Cabooses more valuable to UofL than additional parking

UofLCardGame photo

By Ed Peak

Say it’s not so.

An alarming story in the local newspaper on Wednesday about the cabooses parked at the north end of Cardinal Stadium. They may be gone soon. All 14 of them, those romantic reminders of America’s past. 

It may not seem a big loss to some but in reality the cabooses are a huge deal, greatly enhancing the atmosphere surrounding University of Louisville football games. I absolutely love them.

These cabooses host hundreds of boosters and fans before and after games. A local radio station does a pregame show from one of the cabooses. There is always a buzz there on game days. People thoroughly enjoying themselves.

According to the Courier-Journal, Caboose Express pays about $19,000 a year to lease the cars, which are on state land, and in turn rents them out each for about $15,000 per year — or about $210,000 annually. It also provides one caboose to U of L for free, according to contracts attached to the suit.

The UofL Athletic Association has  notified the caboose owner that the lease will be terminated. The space is more valuable now than 20 years ago when the cabooses arrived. Apparently U of L wants the cabooses, or the space, for itself.

But Cardinal Stadium and the surrounding areas have many places to park. It is currently used as a party area as many cabooses having full kitchens. Some fans watch Cardinal baseball on top of the cabooses during the NCAA baseball tournament, especially when Jim Patterson Stadium is sold out.

The University of Louisville Athletics Department needs more revenue. Athletic Director Vince Tyra has been forced to squeeze every nickel, dime and penny out of every revenue source. Let the finger-pointing begin.

This goes back to former Athletic Director Tom Jurich and two coaches. Football coach Bobby Petrino who left he Cardinal football program in shambles when he was asked to leave in November and owed $16 million. Rick Pitino and his deny, deny, deny tactics. It wasn’t me. I don’t know anything. Costing Cardinals athletics lost lots of revenue.

That the ULAA would even consider doing away with cabooses may be an indication of deeply that athletic program has been affected by all of the damaging events over the past three years. It’s a mistake, however, to assume that more parking revenue would make up for the loss of the cabooses.

Time for the Athletic Association to go back to Caboose Express and renegotiate the terms of the lease. Those cabooses represent far more potential for profit than any new parking schemes. Their loss would be a major blow to the optics of University of Louisville football.

 

Satterfield eager to begin Louisville spring football

Scott Satterfield eager to get his player on the football field as spring practice begins Monday.

Two months after he was hired at the University of Louisville, Coach Scott Satterfield was introducing the newest members of his first recruiting class on Wednesday at the Howard Schnellenberger football complex. Now he can finally focus on cleaning up the mess left by his predecessor.

The coach he replaced having lost the confidence and respect of his assistant coaches, the players, the administration and the fans, finishing the 2018 season with a humiliating 2-10 record. Still another unhappy ending from Bobby Petrino. Par for the course for him, but a double whammy for UofL following two tenures.

Satterfield hasn’t had much time to work with the players he inherited from Petrino. When he was hired on December 4th, he was faced with the challenges of hiring an entirely new staff,  evaluating the existing commitments before the early signing date of December 19th, and then hitting the recruiting trail in earnest. 

The UofL coach acknowledged that getting his staff and first recruiting class together was a time-consuming process. He was, however, pleased with reports from the strength coaches that players were making significant progress in the weight room. 

Satterfield will have plenty of time to know his players starting on Monday with the beginning of the spring training camp. He’s not making any assumptions about what went wrong under Petrino, saying everyone is starting off with a clean slate.

He will have 15 days to begin to reverse some of the failures of the second Petrino era, to instill a new culture with a winning attitude, and new offensive and defensive schemes at Louisville. Major challenges for any coach but Satterfield can’t wait to get started.

“The Louisville brand is a good one, the program has had a lot of success, with some major accomplishments,” he said. “The response from high school coaches has been awesome. They know what went on here before and what we want to do. What Louisville has been able to do in the past has been awesome.”

“Our staff did an outstanding job of going out, working their tails off to get the kind of players we need at Louisville,” he said. “We’re glad to get much of the administrative stuff behind us. We’re eager to get out on the field and begin the process of getting better as a football team.

40,457 packed Fairgrounds Stadium for fight night against Tennessee

One of the most anticipated games in the history of Fairgrounds Stadium had to be the University of Louisville football showdown against the University of Tennessee on Sept. 5, 1991.  Big time football had arrived.

Every square inch of the old baseball stadium was packed for UofL’s game against Tennessee that night.

Coach Howard Schnellenberger had convinced the Volunteers, a national power at the time, to play in a revamped baseball stadium. The community was hyped, with such Louisville legends as Johnny Unitas, Pee Wee Reece, Lenny Lyles, Darrell Griffith and Paul Hornung being introduced before the game.

The next guest was none other than Muhammed Ali, the former heavyweight champion of the world. Ali would arrive in a limousine and shadowbox with the chubby Cardinal Bird at the 50-yard line. To the chants of “Ali, Ali, Ali” in the jam-packed stadium. Over and over again for several minutes.

According to UofL stats guru Kelly Dickey, the official attendance for the game was 40,457 — the largest crowd in the history of the old Cardinal Stadium.

Big time football, indeed. Just a few months earlier, on Jan. 1, 1991, the Cardinals had scored a milestone win over Alabama — a 34-7 thrashing in the Fiesta Bowl. The week following the Tennessee game, Louisville was scheduled to play Ohio State in Columbus.

