Notre Dame right opponent to welcome new era for Louisville football

Notre Dame is coming.

Not news to anyone but some of us had a hard time believing that would ever happen, the Irish showing up at Cardinal Stadium. Notre Dame is coming, one keeps repeating to himself.

Were it not for last season’s dismal season, the opening game against the Irish would have been the most anticipated game in University of Louisville football history. One has every reason to believe it will be a sellout and, in all likelihood, will set a new single game attendance record.

Some would argue that it couldn’t come at a worst time, with UofL coming off the most embarrassing seasons in the program’s history. Louisville has has had worse won-lost records, losing every game in the 1931 and 1932 seasons with identical 0-8 records. UofL won only 17 of 70 games during that decade.

Fact is the game against Notre Dame could have come under worse conditions. Bobby Petrino would still be coaching UofL football had Athletic Director Vince Tyra not had the guts to eat the $14 million payoff.  Sent Petrino packing. He’s gone, hopefully never to be seen in Louisville again.

Last year’s humiliating 2-10 record followed a $70 million expansion of Cardinal Stadium, buoyed by numerous finishes in the top 20. Growing seating capacity from 55,000 to 60,000-plus. Louisville was a contender, having earned national respect, greatly boosting the athletic department’s overall reputation. No longer just a basketball school.

Two seasons after Louisville football had risen to No. 3 in the national polls and competing for the college football playoffs. Those aspirations crashing down to earth following a 36-10 loss to Houston in the next-to-last game of the 2016 season. The Cardinals allowing 50 points in seven games during an awful 2018 season.

This season’s opener has been designated a Black Out game, with fans being encouraged to wear black. Not that any extra incentive was needed to get UofL fans there, not with Notre Dame being the opponent in the opening game of the season.

Ten months is a long time between seasons, especially between tailgating sessions for party-loving Louisville partisans. The long wait is over and there’s new blood with Coach Scott Satterfield and his enthusiastic staff. One has to believe last season’s team could not possibly have been as bad it looked at times.

It’s a new beginning for UofL football, fans recognizing there are going to be some significant challenges. Those of us who have been following the program for several decades, however, have been there before. Going to require a lot of patience and persistence, the kind that enabled UofL to become a national contender just a few years ago.

So forgive long-time Louisville fans if they are more than a little ecstatic that Notre Dame football is coming to town.

Bad taste still lingers from Bobby Petrino’s final season

The best news for Louisville football fans is that there will no third coming of Bobby Petrino.

One more slap at Bobby Petrino and one can move forward.

Fans can’t look forward to the University of Louisville’s 2019 football season without  negative thoughts about the former coach and the total ineptness that permeated the program last year.

Petrino at his lowest ebb, punishing the very people willing to give him a second chance.

One has to go back a couple of decades, to 1997, to match the sense of futility of UofL  fans in the program. Even so, Ron Cooper’s last team, which finished 1-10, was better than Petrino’s last unit with a 2-10 record . Cooper’s team was occasionally competitive, Petrino’s team was never in most games in the second half.

The guys who played for Cooper were outmanned and outclassed, playing out of their league. Petrino’s players had lost all respect, sensing he really didn’t care about them or the outcome of the games. Just hanging around for a $14 million buyout check.

A good number of fans are still around from earlier decades, with lots of memories about how the University of Louisville struggled for respectability. They were there long before the winning seasons, the packed stadiums, all the big bowl games, all the anticipatory pre-season expectations.

So for many of them, it’s like starting all over again. The only solace is that Petrino is gone. Well, that and the fact that there will not be a third coming  in Louisville. Banished to obscurity somewhere in a Florida mansion.

The good news is that UofL may have hired an up and coming new coach in Scott Satterfield. A coach who has the ability to work with people, who is able to hire and work with competent staff, who cares about the players, and is confident in his abilities to steer the program in the right direction.

These Louisville fans have been through the good and the bad, not only in football but in basketball. They’re willing to go through it all again, knowing all the pitfalls and the rewards of struggling program. Confident that UofL football will have begun its return to respectability.

Satterfield quietly maintaining focus on Louisville football

Scott Satterfield on the mound for the University of Louisville (Photo by Jared Anderson).

Some polite applause as Scott Satterfield took to the mound on Tuesday for the ceremonial first pitch prior to the University of Louisville-Vanderbilt baseball game. After a quick acknowledgment, throwing a perfect strike into Zeke Pinkham’s mitt.

Strictly business, watching a few innings before heading back to the Howard Schnellenberger football complex.

Scott Satterfield (Courier-Journal photo).

Pretty obvious from his first few months in town that Satterfield doesn’t bring a ton of charisma to his job as the new University of Louisville football coach. One could be standing behind him in line at the cash register and not make the connection.

Quiet and unassuming, not an individual who’s going to excite the masses with his presence. Never going to resort to hype to sell football tickets, never going to ride an elephant, or compare UofL fans to UK fans. He has more important things to do, faced with the enormous challenge of undoing the damage of his predecessor to the Louisville football program.

The program took an unprecedented nose dive just months after a new board of trustees was installed. Reports surfaced that Bobby Petrino would not be around very long. The former coach owed a lot to former President Jim Ramsey and former Athletic Director Tom Jurich after Petrino’s downfall after the Arkansas scandal.  In the end, a $14 million buyout seemed to be his only motivation.

Rarely has a college football program fallen so quickly and so far than UofL football did under Petrino.

One of Satterfield’s first discoveries was that there seemed to be little rhyme or reason to Petrino’s recruiting practices. More than a dozen wide receivers on hand but only just a handful of offensive linemen, for example. Outside of practice sessions, the players saw very little of Petrino, many of them not even knowing the location of the coach’s office in the football facility.

Petrino was so unlikeable in his profession that he had serious problems hiring and keeping good assistants. So much damage, shaking the very foundations of the program.

So please forgive Scott Satterfield if he seems a bit pre-occupied with all the issues that Petrino left in his wake. Don’t expect any optimistic predictions or quick turnarounds. Not going to be easy, more than likely a long drawn-out grind that’s going to require a lot of patience from fans. 

Scraping bottom at present but, with a coaching staff that actually cares, the program can only get better. Satterfield knows that and has little time for distractions.

Notre Dame is going to pack Cardinal Stadium Sept. 2, hype or no hype.

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.

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.