Nothing came before UofL football for Owsley Frazier

No surprise to anyone who has followed University of Louisville football for any length of time that Owsley B. Frazier would be among the people attending the press conference in December 2010 when Charlie Strong was introduced as head football coach.

No surprise either that Frazier would be the first person Tom Jurich wanted Charlie Strong to meet. Frazier had always supported the football program, making major donations for the original construction of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and the recent expansion.

Frazier attended games with his good friend Bill Stone, the owner of Louisville Plate Glass and former University trustee and Athletic Association board member. They were also members of an expansion committee in the seventies when the old Fairgrounds Stadium was converted from baseball for football.

“He was passionate about UofL football,” said Stone. “We were going to games when there were only 6,000 or 7,000 people in the stands.  The UofL football schedule was his fall schedule. Everything else had to be rearranged so he could attend the games.

Charlie Strong would be one of the few people to visit with Frazier this week before his death.

Frazier probably would have passed on the upcoming Princess Diana extravaganza at the Frazier History Museum because of a scheduling conflict with a Louisville football game. He was known to have snubbed the wedding of a family member for the same reason. “Owsley didn’t let anything interfere with his football,” said Stone.

He also attended many games on the road with Stone over the years. “The last game he was able to travel to was the Orange Bowl,” said Stone. “He was tremendously excited about the future of the program under Charlie Strong.”

Strong would be one of the few people to visit with Frazier this week before his death. “Owsley was looking forward to attending the game against the University of Kentucky this season because he believed 2012 was going to be a great season,” said Stone. “Charlie thanked him again for his support again. Owsley wanted to know how the team was doing and Charlie reviewed the players and positions for him. Owsley was excited.

“He loved football more than anything. Owsley was able to get out to see one practice this summer. I think if Charlie Strong had scheduled a midnight practice, Owsley would have been there.”

Stone said Frazier was suffering from a number of health concerns. “He had vascular problems, arthritis problems, circulation problems and lots of other stuff over the last couple of years.”

But that didn’t affect Frazier’s decision in December to donate $25 million to the University. “He would have done that even if he were healthy as a horse or had the physique of an Olympic athlete He expected to be around for a while,” he added. “But he also knew he was getting older and he wanted to give the money  while he was still alive.”

So appropriate that the visitation Tuesday for Owsley Frazier will be at the Brown & Williamson Club at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Owsley Frazier, wearing his U of L baseball cap, with his close friend Bill Stone. They attended home games together and, when Frazier was healthy, often made road trips for away games.

Frazier Just Keeps On Giving

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Owsley Frazier, chairman of the Board of Trustees, the namesake of Frazier Cardinal Park and one of the University of Louisville’s most influential football fans, has done it again. This time reaching in his pockets for a $1.5 million gift to the university for physical medicine and rehabilitation services.

The guess here is that he has more than enough spare change for other pressing projects in the vicinity of the Louisville football complex.


Name The Downtown Arena

The chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority reports that the group is closing in on naming rights for the new downtown arena, with three companies currently vying for the honor. Jim Host expressed confidence after Monday’s meeting that the authority can get $40 million over 20 years for the rights.

The parties involved in those negotiations have been a closely guarded secret. This allows for a lot of idle speculation on the part of greatly interested fans. Which company will have its name on the University of Louisville basketball palace, the future crown jewel of college basketball kingdom? On what will be the most prominent feature in the city’s skyline, their identity becoming an integral part of the community’s identity, featured indefinitely in pictorial atlases around the world? A few guesses:

United Parcel Service — The UPS folks love Louisville and especially the University of Louisville for creating tailored educational opportunities for their employees. Executives of the city’s largest employer also say they think the city is the ideal location for its major shipping hub. The company has already indicated that it will make a major contribution to the football stadium expansion, the extent of which has yet to be announced. The only drawback is the company’s corporate color is brown. Much creativity would be required to mesh brown with red and black.

YUM — Yum is the world’s largest restaurant company with nearly 36,000 establishments in 110 countries and territories. The corporate headquarters are based in Louisville. They have good relations with UofL, having already ponied up millions for Rick Pitino’s luxury-laden basketball practice facility on Floyd Street. One would hope, however, that the idea for a Kentucky Fried Chicken Bucket has been put on the back burner and relegated to the trash heap. There should be no confusion about whether this is a Louisville or Kentucky facility. We can live with Yum.

Papa John’s — Yeah, Papa John Schnatter withdrew his money for a downtown arena a while back but he could be having second thoughts. He could probably see the new arena from the location in Jeffersonville where he started his pizza empire as a young entrepreneur in a broom closet. Having the company’s name on the university’s two most prominent athletic facilities would make him one of the community’s most beloved civic leaders. We hear he’s back as the CEO, and he could make a little extra money in one of the world’s largest pizza houses.

Brown-Forman — A better name would be the Owsley Brown Frazier Arena for the former chairman of the company which has invested heavily in the community for decades. Frazier has probably personally donated almost as much as the company has over the years. Companies usually like to promote themselves or their products so he would probably demur.  But if anyone deserves to have their name featured so prominently on the city’s skyline, it is Owsley Brown Frazier.

Which companies do you think are negotiating for the rights? What name would you like to see on the new downtown arena?

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When Owsley Calls, People Listen

Every U of L fan who appreciates the phenomenal growth of the University of Louisville owes a debt of gratitude to Owsley Brown Frazier. This giant of a man has dreamed big, given generously and worked tirelessly on U of L’s behalf, always demanding and expecting excellence.

A U of L grad with two degrees and an ardent Card fan, Frazier joined the family business, Brown Forman Corp., in 1960, rising to the position of Chairman & Chief Executive Officer. Despite the demands of the business, Frazier continued to serve in a wide variety of capacities at the university, including the Board of Trustees and the Board of Overseers.

You will find his name on many academic and athletic facilities. Gifts have ranged a $350,000 donation in 1984 to the College of Business and Public Administration to $1 million in 1998 to refurbish the U of L President’s home on Longest Avenue. He has contributed well over $1 million to athletics, and was the force behind Cardinal Park, which bears his name, and also has been involved in the downtown arena project and the Papa John’s Stadium expansion. As U of L Magazine noted:

What makes Frazier such a successful fund-raiser is that he works only for causes in which he believes. He would not ask anyone else to contribute money or time to something unless he has done so himself. “My leadership style is to be a convincer, to demonstrate my own belief in a project, which makes me a more powerful salesperson,” he says.

When Owsley calls, people listen. Frazier not only gives generously but he also uses his clout to get the financial support and personal involvement of other movers and shakers. While he appreciates and supports the arts, Brown broke the mold of old-money Louisville families by also providing strong backing for U of L athletics. Name a major project at U of L, and he has probably been involved.

So this observer takes this opportunity to thank Owsley Brown Frazier for what he has done and continues to do. Equally important is what his efforts will make possible in the future. Thank you, indeed.