Derby Day another excuse for UofL fans to party

University of Louisville alumni will have plenty reasons to celebrate across the nation Saturday in addition to the traditional Kentucky Derby parties, and many will be wearing championship apparel. Alumni parties are planned far and wide.

The University of Louisville marching band will play the traditional version of My Old Kentucky Home once again at the 139th Kentucky Derby.
The University of Louisville marching band will play the traditional version of My Old Kentucky Home once again at the 139th Kentucky Derby.
  • Los Angeles: Dave and Tammy Radan, members of UofL’s Southern California Alumni Club, are hosting a Derby Watch party they promise “will knock your hooves off – from Mint Juleps to an original Kentucky home cooked spread, including everything from burgoo and fried chicken …” No country ham? Guests are encouraged to bring extra cash for betting and a silent auction.
  • Frankfort:  The Capital Region Alumni Club at Buffalo Wild Wings, with raffles throughout the day, as well as prizes for the best dressed and for the most creative Derby hat.
  • Miami:  Damon Stinson, president of the South Florida Cards, has organized an event at the Calder Casino & Race Course at Miami Gardens.
  • Phoenix: Roger Hayes of the Arizona Alumni Club will be hosting fellow fans at Gallagher’s Sports Club.
  • Elsewhere, alumni parties are being hosted by Jill Duvall in St. Louis; George Ellard in Mississippi, Kelly Hanton in Philadelphia, and Paul Hanks in Houston.  UofL Alumni Association Guide here.

A national championship and runner-up in basketball, a BCS Sugar Bowl football trophy, the invitation to the Atlantic Coast Conference, combined with the Derby. Could be a wild day for many UofL fans.

Pitino ecstatic following Sugar Bowl win

In case anybody was wondering, Rick Pitino is still raving about the University of Louisville football team’s 33-23 win over Florida in the BCS Sugar Bowl.

“That was absolutely awesome,” he said during Saturday morning TV show. “The coaching staff found out what Louisville’s supporters are really like. They show up 30,000-plus, the Gators had under 10,000. The football coaches and Charlie found out about the fans here, and how they get behind everything of excellence.”

It’s a WHAS-TV video which means it will take a while to load. When you finally give up, it will begin. Honest. Don’t quit on it.

Basketball break good for Sugar Bowl celebrants

A good thing for University of Louisville basketball, the break in the schedule between the football team’s Sugar Bowl win over Florida, giving the community extra time to celebrate the immensity of the Sugar Bowl win for the football program.

The commitment of James Quick, a top-rated wide receiver from Trinity, to UofL on Saturday for next season, followed by a verbal from Trinity quarterback Reggie Bonnafon on Sunday to the 2014 class, adding to the euphoria. Recruiting Coordinator Clint Hurtt tweeting that UofL is ready to kick in the recruiting door.

Seems like the only people associated with the University who didn't go were Kenny Klein and his immediate staff.

What’s next? Possibly an ESPN-arranged showdown with another top 10 football team next season. Teddy Bridgewater is too good a quarterback and Charlie Strong a success story for the network to ignore, making UofL a prime candidate for a made-for-TV gridiron showdown.

Or how about Tom Jurich going ahead and expanding Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium by 10,000 seats to a capacity of 65,000, with construction to begin immediately after the conclusion of the 2013 and completed in time for entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014.

Difficult to imagine basketball taking a back seat to any sport in Louisville but that’s exactly what happened last week, with 25,000-plus fans making the trip to New Orleans. A sea of red dominating one side of the Superdome from end zone to end zone, from the field level all the way up to the 600 section.

Kenny Klein
Kenny Klein

Seems like the only people associated with the University who didn’t go were UofL Sports Information Director Kenny Klein and his immediate staff. They were conspicuous on the scorer’s table during the basketball game against Providence, entrusting Rocco Gasparro, the football info director, with the biggest challenge of his career.

Rick Pitino’s troops get back into action Wednesday at Seton Hall. While basketball has been good to UofL, paying most of the bills until now, the observer has always believed that having a strong football program is the key to achieving national respect for the athletic program. Jurich’s continued emphasis on football, punctuated by the success of Charlie Strong, was a decisive factor in getting to the ACC.

Maintaining the perception of the program will be a challenge in a sport largely dominated by the traditional powers, with their pervasive influence on the kow-towing sports media and its selective memory. One or two big wins over major competition are sometimes dismissed. Just ask Boise State.

Somehow strengthening the 2013 schedule is a prerequisite with all the changes and uncertainty of the Big East. A showcase game, perhaps against Strong’s old boss, Urban Meyer at Ohio State, would certainly help bridge the gap to the ACC and the end of the scheduling struggles.

Not one to rest on any laurels, Tom Jurich is fully aware of football’s continuing challenges and opportunities, maintaining his focus. Savor the Sugar Bowl memories, keep the celebration going, stock up on mementoes, enjoy the re-convening of the basketball season, and anticipate more significant announcements about the football program.

Milestone for a 3-year-old Louisville football fan

Reccius

Some day in the next decade, a teenager named Brinley Reccius is going to stumble across a photo of herself in the arms of her mom and dad on the Internet standing outside the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

She was a 3-year-old when the photo was taken, her head covered in a crocheted turban with a red ribbon to protect her from the wind, the sprinkles and the 45 degree temperature in New Orleans. That’s the way they did it back in the good old days, Brinley. Keeping you warm was what counted.

That and the big football game. A major event for mom and dad, Shannon and Jeremy Reccius, the young family traveling all the way from Louisville to New Orleans.  It was a chance to be a part of history, their University of Louisville football team taking on fourth-ranked Florida in the BCS Sugar Bowl.

No one gave their football team a chance, the pundits predicting a 21-p0int win for Florida over the upstart Cardinals. And that was just being nice.

Louisville, however, would dominate its SEC opponent from the beginning to the very end with a 33-23 outcome, serving notice to the world that UofL football had risen to another plateau. You were one of an estimated 25,000 fans who witnessed the milestone, one of many more to come.