Final touches being added to UofL’s new Academic Center for ExcellenceWill be ready for student athletes by the 2016 fall semester

The new Thornton’s Center for Academic Excellence at the University of Louisville appeared Monday to be on target to meet its deadline for completion.

The Center, located at the south end of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, is scheduled to be done by the end of May, enabling the academic and athletic advisors to get ready for the fall semester. Window man

The 40,000-square-foot center will feature tutorial areas, a high-performance training table to feed student athletes, computer laboratories, and office and classroom space that will serve over 750 athletes across 23 sports on a daily basis.

Several key contributors helped support the funding of this project. Thorntons made the lead $3 million gift to the project, and in conjunction with Cardinals’ fans, helped raise approximately $6 million to their matching gift.

A total of $2.5 million dollars was raised through the generosity and partnership with the iconic brand of Maker’s Mark, while Stites and Harbison demonstrated their belief in the academic mission of the athletic department by committing $2 million to the project.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in February 2015, followed by the beginning of actual construction the following May.

The project has gone smoothly, providing a model of efficiency for the next addition to PJCS.  That would be the 10,000-seat expansion expected to begin after the 2016 fall football season.

Louisville football fans party, celebrate spring and Lamar Jackson

Crystal clear, sunny, 75 degrees, perfect day for the University of Louisville spring football game.

Celebrating spring, reuniting with old friends, enjoying no parking restrictions, packing the Green and Bronze lots, parking as close to the tunnel as possible.

24SpringGameMore than 16,000 fans on hand at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Saturday. More than ready for some football, the amplifiers going full blast for tailgating, screams piercing the air from the thrill rides, corn dogs being devoured in the carnival area. People of all ages, each seemingly wearing unique Cardinal gear.

The Red Rage Tailgate team was there, James Durst, Josh Stinson and Dave Magee with their converted bus, welcoming dozens of UofL fans. Free Bloody Mary’s, mixed drinks, doughnuts topping a full menu of early morning food. Invited any and all UofL fans to stop by, talk Cardinal sports. These guys live for football and tailgating, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

26SpringGameBesides quenching their thirst for tailgating, fans were eager to see Quarterback Lamar Jackson in action again. All those wide receivers, the running backs, a maturing offensive line, and all the players on defense who passed up the NFL draft to play UofL football another year.

Lamar Jackson would not disappoint, throwing for 519 yards and eight touchdowns, leading the Red team to a 73-7 victory over the White team in the annual Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Spring Game.

Jackson completed 24 of his 29 passes, including an 85-yard strike to James Quick toward the end of the second quarter. Jackson capped the half with a 54-yard score to Jamari Staples, his third touchdown pass of at least 40 yards. Quick, looking better than ever, with five catches for 152 yards.

Wide receiver Jaylen Smith also had five receptions, finishing with 99 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Cole Hikutini, who was on the receiving end of Jackson’s first two touchdown passes, an eight-yarder and a seven-yarder. He logged 75 yards.

On defense, Stacy Thomas and Chucky Williams each had a Red-team best seven tackles, with Thomas recording 2.5 for loss.

A great day to be a UofL football fan. Click on photos below for a sampling.



Jurich breaks silence in a big way

The best news in a few weeks for University of Louisville fans is that Tom Jurich remains aggressive and totally committed.

With all the noxious fumes emanating from the basketball scandal and the attacks on President Jim Ramsey, the University of Louisville’s athletic director had been quiet for a while. Publicly, anyway. But he has obviously been busy behind the scenes.

Tom Jurich fully engaged.
Tom Jurich fully engaged.

Jurich broke the silence on Thursday, announcing a new seven-year contract extension for head football coach Bobby Petrino worth $30.625 million and averaging $4.375 million per season. He also updated fans on the $55 million expansion plan for Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, reporting that almost $20 million has been raised, suggesting the stadium could possibly be completed in time for the 2018 season.

