Photos by Christian Watson
On Nov. 13, LouCity FC became the 2017 USL Cup champions after a 1-0 win over Swope Park Rangers at Slugger Field in Louisville.
Photos by Christian Watson
On Nov. 13, LouCity FC became the 2017 USL Cup champions after a 1-0 win over Swope Park Rangers at Slugger Field in Louisville.
By Jim Biery
When I was seven, I was a typical kid who couldn’t wait to go outside and play with my friends. As I ran down the hallway and started down the hardwood stairs, I was also trying to save time and put on my shirt in the process. Halfway down, I missed a step and went head-first into the next to last step. After the crying was done and Mom had wiped all the tears away, I went next-door to play.
After a couple more pals showed up, we were ready to ride bikes. But the mother of my next-door neighbor said before he could go play he had to pick up the mess he left in the basement. We all joined together to help him out. Once we got to the basement, things began to change.
When I tried to look around for the toys we had to pick up, all I saw was black. I looked at the light in the corner and it looked just like the sun. No details of the lamp but just a round sphere of color. After a few failed attempts to see anything on the floor, I went back home and told my Mom what was happening. She took me straight to the family doctor, and he confirmed my first of a handful of concussions.
So, why am I telling you about something that happens to just about every kid in the world? (After all, most kids will fall, run into something or get hit in the head with an object.) It’s because, fairly recently, we have become aware of what multiple concussions can do to the human brain. It’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.
Let’s start with understanding exactly what I’m talking about.
The definition of a concussion is temporary unconsciousness caused by a blow to the head. The term is also used loosely of the aftereffects, such as confusion or temporary incapacity. A concussion is also know as as mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).
CTE, according to a recent Mayo Clinic report, is “a diagnosis only made at the time of an autopsy studying sections of the brain. CTE is a very rare condition. … CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease for which there is no treatment.”
The symptoms of CTE are difficulty thinking, impulsive behavior, depression, short term memory loss, and difficulty planning and carrying out tasks.
If you ask anyone who may be over the age of 50 (yours truly would fit into this category), these are the same symptoms of everyday life. So, why is football getting the lion’s share of the blame for CTE?
There have been a growing number of parents who have decided that football is too dangerous to play and have kept their kids out of the sport. Of course, parents are making these decisions to try and protect their kids, however you might be surprised to know what sports and activities bring the most danger to participants.
Jennifer Graham of Descret News reported researchers’ results in an article from April 2016. Researchers analyzed ER visits between 2003-2016 dealing with head trauma and concussions.
They put sports and activities into six categories: Contact sports like football, soccer, etc.; roller sports; skiing; equestrian; aquatic; and snow boarding.
The number one leader with 45 percent of ER visits was equestrian sports. Interpersonal contact sports was second with 20 percent of the reported visits. If we applied the same protective logic to results like these, little Suzy would never get that pony she has always wanted.
Listen, I’m not trying to say that riding horses or skateboarding or even snow skiing are inherently as dangerous as contact sports, but the only difference is that no one – to my knowledge – is taking actions to try and persuade people not to participate in these activities if someone chooses to. So why are we doing so with football?
THANKFULLY FOR ME, MY MOTHER DECIDED SHE WOULD NOT PLACE ANY OF HER KIDS IN THE PREVERBIAL PLASTIC BUBBLE. UNFORTUNATELY FOR HER, I WAS JUMPING OFF ROOFS AS A CHILD.
Concussions can be caused by all kinds of events, butwhat I’m wanting people to focus on is not to limit what a loved one does because of fear of what could happen, but to do research and continue to improve safety features of any given sport. Many steps have been taken to improve safety. For instance, kids under the age of 12 playing soccer are not allowed to use their heads to advance or try to score a goal. This is called a “header” and can cause damage to both the heads and necks of young soccer enthusiasts.
We can’t always prevent kids from doing what makes them happy and what they enjoy. My grandmother was so protective of my mother that she was not allowed to even ride a roller coaster. She told me this as I was growing up and said that it was something she wished she had done as a child.
