First News First: Steve & Casey Engaged

Our son Steve, whose first outfit was a University of Louisville gown, just proposed to his charming girlfriend Casey on a dinner cruise at Land Between the Lakes. She said “Yes,” and they are engaged. Congratulations to a couple of wonderful people. Our thanks and prayers for what promises to be a great journey.


ACC Game on South Florida Turf

Some hurt feelings and red faces at the University of South Florida today.

City officials in Tampa, which happens to be the location of USF, have negotiated for the rights to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s championship game in 2008 and 2009 on dates that will deprive the Bulls of home games at Raymond James Stadium.

In addition to causing USF and the Big East to lose face, Tampa will host the ACC title game on Dec. 6 and again in 2009, and those dates preclude USF from playing home football games in the final week of the regular season. USF lost an opportunity to play a Thursday night ESPN game against Rutgers that week as a result of the contract signed by the ACC.

A USF Sports Blog quoted Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio following a meeting today between USF and Tampa Sports Authority officials:

“We are accepting of the ’08 and ’09 schedule with the ACC football tournament [game] and recognize that that is something we will go with because that is the arrangement. Our real emphasis today has been on long term and how the University of South Florida’s football program fits into the priorities of this community. It is a large priority of this community, and I think that was accepted by everybody in this room.

Surely a lot of people at USF were not clued into the negotiations and some city officials had a lot of explaining to do. During the meeting at her office today, Iorio also instructed city officials not to pursue the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game beyond 2009, leaving the calendar open for the Bulls to play a home game the first weekend in December.

Pitino Returns To Perturbed Providence

Providence College, a place full of happy memories for Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, is not Happy Valley these days. They held special ceremonies honoring Pitino on his last visit. Some Friar fans this time want to unceremoniously dump Tim Welch, the current PC coach.

Welch has been backed into a corner by the fans and local media, as well as the Providence administration. Welch’s pre-game introduction is usually accompanied by boos and calls for his job. His contract extension is very much in doubt.

Welch has coached his team to two NCAA tournaments and made three NIT appearances in nine years. However, his current team is struggling with a 13-11 won-lost record and 4-8 conference mark. Providence Journal sportswriter Bill Reynolds recently observed:

Booing Welsh became the new parlor game late last year when his name was announced before games, a smattering of discontent. Saturday night it bordered on becoming ugly. So what is going on here? I suspect it’s several things.

At the most obvious, it’s the fact that the Friars are not as good as the fans want them to be. The basketball world has changed. Not only is the Big East a monster of a league that takes few prisoners, it’s a league with an unofficial tier system. The top teams are trying to get to the Final Four and win the national championship. The Friars are trying to get to the NCAA Tournament once every three or four years and save the coach’s job.

Despite the won-lost record, the Friars have been impressive at times, posting wins over UConn and Arkansas. They are led by Jeff Xavier, a 6-1 point guard, averaging 12 points per game and hitting 37% of his three-point shots.

Saturday’s game has been declared a “black out” game, with fans being encouraged to wear black clothing — not good symbolism for their current coach.

Hearts for the Cards

Valentine’s Day, let’s show some appreciation, with special tokens for University of Louisville folks who enrich our lives:

Brian Brohm — A commitment to honor the No. 12 jersey during this year’s opening football game at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Harry Douglas — First round draft pick by the Chicago Bears.chocs

Rick Pitino — An exclusive contract for American Express basketball commercials, relieving fans of Krzyzewski overexposure.

Steve Kragthorpe — Three baseball player signees who are good at catching fly balls, as well as deflecting or intercepting long passes.

Tom Jurich — A national championship trophy in something to go with his Athletic Director of the Year award.

Dan McDonnell — Unseasonably warm weather for the early months of the college baseball season and many capacity crowds.

Angel McCoughtry — A heart-shaped box of Godiva for making it fun to watch women’s basketball.

David Padgett — Big East Player of the Year recognition for his contributions while overcoming significant injury.

Terrence Williams — A special place in the new downtown arena for one of his priceless quotes, along with a large graphic of him kissing the Freedom Hall court.

