A consistent theme in Charlie Strong’s criticism of his players is that they aren’t playing well at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, rattling off a list of six or seven losses over the last two seasons.

Maybe it has to do with the casual attitude many University of Louisville fans bring to football games. The seats are so slow to fill up that the university is compelled to launch fireworks 30 minutes before game time to coax people in from the parking lot. They’re still filtering in five minutes into the first quarter.


One reason fans arrive late may be the lack of any planning on the part of Louisville Metro police to get fans in and out of the stadium. Why would two lanes on the Watterson Expressway be closed leading to an exit where 55,000 people are headed as occurred Saturday? They apparently do their planning based on the kickoff time, forgetting that more than half the fans want to tailgate two hours before the game.

Getting out of there has become a nightmare. Up until this season, it was fairly easy to get home, taking only minutes from the Green Lot. The more they tinker with the system, the worse it gets. But we digress, going on a traffic tangent. Forgive me.

At any given time, it seems that a quarter of the fans are milling about the stadium. They get that from high school football games, I guess, where everyone parades up and down in front of the stands — or congregate along the fence on the sidelines. Maybe Tom Jurich should have put some version of the terrace on the sidelines for the High School Harrys.

Meanwhile, up in the stands, latecomers obscure the view of fellow fans, not knowing or caring whether it’s in the middle of a play. Fans chatting about everything but football. Excuse me if I interrupt your conversation, yelling for U of L to hold the opposition on a third down play. Just a nice afternoon, a social setting, time to catch up on the gossip, be seen at Papa John’s. The football game is coincidental.

This laissez faire (hands off) attitude on the part of so many Louisville fans has an effect on the players. Even the Crunch Zone, especially the Crunch Zone, seems to have lost much of its fire, the enthusiasm for football having deteriorated badly during the Kragthorpe years, the rabidity of the Petrino era a distant memory.

Charlie Strong has his work cut out for him in making the crowd a factor again. They’re showing in larger numbers, but they’re not into the games. The lack of enthusiasm undoubtedly is related to the product on the field. Louisville fans, especially those with a mere flirtation with football, are reluctant to get excited about mediocrity even if it is a U of L team.

Going to take some time this rebuilding process, on the field and in the stands.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

10 thoughts on “Casual attitude works both ways”
  1. Sadly 2/3 of the fans in my section do not even know the rules of football, nor how the game is played. Generally lots of Louisville football fans are basically football ignorant! In a basketball game you make up to 20 mistakes and still win the game, while football is sport where two mistakes can cost you the game. Well, I am off my soap-box.

  2. I hate the casual fans who are like this and yell at people to sit down at games. If you are going to the game you might as well be energetic and into the game. In Lexington two weeks ago no one in our section sat down the entire game except halftime. That was the best football fan experience ever.

  3. There needs to be some sort of signal or something to get the fans to leave the parking lot and head towards the stadium. I mean something major.

    Maybe they can convince (or even pay) a former well-respected player to cruise through the lots on a golf cart with a bull horn. What’s Alan Campos or Robert McCune doing nowadays?

  4. The traffic situation in this city is out of control and Saturday was no different. I share your thoughts on the closure of two lanes of the Watterson. They had to know that a good portion of the 55,000 fans going to the game were going to use that exit. I live in Middletown and left my house at noon hoping to beat the bulk of the traffic. It took me over an hour to get to the green lot. I can usually make it there in 30-35 minutes.

    I don’t think there is a major road in the city that doesn’t have at least a portion of it under construction. Throw in a major interstate bridge closing due to a structural issue and you have a recipe for major headaches. Can we at least finish one construction project before another is started?

  5. We conduct the 50/50 raffle at the Parrish House 45 minutes before game time to give everyone ample time to get across Floyd Street and in the stadium. No reason the fireworks can’t be set off at the same time.

  6. Well said Charlie. I wish they would spend the same effort to get people in their seats as they do trying to get people on the party deck. The party deck was great in theory, but we don’t need 10,000 fans up there shooting the breeze, instead of cheering on the team. The atmosphere at the game comes from whats put in front of them

  7. We can blame traffic patterns, street closures, party zones and they probably do have some effect on the problem. But the real problem stems from the cumulative effect of 4+ years of mostly bad football. Fans have been told by the AD, coaches and media members to lower current expectations for success on the field and have acted accordingly. Fans will be in their seats early if they know that if they are not they will miss something special, historic or relevant. When was the last time Louisville played a home game anything like that? When was the last time a big named school came to Papa Johns providing an opportunity for Louisville to re-establish national relevancy? Lower expectations result in lower emotional attachment. Lower emotional attachment leads to indifference and less urgency to attend games. An attitude of expect the worst and hope for the best will not pack stadiums. If we want to look for blame, look to those individuals making six and seven figure salaries in the Louisville athletic department and hold them accountable to provide a product that fans can establish rabid emotional attachment. Otherwise, the games will continue to be social events.

    1. Good points as usual, TXCARD. i sat in on a football marketing committee at the Chamber of Commerce during the Seventies when they discussed turning UofL football games into social events to improve attendance. Bill Olson, who was AD at the time, will tell you that promotional materials never mentioned performance on the field but the atmosphere surrounding the game. The committee did its job well in making them social events. Maybe it’s time to reconvene the committee? Or maybe before next season when things should be much improved on the field.

  8. Lets put a better product on the field, first, then talk about the fans. If the players need fans to go out and play football there’s something wrong. how about going out and whipping the guy across from you on the field.

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