Thankfully for me, my mother decided she would not place any of her kids in the preverbial plastic bubble. Unfortunately for her, I was jumping off roofs as a child. I would, of course, jump my bicycle over anything I could find to jump: trash cans, sewer pipes, even other kids! Yes, this did lead to some pretty gruesome crashes. Once while riding my bike no handed, I hit a sewer cap and flipped over the handle bars and knocked myself out.
Let’s not bury the sport of football to try and solve the concussion issue in kids. That’s like throwing the baby out which the bath water logic. How about we teach proper tackling, improve equipment and look for other ways to play sports of all kinds more safely instead of just telling people not play what they want.
New supporter volunteer group seeking people willing to assist.
Louisville City FC has launched a new volunteer group for supporters who wish to assist in the growth of the United Soccer League club and soccer throughout the region.
Christened the LouCity Bourbon Brigade in honor of the region’s rich bourbon heritage, this new supporter-led volunteer group will have the opportunity to work directly with the LouCity front office and team by helping grow the soccer club’s supporter base.
LouCity Bourbon Brigade members will be invited to:
• Become a Lou City ambassador and assist and help staff LCFC events
• Use their own contacts and networks in the community to help expand the LouCity season ticket base
• Use their experience to assist LouCity in generating new season ticket sales leads, season ticket renewals and assist with promotional events and campaigns throughout the year
• Support the club’s charitable and community-oriented efforts
• Assist in the club’s efforts to have a new stadium built in Butchertown
Fans who join the new volunteer group will be rewarded for their time and efforts with recognition, great rewards and prizes and unique money-can’t-buy LouCity experiences including:
• An opportunity to meet the team and coaching staff at an exclusive event
• Attend a closed-door team practice and a team talk from Coach James O’Connor
• Earn exclusive club merchandise
• Have their photo taken with their favorite LouCity player
• Earn a chance to travel with the club to a road game and be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a trip to an English Premiership match
• Help introduce the team as part of the Bourbon Brigade Tunnel on match day
Supporters interested in joining the new group can apply at the club’s website: www. louisvillecityfc.com/bourbonbrigade. Membership of the group is by application only and open to anyone 18 or over. Interviews for successful applicants will take place in November.
“This is a unique opportunity for our most dedicated fans to get even closer to the club by dedicating their time, effort and contacts in the community to help LouCity and soccer in general in our region grow and flourish,” said Louisville City FC Chief Operating Officer Steve Livingstone. “If you love Louisville City and soccer, and have some time to spare, we’d love to hear from you by applying at the LouCity website. There are some great rewards, experiences and recognition for those supporters who get involved.”
Supporters can apply to join the volunteer group at www.louisvillecityfc.com/bourbonbrigade or call Jon Davis at 502.384.8799, ext. 114 or email him at email@example.com.
Photo & Story by Jeff Nunn of CardinalSportsZone.com
The University of Louisville had a player voted to the first team in the first-ever Associated Press preseason football All-American list.
No, it wasn’t the reigning Heisman trophy winner, Lamar Jackson, but rather junior cornerback, Jaire Alexander.
Alexander also was named to Sports Illustrated’s 2017 Preseason All-America Team as well as 247Sports’ Preseason All-American team and the All-ACC preseason team, and was named to numerous preseason watch lists, including the Paul Hornung watch list (most versatile player in major college football), the Jim Thorpe watch list (best defensive back in college football), the Bednarik watch list (college defensive player of the year) and the Nagurski watch list (best collegiate defensive player). Those awards will be handed out after the season.
All those awards and nominations are very impressive for any college athlete but especially impressive for Alexander because he didn’t start playing cornerback until his junior year of high school. He grew up playing wide receiver but made the switch to corner when he transferred high schools. When the Charlotte, N.C., native transferred, his new school already had established wide receivers, but there was a need at corner. So, he moved to the defensive side of the ball and played corner full time but still managed to play wide receiver part-time.
