Train may have finally arrived for Louisville football

The ESPN hype train arrives in Louisville on Friday, making Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium the center of the college football universe, at least for the weekend. A major intersection, a crossroads for UofL football program. Maybe still another milestone.

A game pitting the No. 13 University of Louisville football against third-ranked Clemson, featuring Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson against the defending national champion. Against a team and a coach that believed former CU quarterback Deshaun Watson was more deserving on the Heisman award.

UofL badly needs to get its first win over Clemson in four tries, after falling short, knocking on the door at the end, losing all three games by six points or less over the past three seasons. Leaving the field with their offense in the shadow of the goalposts each time, knowing they could have, probably should have won each of those games.

Former UofL assistant Vance Bedford once urged Louisville fans to get on board the train. And they will be Saturday night, upwards of 55,000 fans or so, probably setting another all-time attendance record for Cardinals’ football.

Make no mistake, much at stake here for Louisville football. Win and the program will take a monumental leap in national respect. Lose and the journey just gets harder and longer, postponing the inevitable into an uncertain future.

Blow the horn, stoke those coals, fan the flames, darken the skies with black smoke. Louisville football, time to go.

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Bill Stone places trust in David Grissom’s leadership at UofL

One of the faces I look forward to seeing is that of Bill Stone at announcements of major advancements at the University of Louisville. Always seems to be there, as he was when UofL announced the hiring of Howard Schnellenberger in 1985, for the groundbreaking of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in 1994, for the Tom Jurich intro in 1997, for the Big East announcement in 2005, the Charlie Strong hiring in 2009, the ACC in 2014 and many 0ther milestones along the way.

Bill Stone was an early believer in vast potential for University of Louisville athletics, challenging business and civic leadership to take advantage of one of the community’s greatest assets.

Stone always with a quiet smile at those events knowing how far the UofL has come over several decades. Proud of the school, aware of how far the institution still has to go, but having played a significant role in many of the milestones, savoring and relishing each of them.

I first became aware of Stone’s affection for UofL in the early Seventies through his Louisville Plate Glass newsletter. I was editor of the Jefferson Reporter, a weekly newspaper at the time. I looked forward to his latest epistles with those insightful comments on UofL sports. A busy executive who followed the Cardinals closely. One who tailgated frequently with the late Owsley B. Frazier at home football games, sometimes taking him to road games.

I met Bill personally a few years later as a member of the UofL Associates, a booster group, admiring his advocacy for the program. He was just as forceful as a member of the Board of Directors of the Louisville Area Chamber of Commerce. He has served on the UofL Board of Trustees and the UofL Board of Overseers, and he is currently a director of the UofL Athletic Association and the UofL Cardiovascular Institute — as well as involved in a wide range of other community leadership roles.

No one in the community cares more deeply for UofL or has been more active in promoting the University than Bill Stone. He’s the one I go to for insights on UofL issues because of his dedication and aspirations for the school.

Some recent speculation, largely on sports radio talk shows and fan message boards, has raised questions about the relationship between the current leadership of the Trustees and the Athletic Department. Some suggesting there is a rift between the two segments, that the current Board of Trustees under Chairman David Grissom may be displeased with UofL athletics for some reason.

“I can’t speak for the board but I know that there is great appreciation for what the Athletic Department has accomplished under Tom Jurich,” said Stone. “Some tension between the two groups is not necessarily a negative thing, occurring naturally within any organization. I believe Interim President Greg Postel is supportive of the Athletic Department and I would be disappointed otherwise.”

Stone said he was seated at the same table with Postel at the 50-Yard Line Dinner when the Adidas deal was unveiled. “He stood and applauded when Tom Jurich was announced, just like everybody else,” he said. “He was genuinely excited about the deal.”

As for his thoughts on whether Postel would be a serious candidate for the position of University President, Stone said the University “could do a lot worse. He’s a fine person, a quick learner who brings dignity and credibility to his job. He’s a very good man.”

David Grissom assumed the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees in 2016 when the previous board was dissolved.

He also believes J. David Grissom was an excellent choice to chair the Board of Trustees. “David is a person of great integrity, outstanding ability and he has been highly successful in everything he undertakes,” said Stone. “I have no doubt that he seeks excellence for UofL.

“David is never going to be seen at UofL game wearing all red, screaming, yelling, jumping up and down, shouting at a referee over a bad call. That’s just not who he is. He is a first-class, world-class executive, and we are fortunate to have someone like him on our team.”

Stone added that Grissom admires success, and was extremely pleased with the $160 million deal Jurich negotiated with Adidas. “Extremely pleased,” he added for emphasis. “He respects success and Tom is very successful. Anyone who thinks Grissom has ulterior motives or other than the best for UofL is way off base. Just plain wrong.”

Stone would not speculate on why Papa John’s executive John Schnatter had made some critical comments about the Athletic Department. “The bottom line is he has done a lot of good things for UofL athletics,” he said. “His name is on the stadium for good reason.”

As for UofL supporters worried about a possible UK tilt on the board, Stone wanted to alleviate that concern. “Many of the issues we are dealing with now are self-inflicted,” he said. “We’re talking about successful business people and educators. They didn’t get to where they are by being petty. I don’t think UK enters into their thinking at all.”

Stone says his only criticism of the current board is that there are few members who are emotionally involved with and passionate about the University. “That may come with time. They have the power, the resources and abilities to make some incredible things happen.”

For all the issues hanging over the campus, Stone remains confident that things are again headed in the right direction. He’s been through a lot for the University over the years, seen more than his share of ups and downs, and is emotionally invested.

