Fiesta Bowl and the big move for UofL football

Twas the night before the Fiesta Bowl, the last day of 1990. The University of Louisville football team is set to play Alabama on New Year’s Day the following day.

The observer had ordered a 55-inch console TV with a massive walnut frame to be delivered in time for a game-watching party in the basement. When the call comes from Smith’s Furniture that the big screen is on the way, he hurries out to a local video store for the latest installment of Star Wars.Schnellenberger

Returning home, rushing in from the garage, he is shocked to find that the delivery people have left the set in the middle of the family room. They are gone, telling Barbara the girth of the TV makes it impossible to negotiate the limited space and steps leading to the basement.

Calls to Smith’s Furniture are to no avail. The store is closed for New Year’s Eve and won’t open for two more days. Barbara says we’ll have to leave it there, it won’t go in the basement. The observer responds that it’s going to that blankety-blank basement if he has to cut holes in the wall and ceiling.

A call goes out to Joe next door, who calls another neighbor across the street. Together after much pleading from the observer, they will move the mammoth 400-pound appliance inch by grueling inch down the 14 steps, the observer literally terrified the console will come tumbling down on him and the screen will explode. Miraculously they reach the bottom, carefully making the turn around the corner and moving the set into position. The observer catching his breath, sensing that his shirt is wringing wet, grasping they have done it.

The game-watching party, for the game which Howard Schnellenberger has described as the most important ever for Louisville football, will go on. Behind Browning Nagle’s arm, UofL will race to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter over Alabama and the Cardinals will never look back en route to a 34-7 crushing of the Crimson Tide.

As the Palm Beach Post notes this week, that Fiesta Bowl was the first bowl appearance for the Cardinals in 13 years and their first bowl win in 33 years.

“That game is the one that built the stadium,” said Schnellenberger, whose winning and fund raising and non-stop dreaming led Louisville to get a beautiful facility called Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, the modern-day model of an on-campus stadium …”

It can be argued whether the Fiesta Bowl win or the upcoming BCS Sugar Bowl is the most important game in UofL’s football history, but there can be no denying that a lot of heavy lifting went into that New Year’s Day bowl game in 1991.

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

12 thoughts on “Fiesta Bowl and the big move for UofL football”

  1. I, too, watched that game with extended family at home in utter disbelief and delight!! Howard’s greatest UofL moment! I’ll be in NOLA to take it all in this time, no matter the outcome. Who can complain about two opportunities to visit the Big Easy in one year!?!

  2. Yep, probably the most memorable New Year’s Eve in the Springer household. Oh, the game? Merely an afterthought. (Just kidding, honey.)
    GO CARDS!!!

  3. Louisville got invited to the game because Arizona did not recognize Martin Luther King day at that time and other teams refused to go. Would Louisville football look the same today if Arizona had recognized the holiday? Just some food for thought

    1. Notre Dame and Virginia both turned down invitations. Their loss. The end result was Arizona decided to recognize MLK’s birthday. The teams wore helmet decals and armbands to honor Martyn Luther King. Despite the protesters, playing the game actually helped promote awareness in Arizona.

  4. Thank goodness I did not listen to my UK friends who told me that Alabama was going to crush Louisville and suggested I not watch that game.

  5. Was on one of the Cardinal “Airlift” flights that basically flew fans in and out of Phoenix shortly before and them immediately after the game. What a great 18 hours!

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