Dez Fitzpatrick emerges for Louisville in spring football game

Dez Fitzpatrick leaps high over Trumaine Washington to pull in a pass from Lamar Jackson (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

A time to focus on the beauty of the sport, without all the distractions surrounding the school these days. A day to be other University of Louisville fans, the ones there from the old days, through thick and thin. The younger fans, enjoying the spectacle, some taking for granted what Tom Jurich has made possible at UofL.

The stadium expansion clearly visible in the end zone, the concrete structure beginning to rise from the ground. The sound system, a string of speakers, suspending from a crane. Extra point and field goal kicks disappearing into a construction maze, the footballs being pursued by security type peoples.

A perfect day for college football, temperatures in the upper seventies for the University of Louisville’s spring football game. A game attracting 14,000-plus fans at Cardinal Stadium.

One of the big questions — who will be quarterback Lamar Jackson’s new favorite target? — may have been answered early and often. Turns out to be Dez Fitzpatrick, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound wide receiver from Farmington, Mich.

Fitzpatrick, a freshman, finished with nine catches, seven in the first half, for 176 yards and two scores. His best grab of the day came on a 20-yard pass from Jackson, in which he leaped over a defender for the catch. He would score on passing plays of 80 yards and 19 yards.

Jackson, best known for his speed in earning the Heisman Trophy last season, was focusing on finding receivers. Looking for first, second and third options, taking his time looking for the open man. He would complete 19 of 32 attempts for 346 yards and three touchdowns. He would gain 36 yards rushing while tacking on one rushing touchdown.

Fans would also get their first look at Jawon Pass, a 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman quarterback from Columbus, Georgia. While he would get off to a shaky start — one pass was intercepted by Jaire Alexander and returned 80 yards for a touchdown — he more than passes the eye test. 

He’s tall and strong — at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds –with the kind of fluid movement that inspires confidence from his teammates and will have immediate respect from opposing defenses. UofL appears to have a backup who will be ready to play if the Jackson is sidelined or having an off-game.

A day to relax, enjoy getting back in the stadium, reflect on what transpired last season, and to ponder what can happen next season. No worries, no politics, just football. A good day to be a UofL fan.

Check out the gallery, courtesy of Cindy Rice Shelton:

Schnatter comments embarrass UofL and Papa John’s

John Schnatter talking nonsense at University of Louisville board meeting.

John Schnatter didn’t do anyone any favors with his off-the-wall statements during the University of Louisville board of trustees’ meeting on Wednesday. Least of all himself and the business he founded.

The usually affable spokesperson for Papa John’s comes off looking like a jerk and sounding like a dolt, casting unfounded aspersions toward the UofL athletic department. He also seems to have a short memory, having been one of the most generous supporters of the stadium that bears his company’s name.

Somehow Schnatter got the notion that the UofL athletic department is being mismanaged, and that the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium is an example of bad leadership under Tom Jurich. Nevermind that athletic department is probably the most successful part of the university or that Jurich is widely regarded as one of the most effective athletic directors around. The UofL department is self-sufficient, one of the best-funded in the nation, and more than $45 million has been raised from corporate donors for the $50-plus million stadium expansion.

Yet here’s Schnatter saying, “”Until you fix athletics, you cannot fix this university. You have to fix the athletics first. I have looked at this eight ways to Sunday. You have to fix athletics first, and then the university will get in line.”

There was an issue with the basketball program and it has been addressed by the university, and more punishment will be forthcoming from the NCAA. But other than that, Schnatter’s comments make no sense. This board of trustees should be able to recognize that the athletic department is a shining example of what can happen for the entire university under the right leadership.

One suspects that Schnatter may have been unduly influenced by comments from Interim President Greg Postel during a previous meeting. Postel allegedly told Schnatter that Jurich was “invisible,” not answering to the UofL board of trustees. 

That makes no sense because Tom Jurich has always gone overboard to be open with all segments of the community, including the university. This explains in part why the athletic department has been transformed under his leadership.

Postel’s assertion is typical of university politics, with one segment being envious of a more successful unit. Happens all the time on university campuses. Maybe Postel’s real agenda is to get a piece of some of the money that the athletic program is so good at generating.

Postel, no doubt, did not expect Schnatter to quote him. If there was any possibility of Postel receiving serious consideration for the President’s job, he can forget about that possibility after Wednesday’s board meeting. He can thank John Schnatter for going off the deep end, stripping Postel of his anonymity. 

Schnatter can expect Papa John’s Pizza to take a hit in Louisville, with some fans voicing support for a boycott on local message boards on Thursday. So many choices of pizza, so easy to narrow them down.

