A musical ode to the Pizza Man and fall from grace

Now a song has been written about poor ol’ John Schnatter, the pizza man. Rapidly becoming a cartoon caricature of the kind of person everyone loves to hate. Happy ending not possible.

John Schnatter and his wife, Annette, had courtside seats for the University of Louisville-Florida State basketball game (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The rapid decline of Schnatter from a fabulously successful businessman to an angry and frustrated untouchable is chronicled by Don R. Mueller, PhD, a former physics professor and New York blogger recently profiled in The New York Times.

The blows just keep coming for the disgraced pizza icon. He has a way of offending someone every time he opens his mouth. A casualty of the cultural wars, unable to negotiate the slippery slopes of the politically correct landscape, antagonizing the people who made him filthy rich.

Don Mueller, a New York physicist, chronicled Papa John’s decline in song on YouTube

Always looking for a fight it seems. No longer welcome at Cardinal Stadium or the University of Louisville  campus. The last Papa John’s signs were trucked away from the stadium last week. He’s not even wanted at the corporate headquarters of the company on Papa John’s Boulevard in Louisville.

The Pizza Man discovering the hard way that money can buy only so much love. He has only himself to blame.

Mending wounds of old friends important to healing at UofL

One of the great things about the growth of the University of Louisville over the past couple of decades was that one always felt like he or she was an integral part of helping to transform UofL from a sleepy urban school to a dynamic and growing university.

It hurt and hurt deeply when some of the architects of that movement, the people in leadership roles, the people one got to know so well, the people one respected as friends and visionaries, were unceremoniously dismissed despite of what they had accomplished at UofL.

'They really didn’t care (about the loss in donations). UofL in the Atlantic Coast Conference became a crown jewel; they wanted it and they got it.'

Not surprising that some influential individuals in the community would want to exercise control over the University. Not surprising either that many supporters want to keep an arm’s length from people who forced  change, sometimes traumatic, upon the institution.

Dr. Bob Hughes, former chairman of the UofL Board of Trustees and the UofL Foundation, often indicated that the “wine and cheese crowd in the East End” was behind the upheaval at the school, wanting their own people in charge. 

“That was the goal from day one when they came on,” he told Card Game in a recent email. “It is only becoming more obvious with time; however, the delta on donations from the negativity it took to take control is about $50 million annually in donations to the foundation. They really didn’t care. UofL in the Atlantic Coast Conference became a crown jewel, they wanted it and they got it.”

With the Board of Trustees now under the thumb of J. David Grissom, a financial advisor to many of the community’s wealthiest families, Hughes’ theory definitely has credibility, even given all the charges of financial mismanagement and malfeasance that has been alleged. There’s no denying that UofL is now under much different oversight.

Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. Getting the community’s blue bloods invested in the future of the school would be a very positive development. Opening up new relationships and even deeper purses may be just what the University of Louisville needs to achieve higher levels of excellence. Some have criticized the school’s success in athletics, believing it may have impacted UofL’s lack of respect in academic circles. Some believed Tom Jurich’s fundraising success in athletics was crippling contributions to academics. Ironic coming from John Schnatter, who pledged $19 million in Papa John’s stock to UofL athletics.

The board most prominent recent hire, that of Neeli Bendapudi as the school’s 18th President, appears to have been a master stroke. She’s an individual with a successful track record of fundraising at the University of Kansas. But equally important, she seems to have the ability to communicate effectively with people from all walks of life. Plus, she has indicated that she very much wants UofL’s success in athletics to continue.

It’s going to take a while for Vince Tyra to  be loved by Louisville fans as much as Tom Jurich. But Tyra has been effective in retaining successful coaches and unquestionably wants UofL athletics to continue competing at the highest levels. Consider the school fortunate to have such an individual eager to step up when UofL needed him most.

Chris Mack, the new UofL basketball coach, is the exact opposite of Rick Pitino in many ways. But like Pitino he’s certainly not bashful when it comes to challenges while acknowledging the Louisville job and fan base as among the best in the nation.

