Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium expansion update

The end of the 2017 football season may have been a downer for University of Louisville football. However, the future continues to look bright with the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Lots of work going on on Wednesday, with crews hard at work at the Floyd Street complex. A 10-foot chain link fence has installed just outside the north end zone, where the foundation of the 10,000-seat addition will be visible during the 2017 season.

Work also continues on the front of the football complex, across from the Trager indoor practice facility, where utility lines are being installed.

Painful to watch, Louisville football unable to handle adversity or prosperity

Sorry, but this observer had no choice but to turn the TV channel to another station during the third quarter. The football game was a disaster.

LSU’s dominance of the University of Louisville during the Citrus Bowl confirmed what many had suspected: This UofL football team had fallen from being a national title contender in October to one with zero confidence or aspirations in December.

Lots of symptoms, problems affecting the team’s psyche, with no logical reasons for what appeared to be a near total collapse.

— Probably the weakest offensive line in all of college football, unable to provide any blocking or protection for the quarterback or running backs.

— A team with the largest number of sacks and fumbles in college football. A team that couldn’t didn’t value possessions, unable to hang onto footballs. Turning sure things into unpredictable mishaps.

— A quarterback,  winner of the prestigious Heisman Trophy, unable to call an audible, read a defense or escape a pass rush. Hurrying his passes even when not challenged, unable to hit open receivers, not knowing when to throw the ball away, even while standing in his own end zone.

Something about the composition of this team that couldn't handle adversity or prosperity.

— A coach labeled as an offensive genius unable to make offensive adjustments, forcing his quarterback to keep going long, resulting in a steady diet of hits, sacks and negative yardage. A three-game losing streak to end the most promising season in the school’s history

— A defensive backfield riddled with injuries, providing easy pickings for quarterbacks from Houston, Kentucky and LSU. Need points? Just go to the air against Louisville. Even Jaire Alexander, a second team all-ACC cornerback, resorting to pass interference, still unable to prevent receptions.

This observer has seen a lot of football over six decades, including numerous seasons when many games were over for UofL at the end of the first half. Not many expectations for teams during the first five-and-a-half decades but always optimism that things would get better.

And they did get better, with UofL winning a BCS Orange Bowl in 2007 and a BCS Sugar Bowl in 2013. This year was set to be extra special, with Louisville in the top 10 for much of the season, third for a week or so, fifth and sixth over a couple of weeks. A matter of taking care of business and UofL would have been in contention for the playoffs, possibly a national title.

Something about the composition of this team that couldn’t handle adversity or prosperity. Games against inferior competition became harder, more difficult to win, some decided in the last quarter, one on the final play. Finally, down the stretch they were unable to stop anybody but themselves.

What a letdown, so disappointing. Difficult to fault the fan base for not traveling to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl. Or to blame those watching the final football game on TV for wanting to change the channel. Just too painful to watch, the final chapter in what was once a very promising season.

Happy holidays to the Harry’s Hangout tailgating crew

Slowly emerging from the total Yuletide immersion, slowly, not wanting to admit that Christmas is over. The gifts will be removed from beneath the tree soon, the tree and lights packed away for another year. 

Among the best memories of 2016 were game days at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, spent celebrating University of Louisville football with all the friendly people in the Harry’s Hangout crew in Section A of the Green Lot.

To our fellow tailgaters, thanks for the great times, the good food, the companionship and for sharing the ups and downs that only UofL football can provide. Hope the holidays are going well and wish the best for you in 2017.

Why Tom Jurich keeps Kentucky on Louisville’s schedule despite the animosity

For whatever reason, Tom Jurich would never seriously consider dropping Kentucky off a University of Louisville schedule in any sport. Never under his watch.

Contrary to some of us who would rather do without all the animosity, Jurich apparently considers UK as indispensable to the lineup of opponents. Probably because the games between the teams are always among the best attended, attract maximum media exposure, and are fiercely contested.

Many Louisville fans can still remember the days when Kentucky refused to play UofL in the major sports. As long as the Wildcats didn’t have to play Louisville, they could claim they were far superior and there was no way to challenge that notion. UK was in the mighty SEC and UofL was either an independent or making its way in and out of a half dozen secondary conferences. 

UofL actually needed UK on the schedule in those days, seeking validity, wanting to earn the respect of the Lexington rival. When the teams finally did begin playing each other in basketball and football, and Louisville began to win many of those games, it soon became apparent that gaining the respect of UK fans was not possible.

