Hostile Fans, Angry Coach and a Wannstedt

Rarely in its history has the University of Louisville football team dominated another team like its has Pittsburgh. The Cards have won seven straight games over the Panthers since 1983, owning a 7-4 advantage in the series, including three Big East Conference wins.

Card fans can take little comfort, however. Pittsburgh was impressive in a four overtime 36-33 win over Notre Dame last week. The Panthers are well aware of recent history between the schools, eager to take advantage of a team unable to handle lowly Syracuse.

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— A young U of L team may have been riding too high after a surprising win over South Florida, thinking they had arrived and could just show up and win. It happens to teams all the time. But for hostile fans trying to find a reason to excuse the coaching staff for previous disappointments, it was the equivalent of a backstabbing.

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— Coach Steve Kragthorpe hardly ever ventures off the optimistic path, but he has been seething this week:

“Nobody’s happy around here. I’m not happy. I’m as upset as I’ve ever been. I’m sick to my stomach that we lost that football game.”

“In terms of where we’re at as a program, I’m disappointed, I’m upset, I’m pissed off that we lost. But I’m not going to let it affect my preparation for Pittsburgh.”

One angry football coach. That makes it unanimous. Now everybody is mad.

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— Tom Heiser, who does the Courier-Journal blog, is not that optimistic but somehow manages to anticipate a Louisville win:

The prospects for the final four games are about as muddy as the Heinz Field turf. Let’s be honest: if the program has now become Syracuse’s silver lining, no game (home or away) can be considered favorable for victory. The momentum of a three-game winning streak, a 5-2 record and the upset of South Florida have vanished … I think U of L has a good chance to rebound and pull out a win — in essence, pretend last week never happened.”

It takes a dedicated fan to feel that way. Nice to know there is at least one with CJ connections.

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— Mike Rutherford at Card Chronicle points out “Looking for a reason to believe that has nothing to do with your team? Pitt, now ranked 25th, is 0-3 in home games when nationally ranked under Dave Wannstedt.”

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— By the way, the Fire Dave Wannstedt domain is for sale after his team managed to defeat Notre Dame 36-33 in four overtimes last week. Could a Panther fan be having second thoughts? Don’t count on it if the Panthers lose another game to U of L.

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— Roll Tide Bama apparently believes Wannstedt is the key to the game:

As bad as Louisville has been, you have to think that anytime something good happens for Dave Wannstedt, something bad can’t be far behind. Something like an upset loss to Louisville, perhaps? Louisville 21 Pittsburgh 14.

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— Win or lose, you’ll be surrounded by a lot of U of L fans Saturday at a fund raising event for Shawn Bowen at the BBC in St. Matthews. Shawn is the five-year-old son of Justin Bowen, better known as “Jerb” for his video capabilities.

All proceeds from this event, as well as a golf scramble tomorrow, will go help offset the family’s medical expenses. There will be numerous items availble in a silent auction and probably a few surprises. Hats off to Frankpos for organizing the event, which starts at 11:30 a.m. See you there.

Bob Weber Had Some Good Moments As U of L Football Coach

While eating breakfast at a remote hotel in New Mexico about 10 years ago, I did a double take at the man who had just walked into the restaurant. My eyes weren’t deceiving me: it was indeed Bob Weber, the former University of Louisville football coach. He and his dad were also vacationing.

Weber was happy to hook up again with people from Louisville, wanting to catch up on how things were going at UofL. Still able to turn the head of every woman in the room, he was the same laid back guy we remembered from 1980 to 1984. While there weren’t many highlights during those years, there were some significant victories and he was pleased to be reminded.

There was, for example, the surprising 17-9 win at Kansas in his first season, a huge win at the time. While not a major football power, Kansas was a big name school, which rarely found its way to the UofL schedule. One of my favorites was an unbelievable 13-10 win over ninth-ranked and undefeated Southern Mississippi the day after Thanksgiving in 1981. There was also a come-from-behind 30-28 win over a good Oklahoma State team at Fairgrounds Stadium in 1982. His teams were 3-1 against Memphis State, which, at the time, was a few light years ahead of U of L in football.

