A 24-hour round trip by motor coach to Detroit in 1998 still haunts the holiday season.
It was two days before Christmas, the University of Louisville football team was playing in a bowl game for the first time in five seasons. John L. Smith had transformed a 1-10 Ron Cooper team into a 7-4 winner.
More than a dozen buses streamed out of the Papa John’s at about 5:30 that morning. Police escort. Cards’ fans were on their way to the Motor City Bowl, first bowl game in five years. Much singing, shouting, imbibing and eating on the eight-hour ride.
A rude awakening awaited us in Detroit, with snow and sleet slapping us in the face as we trudged across the parking lot into the indoor stadium. That was nothing compared to the 48-29 beating Marshall University would administer that night, sending shellshocked U of L fans looking for places to hide. The ride home was even longer, of course, with everybody but the observer catching up on their sleep.
Four years later, U of L fans would have a chance to assess the progress of the John L.regime, this time at the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala. That was the year UofL had shocked No. 4 Florida State in overtime, remember? Surely the program had advanced by leaps and bounds during his tenure.
We would be forced to swallow another dose of reality, with Marshall administering another beating, this time 38-15. At halftime, we would learn that John L. had already accepted a position at Michigan State.
Take Marshall seriously. They have a way of messing up a good day.