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:

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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.

Deng Adel shows aggressive streak, Louisville coasts past Boston College

Another yawner, the University of Louisville basketball team blowing out still another Atlantic Coast Conference opponent. Boston College the latest victim by a score of 90-67.

Deng Adel discovers aggressive streak against Boston College.

Far too easy of late, resembling some of the winning streaks in the Metro and Conference USA days. Wins are not supposed to come this easily in the ACC. Treasuring each one, however, knowing that there will be some major obstacles straight ahead.

What kept the game interesting was the performance of Deng Adel who seemed to be making up for lost time, scoring in every way possible, living up to the promise expected of him. He would share game scoring honors with Donovan Mitchell with 19 points each.

Signs of a newfound shooting touch from the sophomore forward from Australia.  No reluctance, going for it but playing within the system, connecting on seven of 10 field goal attempts, including three of four 3-point shots, and two of two at the free throw line.

“Coach said we needed to step up,” said Adel afterwards. “He told me to be aggressive so that’s what we did.”

Mitchell, meanwhile, was quietly having a very efficient game himself, dishing out four assists, making four rebounds and three steals. He was making seven of 10 field goal attempts as well, including two 3-pointers, and all three of his free throws.

Mangok Mathiang getting in on the act, scoring 16 points on seven of 11 shot attempts. And, yes, two of two free throw attempts.

One never knows which UofL player is going to have a break out game. Don’t be surprised when freshman V. J. King does. He hasn’t been scoring much but when he does he makes it look easy, winding up with 11 points against Boston College.

 Louisville travels to Virginia on Monday for a crucial game.. The Cardinals and Cavaliers, with 7-3 conference marks, are tied with Florida State for second place in the ACC. North Carolina is first with an 8-2 conference record.

No danger of anyone nodding off in that one. The odds of another runaway are remote.

Update: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium expansion

Not much new in the way of construction at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Friday afternoon, at least inside the stadium.

The earth moving equipment seemed to be about the same place as it was when we last visited about four weeks ago. The only sign of actual construction appeared to be on the beginnings of what appears to be a concrete bunker in the southwest corner.

For now, University of Louisville football fans will have to be happy with a 2017 football recruiting class that has been ranked as high as 20th by some analysts. National signing day is Wednesday, February 1.

University of Louisville is in good hands under David Grissom

Junior Bridgeman (left) turned the reins of the UofL Board of Trustees to David Grissom on Saturday.

University of Louisville supporters can be confident that the future of the school is in good hands with David Grissom having been named Chairman of the UofL Board of Trustees. He will not abide mediocrity.

Grissom was selected by the board Saturday, winning the post over Junior Bridgeman, a highly successful businessman and former Louisville basketball player. Bridgeman was a good choice last year when UofL needed a likable leader to bridge the gap between the old and new boards. Grissom is the better choice now, an aggressive, no-nonsense leader to deal with some of the immense challenges facing the University.

David Grissom does not abide mediocrity.

Grissom, who obtained his law degree from UofL, has a long history of successful management in Louisville, including serving as Executive Vice President of Human during its early days in the late Sixties. He went on to become Chairman and Chief Executive at Citizens Fidelity Corporation, and Vice Chairman of the PNC Corporation that succeeded Citizens Fidelity.

He also was the founder of Mayfair Capital, which provides financial guidance to many of the community’s wealthiest citizens. Name a leading business or community organization and he has probably served as a board member during his career.

It was obvious Saturday that Grissom has already devoted a lot of time to the University’s challenges, extracting a commitment from the UofL Foundation not to initiate any new investments in real estate until completion of the forensic audit. Grissom said he plans to deal directly with the firm conducting the audit.

He also wants the UofL Trustees to meet monthly because of the enormity of some the problems, including the audit, the accreditation issues, and the NCAA investigation of the basketball program. This has to occur before UofL can attract superior candidates for the Presidency, which Grissom said could up to 18 months.

“We’ve got to score some wins first,” he said.

The University of Louisville is fortunate to have an individual like Grissom getting personally involved at this crucial time in the University’s development. He will face the problems head on, get the right people involved, people who want the best for the school, and set some incredibly high goals and objectives for UofL. 

Have no doubt David Grissom will get it done.