Muhammad Ali inspired fellow University of Louisville fans

muhammed-ali-quote-on-fitness-observatoryMuhammad Ali attended many University of Louisville athletic events over the years, always a UofL fan, always an inspiration to his fellow fans.

Back in the early nineties, a standing ovation at Fairgrounds Stadium when he was introduced, 36,000 voices proclaiming “Ali! Ali! Ali!” Even Tennessee football fans that night were joining the chorus.

Ali was on the 50-yard line at the 2007 BCS Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida for the UofL-Wake Forest game. The biggest game in UofL football history, he had to be there, joining the 35,000 fans from Louisville making the trip.

When Asaad Ali, his adopted son, was playing for the UofL baseball team in 2010 and 2011, Muhammad was a frequent visitor to Jim Patterson Stadium, joining Tom Jurich in the hospitality suite, even making financial contributions to the Louisville baseball program.

Jurich issued the following statement after Ali’s death:

“All of us in the Cardinal Athletics family are deeply, deeply saddened with the passing of an absolute worldwide legend in Muhammad. While he was undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes in history, the Champ made a difference in the lives of so many around the world.

“His generosity with his time for anything we asked of him — or things he offered to do without us asking — was incredible, as was the financial commitment he and Lonnie made to our baseball program at UofL.  It was a true honor for me to know him and he will be greatly missed.  Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to Lonnie and the entire family.”

Coach Rick Pitino joined in commemorating Ali:

“All of Louisville celebrates the life of our Champion.  “He shined brightest in the ring and preached peace outside of it.  He loved babies, people and cherished his friends.  We will miss you Champ.  Rest in Peace.”

This UofL fan will never forget the time his family bumped into the Champ at a Kentucky Derby breakfast in Frankfort, Muhammad Ali pulling my 4-year-old son from my arms, lifting him high and placing a kiss on his cheek. Remember thinking, “The most famous person in the world, that man.”

Always reaching out, engaging and absorbing, Muhammad Ali making people feel better about themselves and the world.

Louisville, Georgia Tech luck into prime time

Almost surprisingly the University of Louisville will be playing in basketball game on a Saturday, traveling to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech at 4 p.m. Imagine that. Fans of the schools catching a break from a television network.

The TV networks, in their unquenchable thirst for ratings, would have fans believing that a combination of late night games and noon games is the new normal. Of the last four UofL games, two have been played at 9 p.m. in mid-week and two others on Sundays, one at noon, the other at 8 p.m.

Like people who have been watching games at 7 p.m. all their lives aren’t fazed by late-night games. Or bothered by having to get up early for noon games. The network executives have far more pressing concerns.TV image

The formula for determining noon football games is pretty predictable. If one’s team is having a mediocre season, one can expect to be playing lots of noon games. Unless the foe that week happens to be highly-ranked opponent. Get on a roll, however, and more prime time slots quickly become available. The problem for football fans is not knowing the kickoff times very far in advance.

Attendance for home games will inevitably be affected, as it was for UofL football this past season, with three games kicking off at 12:30. Average attendance dropped below 50,000 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for the first time in three seasons.

Much easier for college basketball fans because the time slots for most games are announced before the season begins. The only exception on this year’s UofL schedule is the final game at Virginia, for which no tipoff time has been announced. Following the football model, if UofL continues to win and Virginia keeps stumbling, they will have a noon tipoff.

The inherent problem is that even the most prominent athletic conferences and the universities have effectively handed off control of key aspects of their programs. Handed them off to people who don’t have the same interest in seeing them succeed or fail in terms of fan support, adding to the pressure of winning and losing.

TV exposure has, for now, overtaken such concerns as ticket prices, attendance, concessions and parking as the No. 1 priority for the decisionmakers. Too bad if that comes with some major inconvenience to the most loyal fans.

Yes to football series with Western Kentucky, but basketball could have waited

Jeff Brohm is lobbying hard for a home-and-home series between Western Kentucky University and  University of Louisville. Bobby Petrino seems to be receptive.

