Jeff Brohm got what he wanted from Purdue and Louisville

Now that the Jeff Brohm dalliance has finally fizzled, the University of Louisville can consider some serious candidates. Brohm was never coming home, using UofL as a bargaining chip to further solidify his position at Purdue University.

No good vibes during the entire process, not from a family or from the University in which each party had invested so much. Little to no public communications from any of the Brohms, just enough winks and nods with selective media contacts to advance Jeff’s interests, keep playing his game.

While some around him indicated that he had considerable interest in Louisville, there was no indication from Brohm himself. Just the usual mumbo-jumbo coachspeak about being where he wanted to be. Taking his time, keeping everybody waiting, keeping his players, keeping Louisville fans guessing. 

No indications from friends and family members in Louisville that he was excited about being considered, possibly returning to his alma mater. No happy memories  about program where he, his dad and a brother had quarterbacked, another brother had been a wide receiver. 

Just silence. The kind of silence with an ominous feel to it all along.  Nothingness. Hurry up and wait. For what?

Brohm pretty much walked by the pond, saw us drowning, and took a seat at the picnic table ...

No one having a clue about Brohm was going to do. Not inspiring confidence, just enough to keep Louisville fans waiting and hoping, allowing the suspense to build to a fever pitch. Brohm has matured, gone on to other interests, and is no longer tuned into Louisville his hometown, or UofL 

No expressions of disappointment from Brohm about what had happened to Louisville football over the last year under Bobby Petrino’s direction. No obvious interest in rescuing the UofL program, or concern about what the University had been through over the past three years. The hometown boy had a set of priorities, but it’s clear now did not match up with Louisville’s.

As a poster on Louisville message board noted, “This program is at one of the lowest points we’ve seen and people viewed Brohm as the guy to take us to the next level, it was storybook. Instead Brohm pretty much walked by the pond, saw us drowning, and took a seat at the picnic table to watch.”

Brohm was focused of taking full advantage of the uncertainty in West Lafayette to nail down further concessions from Purdue. A big paycheck got much, much bigger with PU matching Louisville dollar for dollar. In the end, he is said to have improved his salary from a reported $3.8 million to an estimated $6 million annually.

Athletic Director Vince Tyra indicated Thursday morning that he never felt during the give and take (mostly give) with Brohm that the former Louisville quarterback was excited as Tyra was about the UofL job. Tyra saying it was clear that Brohm’s heart and mind were consumed with fulfilling his commitment to Purdue.

Tyra had no choice but to go after Brohm, make the best possible offer, let Brohm know he was badly needed, and wait for Brohm to quit stalling. Now Tyra is free to pursue someone who wants to be at UofL, “someone with the same energy and excitement going to work every day as myself, Chris Mack, Dan McDonnell and other UofL coaches.” Good for Vince, let our people go.

Brohm has made his choice, and Louisville respects that choice and wishes him well. Some have suggested that the timing was not right, and that UofL and Brohm could still get together some day. Don’t count on it, not when Jeff Brohm turned a cold shoulder to UofL football during a time of its greatest need.  Thanks but no thanks to football coaches who have little regard for UofL’s interests, now and in the future.

Louisville women bring their winning ways back home

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

The University of Louisville cheerleaders had a busy night as well (Charlie Springer photo).

Good to have them in town after a long absence, the University of Louisville women’s basketball team back at the KFC Yum! Center after five games on the road to open the season. They were missed.

An interested spectator was Chris Mack, UofL men’s coach, attending the game with his wife Chrisi, a former Miss Kentucky Basketball. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Bringing their winning ways back to UofL, the Cardinals coasting to an impressive 95-73 win over Miami (Ohio) which had won its first four games. Never any doubt, with Louisville jumping out to an early 8-0 lead and widening it to 27-12 by the end of the first quarter.

Exactly what the home crowd of 7,544 fans wanted to see, UofL improving its record to 6-0 on the season while handing the visitors their first loss in five games. 

Six players in double figures with Kylee Shook leading the way, with 17 points and six rebounds. More aggressive this game, hopefully a sign of things to come, especially with the loss of Yacine Diop to an ACL injury over the weekend. Let this be the next step forward in Shook’s career.

Asia Durr with 16 points, Bionca Dunham with 15, Dana Evans 14, and Sam Fuehring and Jazmine Jones with 10 each. Lindsey Duvall, out last season with a leg injury, hitting two beautiful three-point shots. Good first impression in her first game on Denny Crum Court.

Dana Evans with that lights out speed, making those layups while handing six assists. Coach Jeff Walz telling her she will could be an All-American if she continues at that pace. 

