Tom Jurich warned University of Louisville football fans three weeks before the season began that the next two seasons would be rebuilding years. Fans heard him, grumbled and complained while indicating they had actually listened and understood what he said.
The season began with the Cards having only nine players with starting experience in the opening lineup against Kentucky.Â A youthful inexperienced group on players on both sides of the line. A green quarterback was calling signals, one who had started a few games a couple of years ago but played less than five minutes last season.
Through their first seven games, they showed signs of improvement, fans taking note of what appeared to be significant improvement in defense, the quarterback slowly growing into his starting position despite all his fumbles and interceptions. Then, amazingly, their team defeated the 14th ranked team in the country.
The fans figured that Jurich had simply been trying to lower expectations, that the Cards were already back on the fast track again, picking up a few votes in the national polls. Conference title expectations, visions of a bowl game, happy days were here again.
The LadyÂ Cards opened their
season with a 94-69 win in an
exhibition game. See Sonja’s report.
Wrong. The Syracuse debacleÂ left no doubt that much work remains to be done. Maybe Jurich knew what he was talking about when he said he just wanted to get through the rebuilding period.
Hello. Was anybody listening? The reaction of many fans to the unexpected loss had reached a crescendo on the message boards before the game was over and hasn’t let up since. They were among the many folks who traveled to Miami for an Orange Bowl less than two years ago. They had arrived only to be deserted by a vagabond coach whom this observer firmly believes hunted new jobs more vigorously than he recruited new players.
This particular group of fans refuse to believe another coach would have had a similar experience with Bobby Petrino’s leftovers. Any fan brave enough to admit he or she wants to see beyond the current frustration to better days down the road is instantly labeled a Kragthorpe apologist.
Can you imagine the reaction of potential recruits? They visit the school, like the coach, get to know the players, like the dormitory and campus. OutÂ of curiosity, they check the message boards. What they find are people calling for firings, some actually hoping the team loses more games to expedite terminations while urging other fans to stay away from games.
These same fans wonder why recruiting is a challenge, naively thinking they have no role in a recruit’s perception of the school. Not saying the chronic complainers are in any way responsible for the disappointing season. But they are not helping to make the two-year rebuilding process any easier either.
By Steve Springer
â€œBiggest win of the Kragthorpe era,â€ â€œThe ship has been righted,â€ â€œCongrats Coach K and the Cards,â€ and so forth. These were some of the proclamations after a win over South Florida. The next gameâ€™s results are greeted by â€œCoach K must go,â€ and â€œWhat will you do to show your disgust at the Cincinnati game?â€
The roller coaster ride that is Steve Kragthorpe Cardinal football flew off the tracks again Saturday. The Syracuse loss was obviously the worse loss since, well, the other Syracuse loss.Â Gulp. I never would have dreamed of typing â€œthe other Syracuse loss.â€ Sorry. Seriously, though, this had to be the biggest disappointment since the loss to UConn. The other UConn loss, you know. I didnâ€™t think that the season opening loss to Kentucky could be topped. You guessed it, the other UK loss.
Sorry to sound somewhat confusing, but these â€œotherâ€ losses are really starting to pile up and become overwhelming. Kragthorpeâ€™s Cardinals are now a Cooperesque 0-6 against the Orange, Huskies, and Wildcats. Iâ€™ll admit it. I had naively started to believe after the upset of the Bulls a couple of weeks ago.
Now I realize that I have the same feeling in my gut that I did as a child on summer vacation. My parents took me out west for our annual family vacation in which we headed out west to Yellowstone and stopped in one of those tourist trap old-timey western towns with faux saloons and general stores. We shopped at one of the local flavor cowboy stores and in one of the bins at eye level with my small eyes, I reached in and pulled out a handful of golden nuggets.
I just knew that I was the family savior and had just found the secret stash to make our family richer than our wildest dreams. My excitement was tempered when I learned the meaning of the words â€œiron pyrite.â€ The man behind the counter might have been named Greg Robinson. He exposed my treasure for what it was, just as he exposed our newfound Cardinal booty for what it was.
Same old fundamental mistakes. Same old overly abundant penalty yardage. Same old defensive lapses. Same old come-from-behind to catch the rear-end-of-college-football. These losses have stolen any hope that UofL Football has any hope of ever returning to even, (another gulp) mediocrity.
Athletic Director Tom Jurich is The Man. Some fans also believe he isÂ the man that is going to let this coach run this huge revenue sport out of The Ville back to Cooperville or beyond. Unacceptable losses are setbacks to a school that rose from the shadows of a minor league baseball stadium to having its toothed beak in the nest of big time college football elite status. They affect success, which affects fan support, which affects attendance, which affects stadium expansion credibility, which affects recruiting, which affects lack of success and any potential for future success.
Setback U, Foolâ€™s Gold. Whatever you wanna call it, the boosters, the fans, the players, the potential future players want to be able to call it their football team, not a time-killer until basketball season.
Finally, there’s something to look forward to on the football front. Among them:
— The results of Steve Kragthorpe’s first recruiting class will be unveiled Wednesday, February 6 at 4 p.m. during the annual football signing party at the Brown & Williamson Club.
They call it a party but it’s really just a bunch of guys and a few women standing around looking at videos. The pep band and cheerleaders are there but don’t expect any food like at a real party. The bar is open but I don’t recall ever seeing any food, ever (hint to Tom Jurich).
— Governor Steve Beshear asked the General Assembly to approve the privately funded bonding plan for the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium during his budget address on Tuesday.
It won’t cost the state anything so there should be no reason for any legislator to oppose it. Let’s just hope that David Williams, leader of the Senate and a U of L alumnus, is on board. He made it possible for ex-Governor Ernie Fletcher’s $75 million grant for the downtown arena to become a reality.
But if the current Governor is for something, Williams is usually opposed to it. Beshear has already stripped Williams of a couple of pet projects. One can only hope that Williams doesn’t choose the stadium expansion issue to get back at Beshear.