The basketball series, of course, is still considered the most heated in the rivalry. This despite the fact that UK has won eight of the last nine games, including four straight over the Cardinals. John Calipari and his NBA prep factory owning Rick Pitino over the past decade.  Games between UofL and UK women are equally contentious, with Louisville’s Jeff Walz finally breaking a six-year losing streak to Matthew Mitchell this season.

No less intense in football, in which UofL has won five of the last six games. Wildcat fans are still reveling in their team’s 41-38 upset of 11th-ranked Louisville in the final regular season game. That win more important to Kentucky than making a bowl game for the first time in six years.

The baseball stadiums in both Louisville and Lexington are always packed for the UofL-UK games, always tightly contested, integral to the success of both teams. Louisville has owned the series in recent years, winning the last six games between the two teams.

UK fans will never acknowledge that UofL is anywhere close to being on the same level in terms of prestige or competitiveness — no matter how many times UofL defeats them or how many national championships or final fours the Cardinals claim. For that matter, neither will UofL ever give UK fans the respect they think they deserve. 

Kentucky fans consider Louisville as a crime-infested urban area. Many of them have never visited the state’s largest and most prosperous city. A large segment of Louisville fans, on the other hand, consider Kentucky a rural and backward state, ranked near the bottom in many national categories, and a state that relies heavily on Louisville tax dollars to stay afloat.

For these and many other reasons, the rivalry is among the most bitter rivalries in college sports. Those who describe it as a friendly rivalry are, as one friend described them, “art majors,” completely out of touch with the real world.

The rivalry is counterproductive in many ways, often dividing families, friendships, business relationships, and communities. Not good for the state either, creating very real barriers to any real significant cooperation between the state’s two largest educational institutions.

Despite all these negative factors, the rivalry will go on, making life miserable for fans of the losing school, creating even more levels of resentment and animosity. UK and UofL fans live to hate each other.

Tom Jurich knows that will probably never change. Kentucky fans consider Louisville a threat, and that equals respect, whether they ever admit it or not. That’s why UK is staying on the schedule.

The hits keep coming but milestones never stop at University of Louisville

The University of Louisville is under attack on so many fronts that some of us are becoming hardened to the accusations, skeptical of the sources. Some unbelievable accusations have surfaced, and they never seem to go away. 

Any more bad news out there? Cough it up and clear the air. Only three more weeks before 2016 becomes history. What a crappy year in so many ways.

— Jim Ramsey, the former UofL President, accused of administrative irregularities in a state audit of the UofL Foundation. That would be the same Jim Ramsey who is credited for the unprecedented growth of the University over the past decade. 

— The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placing UofL’s accreditation on probation for a year for actions taken by Governor Bevin in attempting to replace the current members of the Board of Trustees. Why the organization would threaten the school’s accreditation for any reason other than academic reasons defies any logic. No surprise, however, given the ideology of members governing the Southern Association.

— Governor Bevin, ignoring the Southern Association’s action, indicating that he will attempt to change state law during the 2017 legislation session to justify his action. A dangerous precedent if he is successful, allowing future Governors to replace board members at will, possibly putting the University’s very existence at risk in a state where little love is lost on UofL.

Few people in America more noble or better positioned than sportswriters to address sins and shortcomings.

— The never-ending probe of the UofL basketball program following revelations that former player and assistant coach had been sponsoring stripper parties and sexual favors for players. Once a program is accused, the NCAA’s review process drags on forever, with no consistency in how cases are handled and punishments are administered.

— The latest embarrassment, the admission of a Wake Forest radio football analyst that he had provided game plan information to opposing teams, including UofL. Louisville, unfortunately, was where information was uncovered exposing the individual, exposing UofL to criticism from the talking heads and saintly sports columnists like Tim Sullivan.

The lowest of low points, being lectured by the scribes. Few people in America more noble or better positioned than sportswriters to address sins and shortcomings. Who’s to question their qualifications? A terrible profession when success is often defined by how many people hate you.

Quite a tumble from the glory years, particular from the Year of the Cardinal in 2013 when the University of Louisville could do no wrong. Distant memories for now.

The Lamar Jackson success story, the first UofL football player to ever win the Heisman Award, providing a brief reprieve from the torrent of bad news. But also serving as a reminder that many great things will continue to happen at UofL.

Overcoming hard times is part of being an advocate for the University of Louisville. Fans and supporters of UofL have had to weather more than their share of adversity over the decades.

They’ve grown accustomed to being targeted by neighboring fans, by a local newspaper that claims to be a state newspaper at the expense of the local school, and by the growing pains that occur when a school is ambitious. Predictably the University of Louisville always gets stronger and better, achieving unprecedented milestones while eyeing even more challenging goals.

Always been that way. It will never change.