Walz on the receiving end of a pass at one point, going through the motions of taking a three-point shot to the delight of the crowd. He said later he regretted not taking the shot. Everything else going so right this night. Good to be home.



Petrino laughing way to the bank at Louisville football’s expense

Photos by Cindy Rice Shelton

Worst than a nightmare, this was real.

At long last, the college football season from Hell is over. A sorry exercise in futility for the University of Louisville. An ugly setback for a program that had advanced so far in two decades, only to plummet to possibly the lowest depths in the school’s history.

No semblance of organization, expectations or optimism from the opening three-and-out series against Alabama until the fifth straight incomplete pass against Kentucky. Never any indication that UofL would get any better under Coach Bobby Petrino or his interim replacement.

Bobby Petrino

As the season began, UofL was expected to compete against the likes of Alabama, the defending national champion. Why? Because Petrino said so, said Louisville’s offense was going to be even better without Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Confidently declared that UofL was going to beat Alabama at the kickoff luncheon.

Looking back one should have known better than to take Petrino seriously.  There was a reason that he never opened any practices to the public for the first time at fall camp. Already skeptical perhaps about the abilities of some of the people working for him. Come game time, it quickly became apparent in games against Indiana State and Western Kentucky that UofL was struggling with many of the basics.

Still UofL seemed assured of a third straight win over traditional power Florida State in the fifth game, owning the ball on the FSU 19-yard line with 1:56 to go. Owning a three-point lead, needing to maintain possession with less than two minutes. Pitino sending in a pass play, but Puma Pass throwing the ball to an FSU defender, and FSU scoring two plays later for the win. Many blaming the loss on Petrino.

The dysfunction in the Cardinal ranks became so chaotic that Athletic Director Vince Tyra had no choice but to fire Petrino after 10 games. The cancer had to be exorcised, whether there was anyone qualified to replace him. The players were ignoring him, the assistant coaches had lost touch and the fans were despondent. Go Bobby, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Petrino 2.0 had everything a coach could ask for, including some of the finest facilities in college football, with an expansion modeled after the Dallas Cowboys stadium. He had a team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, with an opportunity to compete for a national championship. He had a fan base setting attendance records at Cardinal Stadium over the last four seasons. His reputation as an offensive genius compelled former UofL AD Tom Jurich to rehire him — despite his awkward departure the first time around and the ugly mess he left at Arkansas.

What Petrino didn’t have was an ability to relate to other people, including his assistant coaches and players. He was Petrino first, callous forever, with no loyalty to Louisville. He was desperate for the job, returning on bended knee, asking for forgiveness and a second chance from Tom Jurich. He would inevitably make Jurich look silly a second time, landing a deal with an enormous buyout. No sweat for Petrino, riding off into the sunset with a $14 million buyout.

Jurich could have saved the school a lot of money, but he believed Petrino could lead UofL to the promised land. The exorbitant salary and a contract with an unbelievable escape clause may have played a pivotal role in Petrino’s downfall. He was going to be filthy rich no matter whether the football program succeeded or failed. Somewhere along the line he lost his hunger and the respect of his colleagues. Maybe he wanted to get out before risking his winning ways against Kentucky.

Some say he led Louisville football to new heights to places previously unimaginable for UofL football, winning a BCS bowl game and numerous appearances in the top 10 college football polls. He couldn’t sustain it, however, couldn’t conceal the character flaws from his associates and players, losing their trust and confidence, and ultimately his job.

Before he finally left, Petrino had dug a hole for Louisville so deep it could take years for the program to recover. Many UofL fans, including this one, still shaking their heads in disbelief about how bad it is really was. Somewhere Tom Jurich is still in shock, having entrusted his reputation with a person he believed to be the best football coach in the nation.

A sorry ending. What a mess. 

Vince Tyra off to good start, but Louisville football long term project

The view from the North end zone expansion as quarterback Malik Cunningham scores Louisville’s only touchdown against North Carolina State.

A busy, challenging day for Vince Tyra, attempting to infuse some positivity and energy into the University of Louisville football program. Six days after having had to fire the former head coach. A new beginning, a new start, time to start digging UofL football out of the deep hole in which it is mired.

Up early in the morning, Tyra is greeting early arrivals in the Green Lot, passing out toboggans and UofL shirts to the faithful. Then he joins fans in the Card March, welcoming the players descending the steps from Denny Crum Way, shaking hands or embracing many of the Louisville football players and coaches. He spends the rest of the afternoon walking the Cardinals’ sideline, doing everything he can to encourage players.