Even some of the board’s most ardent critics have admitted that these hires were great choices, giving many of them second thoughts about the motivations of some board members. Could it be that the old money crowd actually knows what it’s doing, cares about the school and wants UofL to pursue even higher aspirations?

The people currently in control have had much to deal with over the past two years, making some difficult decisions. They’ve done it in a difficult environment, and their decisions have not always been popular.  Be they business or civic leaders, they are responsible to putting UofL back on the right path to respectability and prosperity.

Grissom recently decided the board, having successfully dealt with many of the school’s issues, would no longer have to meet monthly, going back to the old schedule of meeting quarterly. That’s another good sign, indicating that the Board of Trustees has high levels of trust in Neeli Bendapudi’s leadership abilities.

Now with so many of the problems in the past, the University can begin to restore many of the relationships that made the progress possible in the past two decades. Bendapudi may be the right person in the right place at the right time, with her unique ability to relate to the old money crowd and the everyday fan and supporter.

Time to look forward again, this time with a deeper base of support.

Christy Brown signals old money crowd to get behind Bendapudi

Christy Brown is the reigning matriarch of the Brown dynasty in Louisville.

Old Louisville money spoke loudly about Neeli Bendapudi’s future as the new President when local philanthropist and socialite Christy Brown announced this week she was giving $5 million to the University of Louisville.

“Our university has today turned a glorious page, and it’s begun a new chapter with the arrival of our fabulous new president,” said Brown as she made a pledge to a new UofL Envirome Institute to study the effects of the environment on individual health.

The matriarch. The grande dame. Christy Brown had spoken. 

Brown was, in effect, announcing her blessing for Bendapudi just five weeks after she assumed the office at the UofL on May 15th. The importance of her actions can’t be overstated. The widow of the late Owsley Brown II is the matriarch of the powerful Brown family dynasty that derived its fortune from Brown-Forman Distillers.

The influence of the Browns and others in the extended family is pervasive. It was Christy Brown, remember, who hosted Prince Charles in Louisville during his four-day visit to the U.S. in 2015. The family also hosted Queen Elizabeth at the Kentucky Derby in 2007.

Christy Brown says Neeli Bendapudi’s presence turns a glorious new page for the University of Louisville.

Making the guest list for Brown’s  parties or events she attends is a must for the socially ambitious. She’s always the center of attention in any activity in which she participates, with ambitious admirers eager to greet and be seen with her.

Standing behind Brown at the UofL announcement were daughter Brook Brown and her husband Matthew Barzun, who was U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain under Obama. Barzun was once mentioned as a possible candidate for the UofL presidency. Also there was Augusta Brown, married to Gill Holland, a prominent Louisville developer credited with developing the NuLu area.

Close family connections with the Browns include the Fraziers, descendants of Garvin Brown, who founded Brown-Forman.  The late Owsley Brown Frazier, another BF executive, gave UofL a gift of $25 million in 2011. It remains the largest contribution in the school’s history.

Another generous contributor was Steve Wilson, married to Laura Lee Brown, cousin to late Owsley Brown II. The founder of 21C Hotels, Wilson was the UofL Trustee who started the revolt against former President Jim Ramsey in 2015. An open records request to UofL indicated that Wilson and his wife had contributed more than $1.3 million before Wilson resigned in 2015.

Sandra Frazier, the daughter of Amelia Brown Frazier and the niece of Owsley B. Frazier,  is a member of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. She’s also the owner of Tandem Public Relations and, more importantly, a member of the Board of Directors of the Glenview Trust Fund.

The person who runs Glenview Trust just happens to be J. David Grissom, the Chairman of the UofL Board of Trustees. Brown family members and their foundations are known to use Glenview Trust Co., currently managing an estimated $6.5 billion in assets. Clientele reportedly include 500 of the area’s wealthiest families.