The 5-foot-11-inch, Alexander managed to be the leading receiver in the Charlotte area during his senior year at Rocky River High School. Despite being the state’s most productive two-way player, and being ranked as the fifth best player in the state of North Carolina by Scout.com, he received exactly zero scholarship offers from the from any of the power-conference teams in North Carolina. He was rated as a consensus 3-star athlete and the No. 67 cornerback in the nation by Rivals.com.
The lack of big-time offers and low player ratings didn’t seem to bother Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino, who is known to recruit to what he feels is a good fit for his style of play rather than “expert” rankings or star ratings. Petrino knows talent when he sees it, and so Louisville was the first school to offer Alexander a scholarship
Alexander committed to Charlotte but soon changed his mind when South Carolina came calling.
Alexander comes from a tight family, and they were heavily involved in his college decisions. It was said that Alexander and his parents felt like South Carolina didn’t give Alexander the love he deserved and the coaches couldn’t exactly tell them where their son fit into their plans.
It was time to move on, so they moved on to the University of Louisville where Alexander was only promised a chance to compete for the starting job. He had to earn it.
Alexander enrolled early in January of 2015. In his freshman year, he played in 10 games and recorded 19 total tackles, one interception, and two passes defended He also had 23 punt returns for 223 yards (9.7 yard per return average).
ALEXANDER BY THE NUMBERS
While those statistics are good, they were not good enough for Alexander. He worked very hard in the offseason in the weight room as well as the film room.
In his sophomore season, he burst onto the national scene when he returned a punt for a touchdown versus second-ranked Florida State with ESPN Gameday in the house. He nearly broke off a second touchdown but was tripped up short in his attempt. He told his father, Landis, that “his body locked up preventing him from scoring” on that second punt return.
He later had two amazing interceptions and a forced fumble in another nationally-televised game in Death Valley versus fifth-ranked Clemson. He also had a two interception game vs Virginia. He finished his sophomore season with a team leading five interceptions, nine pass breakups, 39 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Pro Football Focus (a website that focuses on a thorough analysis to grade every player both college and the NFL) graded Alexander as the No. 1 Power-5 cornerback for the 2016 season.
Entering this season as a junior, expectations of his performance have been raised by everyone, including Alexander himself. He again has worked hard in the off-season and has become faster. He was clocked with a 4.32-second 40-yard dash.
Along with those expectations come talk of skipping his senior year and entering the NFL draft. Alexander is ranked as the No. 19 draft prospect in 2018 by ESPN’s Mel Kiper. Landis praised his son and said that he has remained grounded and focused despite all the awards and attention. He also said if his son is not projected as a first- or second-round pick at the end of the 2017 season, he’ll return to Louisville for his senior year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was written and published in the print version of our October issue prior to the developments at the University of Louisville. Instead of pulling it from our website – because you can’t do that when something is published in print – the Extol Sports team made the decision to publish this column online and in our digital format, too. Please keep that in mind. Like so many other sports fans, we’re waiting to see what happens next. –Angie Fenton, Extol Sports Editor-in-Chief
By Howie Lindsey of 790 KRD
A NEW PARTNERSHIP worth $160 million makes Louisville the highest-earning college program in Adidas history.
The new deal, announced in late August, will include 10 years of apparel and branding partnership between the University of Louisville and the global shoe brand at a rate of $16 million per season.
“Our new partnership with Louisville is one of our largest ever investments in sports in America,” Adidas North America president Mark King said. “When you think about college sports in America, you think Louisville. The athletic program the Cardinals have created is remarkable. These young athletes are impressive competitors in every sport.”
The partnership between UofL Athletics and Adidas will not only include clothing and shoes, but also facility enhancements and collaborative, widespread brand-marketing efforts meant to take the Louisville logo to an international audience.
While the $160 million is certainly headline grabbing, the more interesting story is where this deal came from and where it is going.
