Historic Camping World Stadium grand setting for Louisville football

Photo from Facebook.com / Camping World Stadium

The only safe assumption about the next game is that a big payday is coming for the University of Louisville football program in this season’s opener against Alabama in the Camping World Kickoff game. A sum of $2.75 million to UofL for agreeing to play in the game.

Not bad but Alabama, last season’s national champion, will take home more than $4.5 million. A far cry from the pre-Atlantic Coast Conference days for the Cardinals when Georgia once paid to get out of a game.

Camping World Stadium, with a seating capacity of approximately 68,000, has been growing ever since it was constructed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. It was a Works Progress Administration project intended to help end the Great Depression.

The original capacity was 10,000, expanded to 12,000 in 1952, and increased again to 17,000 in 1968. A major expansion occurred in 1976, raising capacity to 50,000 for the Tangerine Bowl. It expanded again, by approximately 18,000 seats in 1980, becoming the Citrus Bowl.

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The largest turnout ever at the Orlando stadium was 74,635 for a Wrestlemania event in 2008. Seriously? Apparently there’s a whole other fan universe out there.

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Petrino not backing off prediction about beating Alabama

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

The question was predictable so Coach Bobby Petrino was not insulted when a sportswriter asked on cue if Petrino still believed the University of Louisville football team could compete with Alabama.

“How do you know if you’ve succeeded (in convincing players they can beat Alabama)? Do you not know until game day?”

Most memorable was that 63-20 romp over 10th-ranked Florida State during the 2016 season. No one, not even Petrino, saw that one coming.

Questions for a man who has made motivating college football players his livelihood, entering his 31st year of collegiate coach, his 14th year as a head coach and his 10th year in Louisville (including a year as offensive coordinator). He owns a career record of 117-48 (.709) in 13 seasons.

No correct answer really but Petrino is courteous and respectful, knowing his team will be paying attention to the response, noting that the key is going into the game with confidence.

“One of the things that helps your confidence is that you really understand what you’re doing,” he said. “You study and know the game plan, and then you’re ready to go execute it.

“It’s not like it’s a new thing. It’s the same thing you try to do for every game. Part of your job as a coach is to get your players to believe you can go out there and win the game, to get your players to believe during the game that you’re going to win the game. That’s a big part of coaching.”

But how do you know you’re ready, comes the followup question from the same reporter.

A big grin from Petrino, the kind of confirmation that comes from a coach who recognizes the opportunity that comes from playing the No. 1 team in the country.

“Well, you go and play the game,” he said. “Here we go, time to do it!”

Easy to say, harder to do. Petrino is 5-14 against ranked teams at Louisville, the most recent losses coming to third-ranked Clemson and 24th-ranked North Carolina State last season.

The most impressive performance was that 63-20 romp over 10th-ranked Florida State during the 2016 season. No one, not even Petrino, saw that one coming.

New UofL classroom facility adds to campus beautification

Charlie Springer photos

The cranes are finally gone, the dust has settled and thousands of University of Louisville students are occupying the brand new Belknap classroom facility on a daily basis.  The $83 million, 170,000-square-foot building welcomed students during the first week of the 2018-19 academic calendar on Monday.

 Instead of rows of desks in classrooms, students gather around tables for active learning experiences with instructors and each other.  The facility also includes many informal meeting spaces for group work and projects outside of class time, as well as a student center and labs for scientific research.

One of few academic facilities in nation built specifically for active learning experiences, with all the advantage of recent technology and wireless connectivity. An structure enhancing the outlook for student success while adding to the recent beautification of the campus.

Adjacent to the new Belknap classroom is the John Shumaker Research Building, completed in 2005.

Remember When: Alabama-Louisville — the first game on the big screen TV

Squaring off against Alabama in the opening game of the 2018 college football season brings back rich memories of UofL’s last game against the Crimson Tide in 1991. A New Year’s Day nationally-televised appearance in the Fiesta Bowl.

Howard Schnellenberger had four weeks to prepare for Alabama.

Easily the biggest game in UofL football history at the time, Alabama was a prohibitive favorite,expected to easily roll over Louisville. The fact that UofL Coach Howard Schnellenberger had almost a month to prepare for Alabama was lost on the sports media, along with Louisville’s 9-1-1 record that season.

Three days before the game, I had forked over big bucks for a huge console TV, with a 48-inch screen, encased in a walnut cabinet. State of the art, it would be main attraction in the basement. I couldn’t wait for it to be delivered the night before the big game.

I told my wife the TV was going down to the basement if I had to start cutting holes in ceilings and walls.

The call came from Smith’s Furniture that they were on the way. I figured it would take a while for them to get there so I dashed out to a video store to rent a movie. I returned home, video cassette in hand, eager to get acquainted.

But to my shock, sitting smack dab in the center of the family room sat the big new TV.  Where the guys from Smith’s Furniture had left it, having convinced my wife it was too big to go downstairs to the basement. Wouldn’t be able to get around the corner into the basement. they told her. Lots of company coming by the next day for the Fiesta Bowl party.

Panic time. Calls to Smith’s Furniture were to no avail, they were already closed for the holiday. I told Barbara the TV was going to get to the basement if I had to start cutting holes in ceilings and walls.

Desperate, I called Joe, our next door neighbor, and he called another neighbor. Three anxious and perspiring individuals, refusing to accept failure, were slowly and cautiously able to get it down the steps and around the corner. Finally, there it was –a monument to persistence and fanaticism.

The next day came a football game-watching party that will never be equalled. Browning Nagle completing a 70-yard pass for a touchdown to Latrell Ware, Ralph Dawkins scoring on a five-yard run, a 37-yard pass to Anthony Cummings for another TD, and a UofL recovery of a fumble in the Alabama end zone. UofL was up 25-0 after the first quarter. The Cardinals would win the game, 34-7, shocking the world of college football.

The TV was in the basement for about eight years before getting handed  down to Steve. I wasn’t there when he arrived with friends so I’ll never know how he got it out of the house. “Leverage, dad,” he said. “Simple leverage.”

Walz takes home the gold for USA women’s basketball

FIBA Site Screen Shot

Jeff Walz continues his winning ways, leading the USA to gold in Mexico City.

Made it look easy they did, Jeff Walz and his United States basketball team in winning the International Basketball Federation’s world championship for women under 18 in Mexico City.

Walz, the University of Louisville women’s basketball coach, guided the USA team to the gold medal with an 84-60 win over Canada on Tuesday.  His teams are undefeated with a 9-0 record, including three wins in a Tokyo tournament last year.

UofL is recruiting two players on the team for the 2019 class. Aijah Blackwell, a six-foot guard from Whitfield School in Berkeley, Missouri, had eight points and four rebounds in the championship game. Maori Davenport, a 6-foot-4 forward from Henderson, Alabama, had seven points and six rebounds.  

The USA team averaged 93.2 per game, winning by an average of 47.5 points per outing, out-rebounding the opposition by 29.5 rebounds, while allowing 15 fewer points on average than any other team.

Game by game:

USA 87, Argentina 42
USA 115, Chile 39
USA 103, Puerto Rico 59
USA 87, El Salvador 27
USA 83, Columbia 47
USA 84, Canada 60 (Championship)

A well-rounded offensive attack, with nine players averaging between seven and 10 points per game. “I thought the players did an outstanding job of looking for each other, instead of looking to make things happen for themselves,” Walz said. “They were trying to get their teammates involved.”

Take a bow, coach. You earned it.