Bobby Petrino — A shipment of some of the dirty laundry he left in his dash from U of L to Atlanta and Fayetteville.

* * *

Moving On UpPomeroy has the Cards ranked No. 7 in his latest power ratings. Slow down, man.

Dump The Suit, Dump Georgetown

Was it Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke? Rick Pitino seemed confused about what he had spilled all over his white suit at halftime. Most likely Pepsi since that company owns the concession rights.

Pitino had to discard those duds. He was destined for the worst dressed coaches’ list in that outfit. Out comes the black suit in the second half, along with dramatic shifts in intensity and poise. The wardrobe change symbolized what could only be described as a total transformation as the game evolved.

During the treacherous first half, U of L was a team that was playing timid, tight and tenuous, tripping over its own temerity, tumbling toward an inevitable thrashing. Some U of L fanatics, like Tom Heiser were ready to all but throw in the towel, as he noted in his running blog:

This is as bad as the U of L offense has looked all season. The point guard position has been non-existent; and T-Will’s point-forward role has crashed under the weight of his errancy. The last two Georgetown hoops (the 3-pointer and runout to close the half) gutted the crowd’s excitement after Smith’s treys. Don’t know what the Cards can do to turn around the fortunes of a game that seem to have slipped from their grasp.

No doubt Pitino delivered one of his fiery motivational speeches at half time, one he later described as "peeling the paint off the walls" in the Cardinal dressing room. One envisions the famous white suit being stuffed in a garbage can, only to pulled out by a craft team manager to sold as a collector’s item on Ebay. If anyone was taping those Pitino’s remarks, they should d well, too.

Whatever Pitino did, it worked.

The Cards went from committing 10 turnovers in the first half to only five in the second half, and one of the season lows of 15 for the entire game. They went from being out-rebounded 15-9 in the first half to owning the boards by a 20-9 edge in the second half.

They went from being a team in the first half that appeared to be reverting to their early season struggles to a team in the second half that was going to do whatever it took to win, a team capable of making a run deep into some tournaments. No sense in playing ugly, play smart. Play tough defense, smart offense. That’s what gets it done. And they did get it done.

Difficult to single out any players. You don’t beat Georgetown without a total effort. But David Padgett, you know when he’s in there and he gets the ball, more likely than not good things are going to happen. Jerry Smith’s four three-pointers just affirmed the fact he is an exceptionally talented player, fearless on offense to match his ferocity on defense. T-Will being unselfish again, shutting down his guy as well.

Pete Padgett Knew Better

Remember the shock U of L fans felt when they heard David Padgett has suffered and busted kneecap and that his career was probably over? Then came the miraculous recovery and the return of the team leader, defying all odds. David’s dad, Pete, was confident his son would return, per this narrative in The Hoya:

Pete Padgett watched as his only son walked off the floor at Freedom Hall, head bowed after a one-point loss to Cincinnati. He couldn’t have been happier.

It was the first day of a new year, and despite the loss, Padgett had reason to believe 2008 would be better than years past. His son David, Louisville’s senior center and co-captain, had scored 13 points and grabbed three rebounds. But more importantly, he had played through the game without pain. He was back.

Just six weeks earlier, Pete Padgett had watched as Cardinals Head Coach Rick Pitino called an impromptu press conference to announce that David had fractured his knee cap and was more than likely done for the season. Since his son had already sat out his sophomore season after transferring from Kansas, Pete knew the NCAA would be reluctant to grant David a sixth year of eligibility. Pete knew that “done for the year” meant finished. Forever. But Pete also knew his son.

“I know David pretty well, obviously,” says Padgett, who coached his son at Reno High School in Reno, Nev. “I knew he would be back.”

Somehow, David Padgett found his way back to the hardwood after only six weeks, and has regained his role as the team’s unquestioned leader.

As one observes David Padgett on the court, one knows instinctively that the guy who wear No. 4 is still enduring incredible pain, the kind of pain that necessitates massive ice packs on the knee for hours. One also know that Padgett will suffer physical pain long into the future. He loves the game and this team, and those are reasons enough for him to make the personal sacrifice.