dame is coming.

Not news to anyone but some of us had a hard time believing that would ever happen, the Irish showing up at Cardinal Stadium. Notre Dame is coming, one keeps repeating to himself.

Were it not for last season’s dismal season, the opening game against the Irish would have been the most anticipated game in University of Louisville football history. One has every reason to believe it will be a sellout and, in all likelihood, will set a new single game attendance record.

Some would argue that it couldn’t come at a worst time, with UofL coming off the most embarrassing seasons in the program’s history. Louisville has has had worse won-lost records, losing every game in the 1931 and 1932 seasons with identical 0-8 records. UofL won only 17 of 70 games during that decade.

Fact is the game against Notre Dame could have come under worse conditions. Bobby Petrino would still be coaching UofL football had Athletic Director Vince Tyra not had the guts to eat the $14 million payoff.  Sent Petrino packing. He’s gone, hopefully never to be seen in Louisville again.

Last year’s humiliating 2-10 record followed a $70 million expansion of Cardinal Stadium, buoyed by numerous finishes in the top 20. Growing seating capacity from 55,000 to 60,000-plus. Louisville was a contender, having earned national respect, greatly boosting the athletic department’s overall reputation. No longer just a basketball school.

Two seasons after Louisville football had risen to No. 3 in the national polls and competing for the college football playoffs. Those aspirations crashing down to earth following a 36-10 loss to Houston in the next-to-last game of the 2016 season. The Cardinals allowing 50 points in seven games during an awful 2018 season.

This season’s opener has been designated a Black Out game, with fans being encouraged to wear black. Not that any extra incentive was needed to get UofL fans there, not with Notre Dame being the opponent in the opening game of the season.

Ten months is a long time between seasons, especially between tailgating sessions for party-loving Louisville partisans. The long wait is over and there’s new blood with Coach Scott Satterfield and his enthusiastic staff. One has to believe last season’s team could not possibly have been as bad it looked at times.

It’s a new beginning for UofL football, fans recognizing there are going to be some significant challenges. Those of us who have been following the program for several decades, however, have been there before. Going to require a lot of patience and persistence, the kind that enabled UofL to become a national contender just a few years ago.

So forgive long-time Louisville fans if they are more than a little ecstatic that Notre Dame football is coming to town.