Someone Needs To Say It, So Sonja Does

By Sonja Sykes

One sure sign of summer these days is when the various message boards start taking to task Coach Steve Kragthorpe, Athletic Director Tom Jurich and the University of Louisville football program for shortcomings over the last two seasons.

The Whiner
Whiny Face

Unfortunately, on at least one local forum, the Kragthorpe haters and Jurich jabbers are given free rein. A disproportionate and largely redundant number of posters seem unable to recognize or have no regard of the effect of constant criticism on coaches, players or recruits … or the impact of unfettered negativism on the future of the program.

All this before any fireworks have been launched, or the “dog days” have arrived.  And, from all indications, it’s only going to intensify.  As if we can do anything about it.

In the words of Lily von Schtupp in Blazing Saddles: “I’m tired.” Tired of all this meaningless pro/anti Kragthorpe jabber.

Cry about it, shout about it, laugh about it or try and doubt it:  Fans don’t have much say about who coaches the college kids down off Floyd Street. This isn’t American Idol or Dancing With The Stars. I’m tired of the pouting, cheap shots and rose-colored glasses. I’m tired of the insults that follow after the remarks are made.

What it is is college athletics. Sure, you can cancel your seats, boycott this or that or whine like a stuck pig in the barn gate door but you’re not going to change a thing.  What you do accomplish is to make an impression on young athletes.

Tommy Fullback probably doesn’t care what Joe D in Somerset thinks about his potential coach. But if 50 Joe D’s are piling on,  you can bet your last dollar that Tommy Fullback is forming an opinion. Shannon, over at Cardinal Dominance, points this out in his in-depth interview with future Card Mike Privott.

I’ve had players come up to me and shyly correct me on information. The kids know how to “Google” their name and their school. Think twice before you berate some young man or women (or coach) you’ve never met.

Love the players, love the game.  Let’s act like we’ve been there before. The fuel and energy you use by fanning the Cardinal football flames only gives the neighbors to the east more to laugh, gloat and joke about.  Whether the record is 8-4 or 4-8, give the players the admiration and respect they deserve. They made a choice and it was us.

For The Future Of Louisville Football

Fans who attend the spring football scrimmage will be rewarded with an up-close look at Tom Jurich’s long-term commitment to the success of the program as the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium moves forward.

The naysayers who said it would never happen, the defeatists who have thrown up their hands after two losing seasons, and those not planning to renew their season tickets because the current coach was not fired — they’re shortsighted, making hasty decisions, wrong about the direction of the program.

The expansion is about the long term future, a future to which Jurich is totally committed, knowing that a part of his lasting legacy at the University of Louisville is inextricably tied to reestablishing U of L football as a nationally competitive program.

That’s why he’s giving Steve Kragthorpe at least one more season to show real progress. Hell, he may even give Kragthorpe more time if he really meant it when he put the program in a rebuild mode and said he hoped we could make it through the next two seasons.

Jurich has expressed confidence that Kragthorpe will get it done eventually, knowing full well that attendance could take a big hit this season if things keep going south. The fickle nature of fans is such that they will fall all over themselves getting back on the bandwagon if Kragthorpe miraculously manages to turn things around. The same thing would occur if the miracle required still another year.

Louisville needs to quit being a stepping stone for young coaches using the football program primarily to advance their own careers while screwing Louisville fans.

Sorry to disappoint those who want Jurich fired if Kragthorpe fails to get the job done. Not going to happen, according to two members of the U of L Athletic Association this observer has known for years. Jurich will make the call on Kragthorpe if and when it becomes necessary. If that time comes, expect Jurich to have learned from any mistakes.

When the first phase of the expansion is complete, seating capacity will have expanded to 55,000 seats, just in time for at least two sellouts against West Virginia and Kentucky during the 2010 season. The additional capacity will make it somewhat easier to schedule other major opponents at home. Jurich will get it done in spite of significant hurdles.

Despite winning two national championships in basketball, it was not unusual to hear Louisville referred to as a mid-major program that long ago. Jurich recognizes the value of a successful football program in building national respect. U of L is still benefiting from the BCS Orange Bowl win in terms of perception. When was the last time you heard someone refer to Louisville as a mid-major program? Not in the last two years, I’ll bet,

Many good years for Louisville football are ahead. But patience, perseverance, loyalty will be required, along with a few more humbling experiences on the field before getting there. But with the expansion project, Jurich is laying the foundation for prolonged, long-term success.

Jurich Promises McCoughtry Statue

Angel McCoughtry has already left her mark on the University of Louisville women’s basketball record books but Tom Jurich apparently wants a more visible reminder of McCoughtry around after she graduates,  a concrete reminder of what she has done for the women’s program.

Jurich recently told Sports Illustrated that he is committed to erecting a statue of McCoughtry to honor the greatest female player in Louisville’s history, a player who has made women’s basketball matter in an area that has worshiped basketball for decades.

“I’ve said it a million times in speeches, it’s going up,” Jurich said. “I’m not sure where, but it’s going up. She’s been a real pioneer for our program and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

McCoughtry almost blushes when asked about the statue. It’s a little much. Though if Jurich must do it, she has just one request.

“I have to look pretty,” she says, trying stifle a laugh.

While McCoughtry doesn’t care what pose is chosen to preserve her for posterity, coach Jeff Walz has a suggestion.

“It’s got to show her passion,” he said. “That’s the thing that really sets her apart. She’s all about winning and she’s all about doing whatever it takes to make herself and her teammates better.”

If Jurich is so determined to get it done, the only question is where the statue would be erected. That should be easy. Not that equality is an issue, but why not just go ahead and do one of Darrell Griffith as well. Place them at the entrance of the new U of L downtown basketball arena, wearing jerseys No. 35 and No. 35, respectively, honoring both programs’ most valuable players at their new home.

Props For Tom Jurich

Tom Jurich, vice president of athletics at the University of Louisville, recently received recognition for his contributions to women’s athletics during the Lady Cards-Rutgers basketball game. Under his leadership, the women’s programs have enjoyed unprecedented growth while reaping tremendous dividends in terms of student life and respect for the university.

Of course, Jurich’s contributions extend far beyond women’s athletics. His efforts have led to advancements in U of L sports that his predecessors and the university’s longtime fans would have considered pipedreams less than a couple of decades ago.

Here’s the video of the ceremony shown during the Lady Cards-Rutgers basketball in January:

Thanks to Julie Hermann for the video.

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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