Time To Reign In The Grousing

By Charlie Springer

Lots of people wanting to prolong the drama about the University of Louisville football coaching staff these days. Some seem to think that if they make enough noise Tom Jurich is going to change his mind about giving Steve Kragthorpe another year.

Yeah, like that’s really going happen. Reign it in a bit, folks, get behind the program. If it doesn’t work out, a new coach will arrive just in time for an expanded stadium.

People have always grumbled about losing. They just didn’t have Internet message boards to commiserate and commiserate, rehash and rehash the same old arguments, over and over and over again. The negativism is bound to wear thin sooner or later, leaving only the most  obnoxious to communicate, each attempting to be more nastier than the next.

Everybody else willl move on.

Unfortunately that’s down the road a bit. The sad thing about it is that all the bitching is bound to have a negative impact on recruiting.

This observer wants Kragthorpe to be successful. Not expecting any major turn around next season, but anticipating some signs of progress. If it’s not to be, one will look forward to supporting the next coaching regime.

*     *    *

Found this bit on sanity on Brian Bennett’s Big East blog:

Kevin Fritz from Louisville writes: With Latarrius Thomas and Matt Simms leaving Louisville, plus the growing turnover of coaches exiting and possibly being demoted, isn’t it obvious that Steve Kragthorpe has lost control of this program and needs to gracefully exit now? That way a new coach can be brought in and salvage what could be one of the school’s worst recruiting classes in recent memory.

Brian Bennett: That would be a wild overreaction. Nobody likes to lose players, but Matt Simms probably wasn’t going to start anyway, and Thomas has been plagued by injuries. The program will survive their defections.

And a little more on Tom Heiser’s Courier-Journal fan blog:

Simms’ big shot to make a name for himself next year, or even insinuate himself into a quarterback controversy this past season, went about as smoothly as his Tin Man delivery … With the addition of N.C. State transfer Justin Burke (the presumed heir apparant), JUCO standout Adam Froman, plus holdovers Tyler Wolfe and Zach Stoudt, the Cards are already employing the “kitchen sink” strategy at reviving the offense. One marginal, discipline-deficient signal caller off the roster is no great tragedy.

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A Christmas Wish List

A letter to Santa Claus and a Christmas wish list for University of Louisville atheltics

By Sonja Sykes

Dear Santa Claus,

I hope you’ve noticed I’ve been a really good girl this year (Okay, forget the Pittsburgh trip and the infield on Oaks Day) and I’d like for you to grant some wishes for me and my buddies down at the University of Louisville. I’ll leave a big plate of white macadamia nut cookies and egg nog under the tree, and something to “spike” it up a bit, if you want. Say “Hi” to Mrs. Claus and the reindeer, and the cute elves for me, and stay warm Christmas Eve!

For the UofL football team: A winning season and a bowl trip next season. An injury-free season for Vic, Doug, Trent and Scott and maybe a few moments of peace and quiet for Mr. Kragthorpe.

For the UofL men’s basketball team: A Big East title (regular season and conference) and a trip to the NCAA Final Four. Maybe a national title, too? Maybe tickets for me and friends to attend? Give T-Will lots of chances to dunk, Earl a ton of “Mississippi-like” games, Samardo the freshman of the Year award and give me two guards that will get it done.

For the Lady Cards basketball team: A Player of the Year award for Angel McCoughtry, a Big East title, a trip to the NCAA Final Four and maybe they could win it all, too? Tickets for that, too…if you will.  Give Tise a healthy knee, the frosh a great first year, and Jeff Walz Coach of the year. See you at Pack The House?

For the UofL baseball team: Another trip to the Omaha World Series, a batting title for Chris Dominguez, full stands for every home game and strong pitching and great hitting!

For the men’s soccer team: Make Ken Lolla’s prediction of an NCAA title come true.

For the women’s field hockey team: A ton of wins and titles, too. For Pam Bustin, the best record ever and lots of good freshmen to continue the success she’s had. I’d ask for just one more year of eligibility for me, but
I’d need those twenty-year-old legs and stamina again, if that were possible.

For Leonard Yelin and his volleyball team: Lots of tall girls who can spike, dig, serve and block.  Maybe an NCAA Championship game or two or three, and a full arena for each home game.

For Tom Jurich: Unprecdented success for all his teams, more donors and funding and less whiners and gripers. Successful completion of the football stadium expansion and basketball arena would be nice, too.  For his staff and coaches, raises across the board!

I know I’m asking for a lot here, Mr. Claus but I believe in the magic of Christmas and that if you wish upon a star all your dreams can come true. I hope I’m on your “nice” list, and you can deliver all the things on my list. If not, I won’t complain. Just do everything you can, and keep wearing that Cardinal Red.

PS: Could you leave switches in all UK fans stockings?  They’ve been awfully naughty to UofL fans this year. Honest!  Okay, I guess they should get a few gifts; it is Christmas, after all. Maybe some autographed Rick Pitino pictures? …Tee hee!

Your pal,
Sonja

Tangible Evidence Of Stadium Expansion

The National Rent-A-Fence Company has erected a fence around the parking area east of the stadium and construction crews are putting the finishing touches on two large double-wide trailers that will serve as construction headquarters for Abel Construction Company.

Abel Construction is the general contractor for the project. So the first steps in the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium are taking place. As one of the men working on setting up the trailers told this observer, “This thing is gonna happen, and it’s going to be great. They will be moving construction equipment in next.”

