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.

Jurich refused to bad mouth UofL during some tough times

Tom Jurich remained loyal to his friends and to the University of Louisville even when at least one individual in his employ made major mistakes and after he was fired by the Board of Trustees and erroneously accused of wrongdoing by an interim administrator.

Loyal after his trust was betrayed, resisting the urge to be critical, remaining positive about the University. Told to leave a job he treasured, depart a campus he had transformed, and an athletic department that he had revamped and molded into a collegiate powerhouse during his 20 years on the job.   

Tom Jurich’s affinity for UofL remained strong despite everything that happened (Charlie Springer photos).

Doubtful Tom will ever fully recover from the awful shock and the hurt he suffered in the early morning hours of October 18  when he was dismissed from UofL. That was a dark day for everyone involved, everyone associated with the school.

Unfortunately, it took the threat of a lawsuit for the Board of Trustees to make up for some of the injustices. There were still no apologies, but the Trustees approved a settlement with Jurich. The arrangement stipulates that he will receive no less than $4.5 million, ending any litigation between the two parties.

Jurich deserved, and could have commanded, much more than he finally received.

The settlement also calls for Jurich to get no less than $911,000 from his Deferred Compensation Plan and another $1.76 million to be paid out over the next eight years, as well as health coverage until he and his wife are eligible for Medicare.  He will also receive eight club level season ticket licenses for UofL football and basketball games for the next 20 years.

Equally important, the agreement also changes the reason for his exit from the university from “fired with cause” to “terminated without cause due to resignation.”  The letter of dismissal will be removed from his personnel file.

Louisville is fortunate that Jurich is the person he is.  He could have allowed the lawsuit to continue, possibly collecting tens of millions in more dollars from the school. Jurich deserved, and could have commanded, much more than he finally received.

The gut feeling here is that Tom had no desire to inflict more than financial or reputational harm to the University than has already occurred. He’s just that kind of individual, and he continues to have strong feelings for UofL, still wanting the school to grow and prosper. 

We have missed seeing Tom and his son Mark around the campus. Let’s hope they will use those football and basketball tickets often in the future.

Bendapudi ushers in a new era at the University of Louisville

A new person in the President’s Office at the University of Louisville today, ushering in a new era.  Surely an end to the divisiveness that has plagued the campus for the past three years.

Time to move on.

Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, the 18th President at UofL, was welcomed by approximately 200 students, staff and faculty members to her first day on the job on the steps of Grawemeyer Hall early Tuesday morning. And with that milestone, one transformation is complete, and the vacuum has been filled.

A new day in more ways than one for the school that was founded 220 years ago in 1798. Over the past several months, the University has also selected a new Chief Operating Officer, a new Dean of the Brandeis School of Law, a new Dean of the J.B. Speed Engineering School, in addition to a new Athletic Director and a new Basketball Coach. One of the few key administrative jobs remaining open is that of Provost, who will work side-by-side with Bendapudi on raising the school’s academic profile.

Bendapudi seems to be exactly what the University needs right now, with an impressive background in marketing and fundraising at Kansas University. She obviously appeals to many UofL support groups, with her status as a female, as a person of color,  and with her foreign birth. She has stressed her emphasis on diversity and inclusion at every appearance thus far. 

Especially refreshing is that she embraces a wider definition of diversity than the tired racial themes, including diversity of thoughts and beliefs. That would be a positive direction, considering the negative fallout from liberal mandates at many U.S. universities.

The University had made great strides over the past two decades before getting embroiled in a series of controversies. Some of them the result  of the previous administration’s actions, others stemming from political agendas, others from liberal and conservative differences, and still others from state rivalries. UofL has survived, however, largely because the school means so much to so many people throughout the community and state, and is ready to start moving forward again.

We wish Neeli Bendapudi well, looking forward to some fresh new approaches, using creative and innovative ideas to help the University of Louisville not only survive but become an even more positive influence in our lives.

UofL academic building more spectacular than artist renderings

A view of the new academic classroom facility from the lobby of the adjacent Geoscience Building.

One of the things that had to greatly impress Neeli Bendapudi when she was being considered for the job of President of the University of Louisville was the construction of a new $83 million academic classroom building in the heart of the campus.

Lots of windows and curves, setting the structure apart from all others, enabling spectacular views inside and outside. It’s going to be a magnet for UofL students and faculty all days long and into the evenings.

The south end of the new classroom building.

The architectural renderings were impressive when they were unveiled three years ago but the actual structure will be even more breathtaking. The finishing touches are currently being placed on the four-story, 161,000-square-foot building with a scheduled opening for the 2018 fall semester. 

Lots of fine architecture, including many historic buildings, already on Belknap Campus but this newest one will be the most grandiose of all, reflecting a stunning commitment from past and current leaders at UofL to academic excellence. Features include:

  • 20 state-of-the-art active learning classrooms
  • Student Success Center, which includes Resources for Academic Achievement (REACH), Exploratory Advising, First Year Initiatives and student success coordinators
  • 11 group study rooms
  • Seven seminar rooms
  • A multipurpose teacher space
  • Six chemistry labs
  • Four biology labs
  • Three physics labs and one anthropology-physics lab

Those rooms not only include the state-of-the-art classrooms, but also large public spaces that are purposefully designed to encourage students to stick around between their classes. John Stratton, Senior UofL Architect, describes them as “quasi library spaces.”

There are no TVs, but the lounge areas are furnished with upholstered, comfortable chairs and coffee tables. There are power outlets and connectivity options for phones and laptops.

“The focus is on students learning in groups, working together, sharing information and working with the latest technologies,” said Stratton. “To support that, there are interactive computer systems within the classrooms. It is different from a traditional lecture-style space. It’s more about the interaction between the instructors and students and learning together.”

Stratton likes the wide open space in front of the building, describing it as a sort of metaphor for reaching out to new students.

“There is a great deal of glass and vision in and out of the building. That is to encourage transparency in a number of ways. We wanted a building where you can see the activity happening in the building and, from the inside, you can see what’s happening outside. This is good not only for security reasons, but to show students that we’re transparent and that we care about them,” Stratton said.