Brohm,, the former University of Louisville quarterback now football coach at WKU, wants to bring his team to Louisville where his family has prospered in the sport over two decades. There would be a return game in Bowling Green and, possibly, a third game at a neutral site in Nashville.wku_full_2

Really interesting that a school in a small town in southern Kentucky is attempting to compete at the highest level in football. Says something about the leadership at the school and the community.

Petrino, in his second season at UofL, wants to reward the Bowling Green school for giving him a second chance following the problems that led to his dismissal at the University of Arkansas.

A continuing series would elevate WKU football in the state, bringing the Hilltoppers more exposure than games against opponents like Vanderbilt, Indiana and Rice this upcoming season. Unlike some other state schools, WKU would bring plenty of fans to Louisville, as they during the days at the old Fairgrounds Stadium.

The games would be competitive as long as Jeff Brohm is at the helm, and would provide some easy road trips for UofL fans whether they be at Bowling Green or Nashville. Certainly more attractive than out-of-conference games against Samford or Florida International.

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Rick Pitino would probably be having lots of second thoughts about renewing the basketball series, especially after the Donnybrook at Bowling Green last season. WKU Coach Ray Harper had his troops playing angry, employing a bruiser style, deliberately antagonizing UofL players, causing Montrezl Harrell to be ejected.

There really was no need for the hostility.

The basketball series can wait for a few years, with the only incentive for UofL being to break the 139-139 all-time series between the two programs.

Update: Apparently WKU is already penciled in on the 2015-16 schedule, according to Jeff Greer. Go figure.

Making it through the summer

So how do fans who spend nine to 10 months a year following University of Louisville athletics survive the next two months without UofL competition? I’m not really sure. The opening football game against Auburn in the Georgia Dome is Sept. 5.

Thanks to Dan McDonnell’s team for extending the baseball season, putting the Cardinals within one game of the College World Series. One questionable foul ball/home run away. We may never know for certain. Really makes it difficult watching the championship series with Virginia and Vanderbilt, knowing UofL should have been there.2014-15-e1419956266732

Rick Pitino’s basketball team from one missed free throw away from returning to the Final Four for the third time in the last four seasons. UofL making only six field goals in the second half, Mangok Mathiang’s second free throw attempt not even close. Pitino willing his team to another incredible finish.

Bobby Petrino delivering a 31-28 win in the first-ever football game against Notre Dame at South Bend and a 9-4 won-lost record with a trio of untested, unproven and injury-plagued quarterbacks.

Continue reading “Making it through the summer”

Louisville and Michigan State set in ACC-Big 10 challenge

The University of Louisville basketball team will get a shot at Michigan State early during the 2015-16 season but this time should have a lot more firing power.

The Cardinals, remember, made only six shots during the final 25 minutes of the NCAA Regional this past season, losing 76-70 to the Spartans in overtime. Five of 15 shots in the second half, one of seven in overtime.

Rick Pitino will be returning with some shooters this time around, having picked up Trey Lewis with a 16.3 scoring average from Cleveland State and Damion Lee with a 16.5 scoring clip from Drexel. Expect freshman Donovan Mitchell, from New Hampshire, to become an immediate scoring threat as well.

Hopefully Pitino will also have a deeper bench, developing it sooner, with more playing time for everybody, something that never happened last season.

The UofL-Michigan State game is part of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. The schedule:

Monday, Nov. 30
• Clemson at Minnesota
• Wake Forest at Rutgers

Tuesday, Dec. 1
• Maryland at North Carolina
• Virginia at Ohio State
• Michigan at NC State
• Purdue at Pittsburgh
• Northwestern at Virginia Tech
• Miami (Fla.) at Nebraska

Wednesday, Dec. 2
• Indiana at Duke
• Louisville at Michigan State
• Notre Dame at Illinois
• Wisconsin at Syracuse
• Florida State at Iowa
• Penn State at Boston College