The outpouring of UofL support provided Schnellenberger with ammunition to push for Louisville to start fundraising for construction of its own football stadium. Which would come to fruition in 1998 with Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Nobody was keeping count but there had to be a record number of fights between opposing fans. “It was unlike anything we had ever seen,” recalled Bill Olsen, former athletic director. “Fights were breaking out everywhere. I was called before the athletic board the next week for an explanation.”

One of the major reasons was that Tennessee required 15,000 seats for its traveling fans. “It wasn’t feasible to contain the visiting fans in one section. We had only about 2,000 seats in the visitors section so all the Tennessee fans had to be interspersed with U of L fans throughout the stadium.

“It was not a good situation to begin with,” he says. “The place was packed with people in every available space, and Tennessee fans are pretty serious about their football. We also had a lot of fans not used to having access to beer.”

Tensions were high at the half because Tennessee only led by a touchdown.  UT fans feared Howard Schnellenberger and remembered that U of L thumping of Alabama a few months earlier. Jeff Brohm was quarterbacking in only the second game of his UofL career. The future looked bright for Louisville football.

Tennessee broke it open in the third quarter, however, winning the game 28-11. It was a skirmish many fans would not soon forget. UofL fans loved their football, and Fairgrounds Stadium was home sweet home for now.

Culture change in high gear for Louisville football

Editor’s Note: Rarely will the Observer go with a release verbatim from the Sports Information Office but this one, penned by UofL’s Stephen Williams, is just too good to pass up:

Culture has been a commonly referenced term for the University of Louisville football program amidst the transition to head coach Scott Satterfield.

Scott Satterfield is rapidly gaining respect in the Louisville football complex.

When Satterfield was introduced as the new head coach of the Cardinals on Dec. 4, culture was a consistent theme of his opening message.

“It starts with our culture, so that’s what we’re going to work on,” Satterfield said in his opening press conference. “That’s what this offseason is going to be about. When you get that stuff straight, then the wins will start coming.”

Satterfield inherits a Louisville program that struggled in 2018, but a roster hungry to put it in the rearview mirror. As winter workouts have reached the halfway point, current Cardinals have taken note of the culture change in progress.

“A lot of it came from the team,” rising junior safety TreSean Smith said. “Guys came in with new energy. They want to get better. Everyone wants to compete at the highest level and get better each and every day.”

The culture change is a process that starts at the top however, with a new coaching staff pushing to get the most out of its players.

“There’s a new vibe from the new coaches coming in from different areas,” Smith added. “They bring in a little bit of their energy and combine that with a little bit of our energy and it works out for us.”

Before the Cardinals step on the field under Satterfield’s watch, the work begins in the weight room under the direction of the new head of strength and conditioning for football, Mike Sirignano.

“They kill us every day, in a good way,” rising sophomore defensive back Chandler Jones commented. “Coach Mike (Sirignano) is real energetic and gets into us and is able to get the best out of us. A lot of us are going to get a lot faster this year.”

Hard work and an increased energy level have been at the forefront of the change in culture, but there’s been an added focus from Satterfield’s staff in one particular area.

“Accountability. They’ve changed a lot of things around,” Smith stated. “You have to be accountable for everything that you do. You’re not late to anything, you’re at everything on time five minutes before. They show no leniency to anyone.”

The Cardinals take the field for the first practice of the spring on Feb. 11.

Louisville football poised for attendance records in 2019

A no-brainer really.

A bold prediction here as the schedule is announced for the 2019 University of Louisville football season, based on the combination of a new coach and one of the sport’s most hallowed programs.  

The opening game against the University of Notre Dame will set an all-time  attendance record for a football game in Louisville, attracting between 63,000 and 65,000 people to Cardinal Stadium. 

Even higher if Athletic Director Vince Tyra wants to fill every cavity in the stadium, which was expanded from 55,000 to 61,500 prior to last season.

The current record for a UofL home game was 55,642 on Sept. 16, 2016. The game was featured on ESPN’s Game Day. Louisville fans were attracted by a tenth-ranked Louisville versus second-ranked Florida State. No contest that day, with the Cardinals throttling the Seminoles 63-10.

Scott Satterfield’s first game as the new head coach signals a whole new beginning for UofL football, bringing with him a whole new staff, a fresh outlook and a commitment from the University to compete at the highest levels. 

Notre Dame, of course, has one of the largest fan bases in the country and attracts capacity crowds wherever it plays. Always has, probably always will.

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If Louisville football is on the uptick under the new staff next season, expect another capacity crowd to be on hand on Saturday, Oct. 19 for a game against Clemson, the defending national champion, with Heisman Trophy candidate Trevor Lawrence.

Clemson has played in Cardinal Stadium twice since UofL joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, attracting 55,396 and 55,588 during the 2015 and 2017 seasons, respectively.

*    *   *

UofL fans will also help Western Kentucky establish a new all-time attendance record at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green. That is if WKU officials can somehow increase the stadium’s capacity for the game against Louisville on Sept. 14.

Louisville owns a 20-12 advantage in the series. The current WKY record is 23,674 for a game against Vanderbilt on Sept. 24, 2016. One can easily anticipate at that many UofL fans making the two-hour trip for this year’s game on Sept. 14.

UofL hasn’t played a football game in Bowling Green since 1949.

 2019 Schedule:

Sept. 2 — Notre Dame

Sept. 7 — Eastern Kentucky

Sept. 14 — At Western Kentucky


Sept. 21 — At Florida State


Oct. 5 — Boston College


Oct. 12 — At Wake Forest


Oct. 19 — Clemson


Oct. 26 — Virginia


Nov. 9 — At Miami


Nov. 16 — At North Carolina State


Nov. 23 — Syracuse


Nov. 30 — At Kentucky