“Despite all the problems, UofL remains the most attractive school in the commonwealth right now, with improving SAT scores and higher grade point averages. So much going for UofL, we can relax on building facilities for a while and focus on academics and research. I feel good about the future.”

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UofL says Crum and Griffith were personally informed

Recently Card Game posted a blog regretting that Denny Crum and Darrell Griffith had been dismissed by the University of Louisville via email after years of service. We believed the information about the email portion was correct, picking it up from a posting by a writer we greatly respect. However, we received the following from John Karman, media relations director at UofL:

Upon his retirement from coaching, Denny Crum was given a 15-year, $338,000-per year contract to continue as a goodwill ambassador for the university. Working with the president and University Advancement, Coach Crum performed in this role through the contract’s end on June 30, 2016. He then continued working for the university with pay but without a contract. Interim President Greg Postel met with Coach Crum in February and allowed his employment to continue through this June to enable a smooth transition to retirement.

Darrell Griffith’s position, along with those of several other employees in the University Advancement unit, was eliminated as part of a reduction in force plan. Mr. Griffith’s supervisor met with him and informed him in person that his position was being cut.

Neither Coach Crum nor Mr. Griffith was dismissed via email.

Coach Crum and Mr. Griffith have earned a special place in the history of Cardinal Athletics, and both will always be valued members of the UofL family.

John Karman, media relations director, University of Louisville

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Lamar Jackson, 6 times 6, Louisville downs North Carolina

Lamar Jackson (top photo) scores his first rushing touchdown of the season with a 53-yard jaunt early in the third quarter. Jackson (above) gets a pat on the head and congrats from from teammate Jaylen Smith (Cindy Rice Shelton photos)

Opposing teams almost know what to expect from Lamar Jackson.Read the scouting reports, Watch the film. Read and re-read the scouting reports, Watch the film. Plot and scheme for him all week long. Tailor their entire defensive plans to slow him down.

Their problem is catching him. Jackson is unpredictable. Not even he knows what he’s going to do next. Relying on his quickness, his instincts, his confidence, his fear of failure, his not wanting to go down, and his love of the game.

Cindy Rice Shelton photo.

His special talents on full display Saturday in the University of Louisville’s 47-35 win over North Carolina before a crowd of 47,635 at Chapel Hill.

“Lamar Jackson is every bit as good as everybody says he is and thinks he is,” said UNC coach Larry Fedora after witnessing Jackson’s special talents for himself..

Jackson threw for 393 yards and three touchdown while also running for 132 yards and three more TDs. The last one running through a gauntlet of would-be tacklers on an 11-yard run with 3:06 remaining. Capping a dominant fourth quarter for the Cardinals, improving their season to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

His favorite targets, junior Jaylen Smith and freshman Dez Fitzpatrick, making themselves available to him early and often. Smith had nine catches for a career-high 183 yards and a touchdown for Louisville, while Fitzpatrick was turning in two TDs.

UofL racking up a total of 705 offensive yards, compared to 401 for North Carolina. The good news was that UNC gained only 17 yards rushing. The bad news was at times they looked almost unstoppable in the passing game with 384 yards.

More great news coming with no fumbles, no interceptions, and only one false start. But still the Cardinals had their hands full, trailing 28-17 going into the fourth quarter. Jackson would put finish the Tar Heels off with a couple of touchdowns in the final 15 minutes.

The best news of all was UofL finding someone who can carry the ball besides Jackson. That would be freshman Malik Williams racking up 149 yards on 13 carries at a pace of 11.5 yards per carry.  Help has arrived.

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Someone dropped the ball in farewell to Denny Crum

Apparently someone at the University of Louisville thought it was okay to  to terminate employment contracts with Denny Crum and Darrell Griffith, two individuals who have engendered tons of goodwill and donations for the school over decades.

Denny Crum celebrating his 80th birthday party last year (Charlie Springer photo).

He or she chose to do it in the most impersonal way possible, informing Crum and Griffith by email that UofL was cutting them loose.

Letting them go. Firing them.  By email.

No one bothering to meet with them personally or giving them a phone call. Had Crum or Griffith not bother to check their emails, they might still be wondering what happened.

No one in their right mind, no one with any sensibility for human feelings, no one with any respect for what these men have done for an institution treats people like this. Knowing how much Crum and Griffith love the school, they would be promoting the school whether they were getting paid or not.

Darrell Griffith was a “Living Legend” while leading UofL to its first NCAA title in 1980.

Crum, the former UofL basketball coach, has been employed by the school for 46 years. He had an office in the UofL Alumni Department, assisting in fundraising efforts. Griffith, of course, led Louisville to its first NCAA basketball championship in 1980. He worked in the advancement department as director of community relations.

Word of the terminations following news that the former UofL basketball coach had been hospitalized with a light stroke. The timing could not have come at a more inopportune time.

Maybe, in the midst of the school’s recent financial challenges, someone in power felt that Crum and Griffith were expendable, that their accomplishments were a long time ago. That they were no longer as great as they once were, that it was time to move on.

The decision coming several months after 800 people attended Denny Crum’s 80th birthday celebration at the Ramada Plaza & Convention Center. That event and other fundraising efforts culminating in $600,000 in donations to the University of Louisville.

The person responsible for decision may have felt there was no other option. The school may have needed to save money, requiring UofL to reduce “non-essential” staff. Supporters of the school and people who recognize good business practices could maybe appreciate that. But breaking the news to them by impersonal emails is not acceptable.

Just another PR disaster in a long line of them over the past several months, coming on the heels of efforts by some members of the current Board of Trustees to seek legal action against former administrators. It’s almost as if some of these actions are being taken to put the University in the worst light possible.

Denny and Darrell deserve better, as do UofL’s many fans and supporters throughout the community.

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