Tom Jurich
Tom Jurich

Exciting news, especially for Card fans who occupied the old baseball stadium over at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center. The stadium expansion is moving forward, come hell or high water.

The setting up of the construction management offices is tangible evidence that Tom Jurich, Vice President of Athletics, remains firmly committed to the future of University of Louisville football. There are issues, yes, but Jurich recognizes that you have to build now for the future.

“One of the things that Tom has been able to do has been to upgrade all of the athletic facilities to another level,” said Bob Benson, a member of the U of L Athletic Association’s board of directors. “There is visible evidence throughout the campus, the natatorium swimming facility, the baseball stadium, the field hockey complex, the lacrosse stadium. We’ve also got a great new facility (the new downtown basketball arena) going up at Third and Main streets downtown.

“We’re very fortunate to be able to tackle these major projects in a very tough economy. Tom Jurich, with the help of people like Jim Host and others, has provided the leadership and deserves credit for the work he has done and continues to do.”

Some would question whether that long-term future will include Steve Kragthorpe, who will be the head football coach for at least another year. Next season will have its trials and disappointments for sure. In either case, stadium expansion is moving forward.

Seating capacity after completion of the first phase of the expansion will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 55,000 to 57,000.

Kragthorpe’s Stumbles Cripple Louisville Football

From the moment he stubbed his toe on the way to the podium at his introductory news conference as the new football coach, things have not gone well for Steve Kragthorpe at the University of Louisville. That little stumble would become emblematic of a major two-year crippling of the football program.

His assumption of the reigns of UofL football was ill-timed at best, the first week in January, forced to select a staff, retain some key players, and get in the thick of the recruiting battles quickly before the February deadline. Kragthorpe also encountered significant pressure from the administration and fans to retain some people he had never worked with as a coach.

On top of that, he was replacing the most successful football coach in the university’s history, still celebrating the Orange Bowl appearance and its first BCS win while finishing eighth in the national polls. While his predecessor was not well liked, Bobby Petrino was a winner on the football field and could do no wrong as far as fans were concerned. Kragthorpe took the position in spite of the conventional wisdom of never following a legend.

The observer recalls standing in a long line at the Neutral Zone store in Middletown, waiting for the coach to sign a football for the grandson. We waited, waited and waited some more. The coach would be over an hour late before getting there. Word was that he was lost, trying to find the place.

No apologies, at least none that made it back to our place in the long line. The ball coach sits down at a table, methodically signing the memorabilia handed to him. A minimum of effort to get to know the fans, the coach rarely acknowledging the person standing in front of him, little time or no interest in fan introductions.

Then came a long string of mysterious dismissals of players from the team with minimal communications from the coach. Lackluster performances against the equivalent of Division II teams. Loss after loss, including losses to mediocre Division I football teams. Players missing games because of suspensions or injuries, again with little explanation.  As his tenure progressed, there were few signs of improvement on the offensive side of the ball. Too many recruits favoring other venues. The outlook for next season appearing even more grim.

The coach made minimal effort to win fans over to his side, expecting them to somehow understand the obstacles he was up against. The worn out clichés wore thin quickly. He was unwilling or incapable of relating to the fans’ frustrations, a martyr wanting to bear the burden while hoping he would have plenty of time to turn the program around.

These handicaps put his friend and boss Tom Jurich in the unenviable position of attempting to defend Kragthorpe. Certainly a football coach should have more than two seasons to build a program, but not when all available evidence indicates that the program is going in reverse.

Steve Kragthorpe may be a fine person. We have no reason to believe otherwise. But we may never know for sure, because Kragthorpe has been unable to relate to Louisvillians  and their expectations for the University of Louisville and U of L football. These shortcomings may have been his biggest stumbles.

Football Pokes And Ponderings

We’ll get around to basketball, and what may be a milestone season. It’s not that time quite yet. Too much unfinished business with University of Louisville football.

— Where is Trent Guy these days, the most potent offensive threat behind Victor Anderson? Apparently he cracked a rib during the Pittsburgh loss. But that information has been buried beneath the discussion over the coaching situation.

— Why was Matt Simms or any other backup not given any snaps while Hunter Cantwell was struggling with his accuracy during the West Virginia game? Watching Cantwell keep being sent back into the game in the fourth quarter was agonizing, knowing nothing productive was going to occur. But still there was Matt Simms clapping, jumping up and down on the sideline, wanting something to happen.

See Sonja’s report on
Lady Cards’ win over Xavier

— Much has been made of Tom Jurich’s comments about fans during the hubbub over the coaching issue. Tom may be a genius but he is lacking in some basic public relations skills. While teams are winning, the Vice President of Athletics can say just about anything he wants and get away with it. But when the losses are piling up, it’s a different story. Yeah, there are more than a few dense ones in the fan base. But you don’t call them out and expect them to admit it. Nor do you risk offending more responsible fans who may think you’re including them with the bad apples.

— The first sign that a fan may be missing a few marbles is when he or she fails to recognize all that Tom Jurich has made possible at the University of Louisville over the past decade. But when a fan suggests that Jurich leave because of the football situation, that should mark the end of the conversation. Not about to start listing all of the achievements UofL has made with Jurich at the helm, far too many of them. Jurich is the person U of L needs to dig its way back out of the football crater.

— When huge segments of a fan base don’t show up because things are not going well or because it’s cold, raining or a game is played on a week night, the fan base has not quite arrived. Tom Jurich is the best chance of making that possible at the University of Louisville.

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