Bendapudi has been non-stop coming aboard in mid-May, meeting with one decision maker after another.  Recent tweets included photos of her with power hitters David Jones and David Jones, Jr., of the C.E. & S. Foundation, and John Schnatter, of Papa John’s.

She has also met with leaders of the J. Graham Brown Foundation, the Humana Foundation, the David Novak (Yum!) family, and Kosair Charities, as well as the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Louisville  delegation to the General Assembly, the Kentucky Council on Post Secondary Education, the Faculty Senate, the Staff Senate and the Student Government Association.

Bendapudi has been constantly on the go, touching all the bases with all the decision makers, the people who will make UofL whole again. Having the blessing of Christy Brown is a significant milestone, opening many more doors for the new administration.  A new chapter, indeed, for the University of Louisville.

UofL’s Sam Bordner will make a comeback, but at the next level

The sight of Sam Bordner confined to the bench, unable to help his University of Louisville teammates, was one of the most disappointing aspects of the 2016 college baseball season. UofL could have gone a long way with him at full strength. 

An arm injury brought Sam Bordner’s college career to a premature end (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Bordner was not available at the end, suffering from an inflamed elbow on his throwing arm. He would miss the last month and a half of the season, and would undergo Tommy John surgery on his right arm. 

On Thursday came the final lines to his UofL story, Bordner confirming what many UofL fans suspected he would do, he signed a professional contract with the Miami Marlins. He had been picked by Marlins in the 16th round of the draft, lower than this observer expected.

At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, Bordner was an imposing image. Add to that those shoulder-length strands of blond hair falling out of his hat and a scorching fast ball, he was downright intimidating to some batters.

Bordner was named an All American following the 2017 season, compiling an amazing 0.41 earned run average in 43.2 inning and 23 games. Didn’t allow a run in 22 or 23 innings. He was on the mound when UofL eliminated Kentucky to earn its fourth trip to the College World Series. He seemed ready for a dominant season in 2017, picking up eight saves in his first 11 appearances.

The first signs of problems came in successive games against Florida State and North Carolina State. He would be the loser in both games, giving three runs to the Seminoles and four runs the Wolfpack, in the bottom half of the ninth inning in both games. He wound up with 10 saves for the season.

UofL’s Al Benninger among D-Day troops on Bluegrass Honor Flight

Al Benninger, a veteran of World War II and an honorary member of the University of Louisville stats team, returns to Louisville after a special D-Day Bluegrass Honor Flight to Washington, DC. (Charlie Springer photos).

Sixty-one World War II veterans were welcomed home by hundreds following a special Bluegrass Honor Flight that coincided with the 74th anniversary of D-Day. A special night in Louisville, a rare opportunity to thank troops who helped to preserve a way of life a long time ago.

Among the participants was Al Benninger, who was a member of the University of Louisville stats crew for 35 years. He was doing stats when UofL crew was selected to do the NCAA Tournament in 1969. He has been a honorary member of the stats crew, still sitting on press row since retiring in 2006.

Benninger, who served in the Navy, and his fellow veterans were flown to Washington for an overnight trip to see all of the war memorials, including the World War II memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. They were warmly greeted, receiving heroes’ welcomes at every stop along the way.

“It was incredible trip, nothing like I have ever seen,” said Benninger, who recently celebrated his 92nd birthday. “We really appreciate everything everyone did to honor us. It was great, too, meeting so many veterans and hearing their stories.”

The veterans returned to Louisville at approximately 7:30 p.m. on June 9th. But because there were so many veterans in wheelchairs (over 45 of them), the flight crew needed about an hour to get all of them off the airplane.

A huge roar went up as the veterans and their escorts came into view in the terminal. They were greeted by representatives of every segments of the military service, as well as groups from the American Legion and Disabled Veterans. The Thoroughbred Chorus was on hand, as was a special bagpipe band.

A celebration evoking joy, tears and memories of more innocent times. A chance for Louisvillians to say thanks for individuals who put it all on the line for their fellow Americans.