Maybe Wednesday was just a bad day for John Schnatter, and in the future, he and Tom Jurich will some day chuckle about the episode. But first Schnatter has a lot of explaining to do. His bizarre comments had nothing to do with reality.

Donald Hairston never misses a game at Jim Patterson Stadium

On any day when the University of Louisville baseball team is in action at Jim Patterson Stadium, one will find Donald Hairston pacing the concrete deck on the first base side of the field.

Donald Hairston keeps a close eye on son Devin. He and his wife Valerie never miss a home game

Hairston, who hails from Lexington, is the father of Devin Hairston, the Cardinals’ starting shortstop. His wife, Valerie, is at the stadium, too, but she is usually watching with a friend in the seats.

Hairston says he prefers to stand during games, especially when games are close and the outcome is still on the line. “Too much nervous energy,” he says.

Hairston is a retired information technology specialist and Valerie is a retired teacher from the Fayette County Public School System. They travel to Louisville for every home game, as well as to other games within driving distance.

The Hairstons had two sons playing baseball up until last year, including Dorian, the younger son, who was an outfielder at the University of Kentucky. They had no problem cheering for either program, according to mom who told the Courier-Journal last year, “It’s not stressful for me. I look at it positively: I win either way. One of my kids wins.”

Devin actually was committed to UK at one point but changed his mind after a meeting with UofL Coach Dan McDonnell. “Devin said Louisville was just the better fit for him,” said his dad. “He wanted to play for Coach McDonnell.”

Devin Hairston is hitting at a 328 clip this season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Donald Hairston is elated that Devin is having a successful junior season, recalling that his son had to battle back from a collision with a University of Cincinnati player during his freshman season. “That was tough on everybody, and it took a while to recover,” he explained. “He is playing some of his best baseball right now.”

Devin is currently hitting at a .328 clip, with eight doubles, three triples, two home runs and 37 runs batted in after 38 games. Defensively, at shortstop, he has a fielding percentage of 99.2%.

When both players had games on the same day the past two seasons, one parent would go to the UK game, the other to the UofL game. No problem this year with Dorian enrolled in grad school in Lexington. 

Brendan McKay delivers early, Louisville buries Purdue

Brendan McKay with that home run swing of his (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Brendan McKay is so methodical and so businesslike in his approach to baseball that he doesn’t attract much notice when he’s having a great day at the plate. So much is expected of him.

On the other hand, McKay probably gets more than his share of attention in games when he’s popping up or not getting the ball out of the infield. Or when he’s not driving in the lion’s share of his team’s runs.

Such is the life of a college super star, never quite able to live up to expectations. Baseball is like that, with even the best players having their share of challenging games. Two hits in eight at-bats making for a long weekend against a tough Wake Forest team. 

McKay found his hitting eye again Tuesday, leading the second-ranked University of Louisville baseball team to a 13-2 win over visiting Purdue before a crowd estimated at 1,569 at Jim Patterson Stadium.

Making his presence felt early in this one, following a walk to Colby Fitch and an error putting Devin Hairston on base in the first inning. McKay would drive a 2-and-1 pitch 340 feet over the right centerfield wall, his sixth home run of the season putting his team up 3-0.

McKay would follow that up with another drive to right centerfield in the third inning, sending Logan Taylor and Hairston across the plate. Louisville was up 8-0, and on its way to its 28th win in 32 games this season.

Nothing flashy, just two extra base hits, scoring twice and batting in five runs in two trips to the plate. Going about his business, getting the job done again.

Stockman eyes more playing time at Minnesota



 Still waiting for Matz Stockman to make that breakthrough to the next level? Not going to happen, at least not at the University of Louisville.

Hopes that the 7-foot, 240-pound Stockman could someday be a dominant force in the middle for the UofL basketball team were dashed Tuesday. Stockman is transferring to the University of Minnesota.

Rick Pitino was obviously involved in the decision, possibly frustrated with Stockman’s lack of progress during three seasons at UofL. He was rarely used this year, playing only 74 minutes in 18 games and averaging 1.7 points and 1.2 rebounds per game.

But the elder Pitino is also aware that if someone with Stockman’s physique and personality were to somehow become motivated, he could make a difference for some team. Best to keep him in the family, encouraging Stockman to play for his son Richard at Minnesota. 

Stockman will have to sit out a season, becoming eligible for 2018-19 campaign. “Matz has been a great team member with our basketball team and we appreciate his efforts,” said Pitino.  “Transferring to Minnesota is a great move for him, as he’ll have an opportunity to make an immediate impact when he becomes eligible to play.” 

Stockman is looking forward to getting much more playing time. “I’ve been looking for an opportunity to play quality minutes for a long time now and I think this will be a great situation for me,” he said.

Hopefully a motivated Stockman doesn’t come back to haunt his old UofL coach in a couple of years.