He obviously recognizes the importance of a successful football program to the university’s overall image, and will continue to be aggressive in ensuring that UofL will be a contender, not only in the Atlantic Coast Conference but on the national scene as well.

UofL’s athletic program has come a long way since the late Harry Jones was able to convince Jurich to come to Louisville in 1997. Were it not for Jones’ persistence — TJ turned him down four or five times — Jurich would still be out west. Colorado State, no doubt, would be in the Power 5 conference, celebrating numerous expansions and titles, instead of the obscurity the Mountain West Conference.

All of the turbulence engulfing UofL the past several months has had to have an effect on Jurich. Two of his closest associates — Jim Ramsey and Rick Pitino — have been under constant attack.  If ever there was a time for him to consider other options, no one would have blamed him if he had chosen to do so. He had to hurt personally by the sex scandal within the basketball program and mystified at the illogical attacks on a school administrator who has done wonders for the university, rivaling what Tom has done within the athletic program.

One also has to believe that he remains as privately supportive of Ramsey as he is publicly of his basketball coach.

Back in February, however, Jurich dismissed speculation that he had any interest in a vacancy at the University of Southern California, one of the most prestigious jobs in college athletics. “People say what they want because I’m from there . . . I’m staying right where I am,” he told a local TV station.

There will always be speculation in sports, but one has every reason to believe Jurich when he says he loves the University of Louisville, calling his current position the best job in college athletics. He has made possible some tremendous highs for the school while experiencing more than his share of extreme lows at the university.

Tom Jurich obviously has even bigger plans for the university.

Stadium expansion fund raising going well, thanks

The natural target date for the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium has always been September 2019 when the University of Louisville and Notre Dame football team are scheduled to collide at PJCS.

Count on UofL making that happen, possibly a year sooner.Screenshot 2016-04-15 09.39.05

Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich said Thursday that UofL has raised approximately $20 million. That’s $12 million more than was announced on Feb. 4, when UofL announced that $8 million had been pledged. That included corporate sponsorships of $5 million from Pepsi and $3 million from Planet Fitness.

Now comes the grind, shaking the bushes for the additional $30 million to make the expansion of the stadium a reality. Tom, along with his son Mark, who heads up the fund raising effort, are confident the project will happen. They indicated that expansion was likely to begin when they have raised at least half of the money.

UofL has commitments for all 12 of the premium boxes and about half of the 70 exclusive club level suites.

They indicated that the project was inevitable when they had raised at least of the money. Construction could possibly begin at the end of the 2016 season and be completed in time for the 2018 season.

Tackling game is changing in college football

Something to keep an eye on during spring training at the University of Louisville football complex.

Some changes are coming to one of football’s most basic elements, hopefully making the game safer for the players. There appears to be an irreversible shift toward tacklers aiming their shoulders, rugby-style, instead of their heads to bring down ball carriers.

The tackling technique begins in the weight room during the off-season, with players lifting weights under supervision three times per week. One of those exercises is the development of neck muscles, with players lifting 25-pound weights via a harness attached to their heads. This is why you see former football players with such wide necks. A strong muscular neck helps to prevent broken necks.

England's Jamie Noon tackles Ireland's Andrew Trimble

Traditionally tacklers have been taught to put their head and facemask on the ball carrier’s breastbone, wrapping their arms and hands around the ball carrier’s legs and beneath his butt, lifting upward and driving the ball carrier downward towards the ground.

Rugby tackling however, places emphasis on tackling with the shoulder into a ball carrier’s stomach area. The tackler still must be in a correct football ready position, head-up and focusing on the belt buckle area. The object is to shift focus from the ball carrier’s breastbone area to the ball carrier’s stomach area. Lowering the hit area alone should decrease concussions.

As UofL’s Bobby Petrino told a local columnist in March, “It truly is safe. . .The difference is more emphasis on tackling with your shoulder and not your head and, once you make contact, rolling. I think they did take it from the rugby game.”

If this tackling technique does away with some concussions or destroyed knees, everyone should embrace the change.