Hard to believe where the University of Louisville athletics were when a teenager started following the Cardinals in earnest in the mid-fifties to what the program has become over the past decade or so.
UofL had a long, long way to go as it entered the second half of the century. The basketball team was playing in the downtown Armory and the football and baseball teams at Parkway Field. Pathetic facilities, low attendance, lack of energy, resulting from decades of indifference and a dearth of local political leadership.
That would begin to change, thanks to involved corporate leaders and visionary groups like the Louisville Development Committee, Leadership Louisville, and the University of Louisville Foundation. The community would gradually awaken to the possibilities that a growing and vibrant University could bring to the community.
The biggest game changer of all would come with the hiring of Tom Jurich as Athletic Director by President John Shumaker in 1997. Jurich would create an unprecedented level of momentum over 15 years, changing the face of the University while earning for him the respect and awe of the community, the alumni and fellow athletic directors across the country.
A few milestones along the way. Feel free to add to the list if some are missing:
- 1956 – Louisville wins National Invitation Tournament
- 1956 – Basketball team moves from the Armory to Freedom Hall
- 1956 – Football moves to Fairground Stadium.
- 1959 – UofL basketball makes first NCAA Final Four
- 1971 – Denny Crum hired as basketball coach
- 1973 – Fairgrounds stadium expanded from 21,000 to 36,000 for football
- 1974 — Tailgating begins at Louisville football games
- 1980 — First NCAA basketball championship
- 1984 – Freedom Hall renovation to allow VIP suites
- 1984 – Hiring of Howard Schnellenberger as football coach
- 1986 – Second NCAA basketball championship
- 1991 – Football team defeats Alabama in Fiesta Bowl
- 1992 – Athletic Director Bill Olson begins fund drive for football stadium
- 1995 — John Shumaker hired as University President
- 1997 – Tom Jurich hired as Athletic Director
- 1998 – Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium opens
- 2000 — Owsley Frazier Cardinal Park opens
- 2001 – Rick Pitino hired as basketball coach
- 2002 — James Ramsey hired as University President
- 2003 – Bobby Petrino hired as football coach
- 2005 – UofL joins Big East Conference
- 2005 – Jim Patterson Stadium opens for baseball
- 2007 – Football team wins BCS Orange Bowl
- 2007 – Baseball team goes to the College World Series
- 2007 – Jeff Walz hired as women’s basketball coach
- 2009 – Women’s basketball team runner up in NCAA tournament
- 2009 – Charlie Strong hired as football coach
- 2009 – Papa John’s Stadium capacity increased to 55,000
- 2010 – Basketball moves to KFC Yum! Center
- 2013 – Construction of soccer stadium begins
- 2013 – Football team win BCS Sugar Bowl
- 2013 – Third NCAA men’s basketball championship
- 2013 – Women’s basketball national runner-up
- 2014 – Bobby Petrino rehired as football coach
- 2014 – UofL joins Atlantic Coast Conference