Vince Tyra hooks up with tailgaters at Harry’s Hangout in the Green Lot before the game, passing out UofL shirts and toboggans. From left are Michelle Mitchell, Barbara Springer, Paula Derringer, Genny Staley Davis and Candy Bickel Cook.

One had to be impressed by Tyra’s energy. If sincerity and commitment from the Athletic Director were the primary ingredients needed for success, UofL football would have been on its way. If getting rid of the cause of major bad vibes counted, Tyra had made strides. If preventing many more fans from jumping ship two games before the end of the season, he had done just that.

The crowd stretched from here to there during Card March.

Reinvigorating Card March was an unquestioned success, with fans standing shoulder to shoulder from Denny Crum Way, extending to the north and south. The players were clearly impressed, not having seen anything like it during the first first five games. Official attendance was announced at 48, 265 despite some gaping holes at Cardinal Stadium. Didn’t matter, some good signs of UofL fans being engaged again.

Ominous start despite Tyra’s efforts. Three UofL starters — QB Puma Pass, wide receiver Devante Peete, and offensive lineman Michael Boykin — suspended before the game.  He already had  more than he could handle with all of the damage that had done to Louisville football over the past year.

UofL was at least competitive most of the first half, trailing by only 17-3 at the intermission. Any illusions of being competitive were shattered on the first offensive series of the second half.  Quarterback Malik Cunningham fumbled on his own 22 yard line, and North Carolina State would score two plays later.

That was the dagger, the inevitable adversity, the crushing blow. No doubt after that,  with NC State skating to a 52-10 romp, sealing a winless 0-8 conference mark for the Cardinals and their ninth loss in 11 games. No happy endings in sight this season. Vince Tyra is on the case, however, knowing that he had to get started as soon possible to resolve all the issues impeding the program.

Fewer distractions the better in UofL basketball locker room this season

Not long after Tim Sullivan tweeted about a University of Louisville basketball player not being around, Coach Chris Mack has made the locker room off limits to the media after games. A good move, as far as the Observer is concerned, removing some unnecessary distractions. 

Tim Sullivan and friends lose media access to Louisville basketball locker room (Charlie Springer photo).

Sullivan, a Courier Journal sports columnist, was doing his thing following Chris Mack’s first game as UofL’s head coach — the beginning of what could be an eventful career. Never one to let negative news go to waste, Sullivan was interested in asking V. J. King about some FBI recruiting notes. King wasn’t around, having departed before the media arrived.

Nothing really wrong with asking questions, wanting a quote, it’s what Sullivan does. He thrives on being a cynic, putting people on the defensive, exposing alleged transgressions, pointing out shortcomings, bringing darkness to light. A sports columnist or a frustrated evangelist, take your pick.

To place the blame on Sullivan is probably not fair but he wouldn’t hesitate to point a finger or to cast doubt on other people if he himself wasn’t the most obvious suspect. Always the somber one, a walking thesaurus of doom and gloom.

*   *   *

Not that it has received any credit but Louisville has for years been one of the few remaining basketball programs allowing media into the locker room. Mack never allowed the media into the locker room when he was at Xavier, never even considered it. Despite misgivings, he tried it for one game in UofL’s opener, only to reverse the policy in the next game.

The sports media is complaining about lack of access, of course. The least of their concerns is a new coach implementing a new system with a new group of players. That’s a group of players facing the toughest schedule in the program’s history. With players in a program that is more likely than not to face NCAA scrutiny in the near future for the screwups of the previous bosses.

There is, in fact, the possibility that this young team is facing a seven-game stretch during which wins will be hard to come by. If the worst were to occur, the last thing a coach need for pundits to be poking around in the locker room after a series of losses. Or following a series of upset wins for that matter.

Mack’s job will be further complicated if and when the NCAA follows up on the FBI’s NCAA accusations. Still another media circus seems inevitable. He has the responsibility of protecting players as much as possible from the gloom emanating from allegations of previous recruiting violations. 

The media will, of course, have plenty to say about the perceived slight. There’s no one around to temper them, to reason with them or to muzzle them for that matter. Complaining attracts readers and viewers, stimulates bitching and arguments, provides fodder for talk shows and such, a never ending cycle. Freedom of the press, yes, but don’t ever expect the media to self-impose any limits.

While one can understand the media’s desire to get unfettered access to the players, there’s an equally strong case to be made for Chris Mack wanting to protect his players. Here’s a vote for his taking charge of the situation, doing what he thinks is in the best long-term interest of his team. 

A very long season is looming for Louisville basketball. The fewer distractions in the locker room the better.