Weber showed no hint of bitterness about being fired by the school after five years with a 20-35 won-lost record. He had minimum support and resources from James Grier Miller’s administration and the program was on the edge of extinction in the pre-Schnellenberger era. He remembered only the good times at Louisville.

The son of a Russian immigrant and raised on a small farm in Colorado,  Bob Weber died of pancreatic cancer at 75 last weekend at his home in Tucson, Arizona. A memorial service will be held Wednesday, Nov. 15 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, 1200 N. Campbell Avenue, in Tucson.

Tailgating & Booze Coming To NKU

The art of tailgating is making its début Saturday in Highland Heights, Ky., at the new Bank of Kentucky Center. That’s where the University of Louisville women and men’s basketball teams will play Northern Kentucky University in exhibition games at 5:30 and 8 p.m.

This new concept is apparently a really big deal for NKU. Note how a reporter for The Northerner, the student newspaper, goes to lengths to explain the tailgating phenomenon and some of the related issues:

“Attendees of the season-opening basketball games against the University of Louisville will be able to tailgate, including drinking alcohol, Jeff Waple, the dean of students announced … He told the Student Senate that the policy is still not approved as official policy, though he had been permitted to lay out the tailgating parameters.

“Tailgating refers to attendees eating and drinking in parking lots before an event. Alcohol is usually consumed there. NKU officially describes itself as a dry campus. However, expectations exist for certain events that garner approval.

“Obviously you must be 21, no kegs or beer bongs,” he said. Tailgaters must also contact Parking Services prior to tailgating.”Neither Waple nor his assistant Steve Meier said they knew if the policy would lead to a wet campus. Nor could they delineate the exact route to finalizing the policy. Tailgaters will also be able to bring propane and charcoal grills as well as other equipment. “Louisville’s going to be bringing RVs,” he said.

One piece of advice to NKU officials: You might want to consider shooting a few fireworks about a half hour before game time.

Angel McCoughtry: Pre-Season All American

University of Louisville forward Angel McCoughtry selected to Associated Press All-America first team

By Sonja Sykes

The Associated Press now acknowledges the skills of Angel McCoughtry but she says it’s not about her.

McCoughtry, a senior forward on the University of Louisville women’s basketball team, has been selected to the AP All-American first team. She collected the third most votes, behind Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris and UConn’s Maya Moore. It’s her second visit to the AP list, collecting second team honors last year.

It’s also a nod to the “Yes we can” philosophy that Angel carries with her these days about her and her teammates.

“I’m humbled by this honor. It was a dream of mine to bring national recognition to Louisville women’s basketball.” she commented yesterday. Note the wording of the statement. Not about her, not about the pride of the recognition, but about Louisville women’s basketball.

For Angel, the past two seasons have been all about the “yes we can…look what we can do” scenario. It was evident Monday night in the Lady Cards scrimmage. Barking out positioning and sets to the younger players on the court. Giving the high fives and hugs when teammates made big plays. Passing on shots to give other teammates the opportunity. In short, fulfilling the needs of the team, not the needs of the self.

Angel will be the “go to” crunch time player this year as she has been since her sophomore year. But she’ll do it in a team concept and won’t hesitate giving up the ball to the open player. Witness the Rutgers game last year in the Big East tournament. With seconds remaining and the game on the line, she was positioned…driving to the basket for a crucial shot..soaring through the air toward the hoop…and then tossing the ball to a wide open Candyce Bingham for an easy basket. It spoke volumes about the unselfishness, the team mind set and the maturity of the Cards leader.

Congratulations to Angel for another in a long list of accomplishments. An award and honor that she’ll enjoy briefly, and then return to the concentration and focus of making her team on the court the best they can be.

Jurich’s Warning Wasted On The Rabid

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.  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 Lady  Cards opened their
season with a 94-69 win in an
exhibition game. See Sonja’s report.

Wrong. The Syracuse debacle  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. Out  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.

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