The deal with Louisville started nearly 20 years ago when Louisville Vice President and athletic director Tom Jurich was working to find a partner for athletics in the apparel business.
“Our first deal was if we bought two pairs of shoes, the third would be half price,” Jurich said with a smile. “We have come a long way since then.”
Since then, Louisville has gone from Conference USA to the Big East to the American and now to the ACC, arguably the nation’s top all-sports league. And along the way, Louisville’s elite athletes – national champions, Gold Medal winners and Heisman Trophy winners – have worn the three stripes that Adidas is known for.
“When we began our relationship with adidas nearly 20 years ago, we weren’t in the same shape we are now,” Jurich said. “Adidas has stood arm-in-arm with us through adversity and success. The biggest winners in our cooperative partnership have clearly been our student-athletes, who are at the focus of all that we do.”
King, the Adidas’ North American president, explained, “Louisville has been an important partner of ours for nearly 20 years, and we see tremendous value in our new partnership as we continue to shape the future of sports together.”
While Louisville’s success led to higher numbers in each subsequent apparel deal, Adidas’ rise as a North American power helped send the newly announced deal into the stratosphere.
Essentially, as Louisville built itself into a multi-sport national power under Jurich’s guidance, Adidas built itself into a stronger American brand.
Signing innovative shoewear designers and art and culture influencers like Kanye West, Kendall Jenner, Pharrell and Missy Elliott, Adidas transformed its image from European soccer shoes and shell-toes to Yeezys, UltraBoosts and innovative design like Tubular Shadow.
It has worked so well that Adidas’ stock has been rising for nearly two years straight and the brand just leaped Michael Jordan’s signature line.
“Adidas has overtaken Jordan as the No. 2 brand in U.S. sport footwear. This is an achievement I never thought I would see in my lifetime,” sports industry analyst Matt Powell of the NPD Group wrote. “Adidas sport footwear sales grew more than half for the month of August, and shares grew by nearly half, to 13 percent of the market.”
“Adidas basketball grew more than 40 percent, while Nike declined in the mid-singles and Brand Jordan lost about a third of its sales,” said Tonya Garcia of MarketWatch in mid-September.
Adidas’ rise in market share and stock price meant more money available for schools like Louisville, Nebraska and Kansas.
So that’s where this new deal came from, but where is it going?
Jurich was asked to name details at the official announcement and declined, smiling while saying, “We have big plans and we’re excited about our future together.”
Adidas wants UofL – and its other collegiate partners – to think outside the traditional box of teams wearing sneakers and gear.
Jurich said, “We are thrilled to be partnered with an enterprise who shares our passion for innovation, pioneering efforts, striving for excellence and simply doing things differently.”
Doing things differently fits with Jurich’s brand – he is always thinking five years down the road to see what is next in collegiate athletics. Part of Louisville’s plan is to continue its strong Adidas Interns program, where UofL students can learn the business of sports apparel with an inside look at the Adidas brand.
And what else will the deal include? Jurich and Adidas’ Chris McGuire said fan and media will have to wait and see.
“It’s not vague,” McGuire said. McGuire is Adidas’ senior director of sports marketing. “It’s just that our product timelines are 12 months in advance, so we have a lot of work to do on our end to bring those products to market. It’s a long process for releasing products. There’s a lot of concepts that are out there, a lot of different ideas, just not anything that’s ready to come to fruition yet.”
Part of the Adidas partnership announcement centered around Louisville Athletics’ new slogan, “We, The Future.” The slogan, developed over the last 18 to 24 months, firmly focuses Louisville Athletics’ vision on the future of its athletic programs.
“It is here the future of sport will be written,” the UofL mantra states. The “We, The Future” branding is all over Louisville’s campus and athletic fields this fall.
Louisville’s slogan fits hand in glove with Adidas’ longtime mantra “Impossible is Nothing,” especially considering “Impossible is Nothing” comes from a 1974 quote by Louisville’s native son, Muhammad Ali.
