Chalk Up No. 40, Advance To Championship

Justin McClanahan is feeling no pain. The thumb is just fine now, thank you.  The back? no problem.

McClanahan appears to have fully recovered from the thumb injury that sidelined him for the first nine games this smcclanahan.jpgeason. as well as an aching back that bothered him in recent weeks.

The proof came Friday as the University of Louisville baseball team mowed down Villanova 13-6 to move into the championship game of the Big East Tournament, McClanahan leading the way, U of L improving its record to 40-19.

Check this out: Two home runs, including a grand slam. Five hits in six at bats. Seven runs batted in. Eleven total bases. Three runs scored.

The pride of amateur baseball in Annapolis, Md., has raised his batting average to .379, with 93 hits in 247 at-bats. He has 10 homers and 56 runs batted in.

ul-cardinal-head-logo2-thumb11.jpg   Thomas Royse, the freshman righthander from Lexington, picked up his fourth win without a loss in relief, scattering four hits, striking out three, and allowing three runs over six innings.

ul-cardinal-head-logo2-thumb11.jpg  Righthander Zack Pitts (6-5), once considered the ace, is not as effective as he once was, lasting only two innings, giving up three runs in the second. Somewhat of a concern in post season play.

ul-cardinal-head-logo2-thumb11.jpg  Chris Dominguez smashed his 20th home run this season, along with a single, pushing three runs across the plate.

ul-cardinal-head-logo2-thumb11.jpg  Championship game against Cincinnati Saturday at 1 p.m. The game will be telecast on ESPN-U. Get the yard work done early.

Construction Constructive

Should be getting the word very soon on the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium from 42,000 to 63,000 seats, according to Business First of Louisville. The University of Louisville is expected to announce construction schedules during a reception today for Minority Business Enterprise and Women Business Enterprise-certified organizations interested in participating in the project.

Gonna happen, naysayers, stick your heads back in the sand.

ul_cardinal_head_logo2 Some concerns about the future of the downtown basketball arena project remain, with major bond insurers having been hard hit by the sub-prime loan lending crisis. The Museum Plaza project has been indefinitely postponed as the developers await lower interest loans. Metro Council President Jim King, a banker, has said there’s a big difference between the stalled Museum Plaza project and the Louisville Arena — the Arena has plenty of time to get its financing together and it has significant state and local guarantees.

Maybe so, maybe not. The expected timeline for obtaining bond insurance keeps getting extended. The best news is that Jim Host, who has already navigated this project through some major hurdles, is determined to make it happen.

Take good care of yourself, Big Jim.

ul_cardinal_head_logo2 About 15 years ago, Joe Elliott, then the evening talk show host at WHAS [yes, the station that sold out to UK] pronounced the U of L football stadium project dead. That was before Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation (a former employer) pledged $3 million for the club and Papa John’s Pizza pledged $5 million for naming rights.

I enjoyed calling Elliott the evenings before opening games for several years to tell him we would be on our way out to the stadium. The message was to never doubt the determination of the University of Louisville, the administration and fans.

Reasons To Back Memphis

This observer picks Memphis in the NCAA championship. Not because he likes Memphis, nothing could be further from the mark. Memphis is the choice because it is the non-traditional power overcoming all the biases against non-state universities and schools that are not considered by the herd as traditional powers.

Memphis is not at all likable, with players like Joey Dorsey who use intimidation more than finesse to get their way. The sight of Dorsey towering over and glaring at a Tennessee free throw shooter is one I won’t soon forget. Their coach, John Calipari, is a whiner personified, a man who recruits controversial players, the kind of person you like to see get canned and have his team placed on probation.

The pick for Memphis is for all the schools that have to work twice as hard to get recognition, that don’t get first choice at state monies to beautify their campuses, that have to fight the rural legislators and the big state university like dogs for recognition, that have to convert “state” fans to “hometown” fans or have to work or park next to state fans every day in their own communities.

Go get ’em, Memphis. Beat the stereotypes.

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Tar Heels All Day Long

Much at stake Card fans.

Saturday will be a long day whether Louisville wins, splits or loses two games against North Carolina. Carolina fans have all but marked both games down in the win columns. Can’t blame them because the University of Louisville has had to make up ground in recent years, getting the men’s and women’s teams competitive.ul_cardinal_head_logo2.jpg

The challenges are immense but Tom Jurich hires people like Rick Pitino and Jeff Walz because they relish such opportunities. Take on the best, means more, even more satisfying, if you beat them in front of their fans.

Men must defeat the nation’s No. 1 team, a team with a 32-2 record to make the Final Four. A real shot at a third national championship beckons for the first time in two decades. The surprising trip in 2005 was a major achievement, but nobody gave U of L any chance.

However, the Cards are a serious contender this time around; they’re close, they can almost taste it.

Got to get past North Carolina first.

Women must get past a No. 3-ranked team with a 30-2 record to make the Elite Eight. Would be the first time ever to get that far. This is all new to them. Perennial powers UConn and Rutgers can attest to their toughness, however.

It would be too easy to say they’re a year away. That would be a mistake, next year is a mirage, not yet real. The next level is staring the women in the face.

Got to get past North Carolina.

Alcohol Sales at Louisville Games

This observer doesn’t drink at Louisville games, primarily because it seems every time I do the Cardinals wind up losing, the most memorable occasion being the overtime loss to UCLA in the 1975 Final Four. That’s reason enough to abstain, staying under control to keep things on the court or field in hand. Don’t mind if my neighbors partake — just don’t interfere with this one’s personal intensity.

In August 2005, the NCAA Executive Board suggested that member colleges and universities stop selling alcohol at athletic events, probably at the urging of NCAA Commissioner and former Indiana University President Myles Brand. One of Bobby Knight’s favorite people. Won’t happen at U of L any time soon, because the companies have been so good to the program.

“A lot of our facilities were built through sponsorship with certain companies, such as Budweiser through Freedom Hall,” said Tom Jurich, vice president of athletics. “We have to conform to what is in our contract with them. Alcohol sales are part of that.”

Speaking to the student newspaper, Jurich says U of L’s policy is consistent with that of other Big East members, including St. Johns, Villanova, Seton Hall, and Providence universities. “We consider everything that the NCAA asks us to look at,” he said, “but our conference has told us we are welcome to sell alcohol, and right now that is where we are at.”

The only time alcohol sales were ever a noticeable problem was at a football game against Tennessee in the old Fairgrounds Stadium in the mid-nineties. Must have been a record number of fights that night, several of the Vol fans apparently not able to manage their alcohol intake.

U of L owes companies like Brown-Forman, Budweiser and Makers Mark a huge debt of gratitude for all they’ve done for the program over many years. The continuance of the alcohol sales is an important way of saying thank you.

Drink responsibly.