Vintage Louisville Football

Vince Gibson Spawned The Red Rage

The image of flag girls waving “Red Rage” banners for the University of Louisville band stirred memories of Vince Gibson for many veteran fans at the football opener.

Vince Gibson and Red Rage gear.
Vince Gibson and Red Rage gear.

Gibson coined the “Red Rage” phrase when he took over U of L football in 1975 to market the football program. The symbol caught on, appearing on everything from the team’s uniforms to fan gear. Even Denny Crum liked it, using the imagery with his basketball program.

A couple of years later, athletic director Dave Hart would introduce the concept of tailgating at Louisville football games. The idea took off immediately, with U of L later recognized by a national publication as one of the best tailgating programs.

Vince Gibson, the Red Rage theme and the tailgating concept couldn’t have converged at a better time. The NCAA’s football powers, in 1977, voted to split into two divisions — Division 1A for schools averaging more than 17,000 fans, and Division 1AA for everybody else.

Louisville would make the cut for Division 1A in 1978, with an average attendance of just over 19,790 per game.

Gibson left after the 1979 season and a won-lost record of 25-29-2 for the head coaching job at Tulane, where he would coach for three seasons. He resides now in New Orleans where he was in the travel industry for several years. Earlier this year, he attended a reunion with Bobby Bowden at South Georgia College where they began their football coaching careers together.

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Charlie Springer

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

5 thoughts on “<i>Vintage Louisville Football</i>

  • September 13, 2009 at 8:11 pm
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    I can still hear Vince’s whiny voice now. Very irritating but he was a decent coach and his teams were fun to watch. Stu Stram, son of Hank Stram, was the quarterback, kind of in the LaFors mode. And there will never be a better linebacker at U of L than Otis Wilson.

  • September 13, 2009 at 9:13 pm
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    In 1976 I had an opportunity to visit with Vince Gibson after he recorded his weekly Thursday night radio program at WAVE Radio. When the coach found out I was a U of L football fan we talked football for a while and he told me a great story.

    He said a friend of his who had been canned at West Virginia was hired by a school in Florida to get their program back on the winning track. Upon arrival in Florida, the friend told the booster club that if they wanted a winner they were going to have to dig deep and cough up some cash. They would immediately need a new building that would contain state-of-the-art weight lifting facilities, locker rooms, offices, a study hall, meeting rooms and rec room for the players. He said that weight lifting was the new rage and that all the big programs were doing it.

    Then Gibson’s friend told the boosters that current stadium which was nothing more than permanent metal bleachers need to be upgraded. “Put some bricks around the outside, fix up the press box, make it look like a real college football stadium,” he told the boosters.

    Gibson said that this is what inspired him to go to the U of L boosters and raise the money to build the Athletic building that was behind the end zone in old Cardinal Stadium at the Fairgrounds. At the time it was state-of-the-art.

    So the facilities that helped convince Howard Schnellenberger that U of L was serious about football were built by another coach who also had vision. Other important things Gibson did – initiated the “Red Rage” (a spin-ff of his Kansas State’s Purple Rage), recruited some fine athletes from the state of Georgia, upgraded the uniforms to look like big time football, played better competition, created a hard-nosed defense and generally ignited the fan base.

    Oh, and coach Gibson’s friend, of course was none other than Bobby Bowden. And had Gibson been able to overcome some personal problems and stayed here, I think he may have been a good enough football coach to be as successful as Bowden.

  • September 14, 2009 at 6:50 am
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    Although it wasn’t a well attended or well known event. I actually tailgated as early as 1970, along with my Dad and a few of our friends. We were held in suspicion by the security people out at the Fairgrounds, because it was unheard of to arrive 3-4 hours before a game, set up grills and tables and eat and drink in the parking lot. Most of us congregated near the east end zone parking area and watched the game from the endzone…long before it became known as the “crunch zone”.

    The fraternities and sororities began taking to the idea in 1974. The NROTC program would also set up their cannon in the end zone at fire it off after a UofL score and one of the fraternities had a big bell they would ring in the end zone also after a Cardinal score.

    Over 30,000 attended the 1975 season opener against WKU. It was Gibson first game as the head coach of UofL. They lost to the Toppers 21-17. They would win only one other game that year, beating Chattanooga 6-3. Later, they were granted a second win when Mississippi St. had to forfeit wins in 1975 and 1976.

    1975 was Louisville’s first year as an independent in college football. They had previously been a part of the Missouri Vally Conference, but only played 4-6 games against other conference opponents.

    Two years later, Gibson would take the Cards to the 1977 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA. That 7-4-1 team lost to Louisiana Tech. and featured the bangup duo at running back of Calvin Prince and Nathan Poole. That team’s total rushing yards of 2923 stood as a Louisville record until 2003, when the balanced running attack of Michael Bush, Eric Shelton, Lionel Gates and Kolby Smith were on campus during Bobby Petrino’s first season.

  • September 14, 2009 at 8:47 am
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    Paul, as a staff member at the Chamber of Commerce, I attended a meeting where Dave Hart asked for an endorsement of tailgating before football games. The Chamber endorsed the concept, WHAS radio got involved in promoting it, giving away free drinks and sandwiches. There may have been a few groups already tailgating but it really took off after the Chamber and WHAS began promoting it.

  • September 14, 2009 at 12:52 pm
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    No one was giving anything away for free when we started, that’s for sure. The security guards were more interested in trying to mooch free food off us and we had no such lofty endorsements or recognition. We were there because we enjoyed it. Even if they did keep threatening to call the fire marshall on us.

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