Completion of Cardinal Stadium in 2018 will be loud, symbolic

One of the first impressions one had while checking out the expansion of the University of Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium on Tuesday was that Athletic Director Tom Jurich was wise to get the project going a year earlier than anticipated.

By the time the stadium expansion is completed in 2018, much of the controversy surrounding the school administration will have been resolved, with a new President and Board of Trustees firmly committed to returning to the university’s upward trajectory.

The closing in of the football stadium at that time could well symbolize a university that has come full circle overcoming major challenges while pursuing new objectives and milestones.

One got the feeling Tuesday that the closing end of the North end of the stadium is going to enhance the home field advantage (i.e., significantly raising the noise level). It’s going to be very compact, folks, with the new seating capacity of 65,000 fans.

Michael Ortman has the fun job of managing the stadium during another major expansion.

All kinds of activity going on Tuesday at Cardinal Stadium. Even though the spring semester has ended, the parking lots adjacent to the stadium seem to be near capacity. On the south end of the stadium, numerous UofL athletes headed for the Thornton’s Academic Center for Excellence. Some for study (maybe), many for socialization and recreation, and others for the snack bars.

On the third floor of the Brown & Williamson Club, a local organization is setting up for a get-together.  On the fifth floor, Stadium Manager Michael Ortman is meeting with his staff to discuss the challenges of managing the stadium with all the construction occurring during the 2017 football season.

Stadium capacity will have increased by 10,000 seats by the beginning of the 2018 season — to include 1,000 club seats, 70 premium boxes and 12 exclusive field-level suites. Premium seats will access two upscale gathering areas, including Pepsi Club, offering an elevated view of the field, and a lower-level club that will put fans close to the action.

The Schnellenberger Complex will have doubled in size for expanded weight room and conditioning facilities, as well as an enhanced training space with hydrotherapy.

Completion of the project in 2018 could not come at a better time, hopefully with much of the conflict at the university in the past. The stadium expansion reflecting strong support not only for the football program but for a university that serves as the heart and soul of the community.

UofL’s Nick Bennett handcuffs Duke on four hits

Freshman Nick Bennett pauses for a moment of reverence and solitude each inning before he takes the mound for the University of Louisville baseball team.

 

With a couple of All American pitching on Fridays and Saturdays, one of the big unknowns was who would earn the Sunday starting spot for the University of Louisville baseball team.

Nick Bennett off to a 4-0 start and a promising future with Louisville baseball.

That question has been answered with the emergence of Nick Bennett, a freshman who was down the list of potential starters in February. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound left hander from Cincinnati Moeller High School showed why as UofL defeated Duke 10-0 to wrap up another conference series.

Bennett, looking like he could have gone the distance, allowed the visiting Blue Devils only four hits while striking out five batters and yielding no bases on balls. Confidently securing the series after Brendan McKay had dropped a 5-3 decision on Friday and Kade McClure survived a 7-5 decision on Saturday.

Bennett’s longest previous outing was 6.1 innings against Wake Forest on April 9, while Sunday’s effort moved his record to 4-0 on the season, including a 3-0 mark in the ACC.

Sunday’s shutout was the eighth of the season for the Cardinals, who improved to 33-6 overall and a conference-leading 17-4 in the ACC.

A day after scoring seven runs in the second inning of Saturday’s win, the Cardinals gained control with a three-run third inning. Following back-to-back singles from McKay and Drew Ellis, Devin Mann drove both players home with his two-run double to left field. 

Sophomore righthander Riley Thompson followed Bennett and registered three strikeouts in two scoreless innings of relief to complete the shutout for the Cardinals, who moved to 23-2 at home this season.

How to win the Golden Ticket for top Louisville sports events

The Louisville Sports Commission, in the business of attracting major sports events to Louisville, is conducting a Golden Ticket raffle to support the organization’s marketing efforts.
 
Karl Schmitt is all sports all the time, promoting Louisville as a major events sports town.

Karl Schmitt, the President and CEO, says five of the last six winners have been University of Louisville fans, each confirming it was one of the best years of their lives.

Only 400 raffle tickets will be sold for donations of $100 each. The winner will win two tickets to each of the following:
 
  • 2017 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks – 3rd floor grandstand
  • 2017 Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway – Bluegrass Club
  • 2017 UofL or UK (winner’s choice) – every regular season home football game
  • 2017-18  UofL or UK (winner’s choice) – every regular season home basketball game
  • 2017 Louisville Bats – season tickets
  • 2017-18 UofL Women’s Basketball – season tickets
  • 2017 Paul Hornung Award Banquet VIP guest

To purchase raffle tickets, call Hadassah Chilton at 587-7767 or get them online at http://www.kyexpo.org/goldenTicket.html.

The winner will be drawn on April 25, 2017, at 9:55 a.m. on WHAS-11 Great Day Live! The winner does need not to be present to win.

 

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.