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it,” Ali said. “Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
Most people familiar with the metropolitan commuter school in the early 1990s would have thought it impossible that Louisville would sign a $160 million dollar deal with an international brand like Adidas. But it happened this fall.
U OF L & ADIDAS PARTNERSHIP BY THE NUMBERS
$16 PER SEASON
ADIDAS HAS OVERTAKEN JORDAN AS THE NO. 2 BRAND IN U.S. SPORT FOOTWEAR
Can They Go One Better This Year?
BY KEVIN KERNEN | PHOTOS BY JONATHAN LINTNER FORMERLY OF LOUISVILLE CITY FC
As the calendar turns the page to October, Louisville City and the United Soccer League enter the home stretch of the regular season calendar, the most consequential time of the season for teams whose playoff destiny is in doubt. Luckily, the only thing Louisville City has to concern themselves with is securing top seed for the playoffs and home field advantage that comes with it.
The team has established itself as one of the most formidable outfits in the league, boasting a dangerous rotation of strikers, a flexible group of midfielders and a staunch cadre of defenders that together have given LouCity the tools they need to improve on their last two seasons’ playoff exits, both in the conference finals.
For a second division soccer team in America, success is hard to replicate and nearly impossible to maintain, especially for the almost three seasons that Louisville City has. This almost unparalleled success can be laid at the feet of the coaching staff and Coach James O’Connor, who is a great recruiter of players and an even better scout.
The team was lucky to hold onto as many players as they did over last offseason, and additions to the squad during that time have proven the difference in this regular season. Coach O’Connor looked to import players with USL experience, and guys like Brian Ownby, George Davis IV, and “Speedy” Williams have certainly contributed much to the teams continued success.
The addition of Ownby and Davis IV, in particular, as well as the adventurous play of outside defenders Kyle Smith and Oscar Jimenez, have yielded some exciting and expansive soccer, and the team has been more positive in their play because of it. All of this has taken some pressure off central midfielders and also gave the physically imposing Luke Spencer opportunities to outmuscle and outwork defenders to get on the end of crosses, something he does exceedingly well. LouCity hasn’t had a player quite as imposing as the 6’2” almost 200 pound forward, who has thrived after a move from his hometown club of FC Cincinnati.
After having a couple of offensive talismans in the first two years in League MVP and goal scoring record holder Matt Fondy and MLS-level proven Chandler Hoffman, the team has found a reliable replacement with Spencer. There’s also been more of a rotation in the strikers, Ilija Ilic got more starts in one month than he has in his first two years with the club, and Cameron Lancaster has also factored into a handful of goals himself, taking the load off the de facto single striker system that had developed with Fondy and Hoffman playing in attack.
The only real moments of doubt that have come up throughout the season have been associated with the goalkeeping. When Greg Ranjitsingh reinjured his groin in the season opener, Tim Dobrowolski took up the role of keeper for the duration of Ranjitsingh’s absence, playing well and maintained his spot for five games, even after the former’s return to health. A disappointing outing against Tampa Bay led to Greg reprising the spot between the sticks.
Ranjitsingh has had a few gaffes, which has led to a healthy competition for the spot, and there’s been a back and forth for selection by Coach O’Connor, where Ranjitsingh has edged Dobrowolski in appearances, but the spot is far from safe for the Canadian born Tobagonian.
On the whole, Louisville City experienced an upturn in performance from 2015 to the 2016 season, and the club is again on pace to edge their point total from last year, where they managed to lose just four times in the 30-game season. What caught up with the team last year, however, was not their four league defeats, but the nine draws they had, several of them in games against much weaker opponents, something that the squad has largely been able to avoid this season, even having lost a greater number of matches, they are now in a better position.
Not only has the team’s performance improved year to year, but there has been a marked uptick in attendance as well. Where the team saw an average of just over 6,700 at home in 2015’s regular season, and 7,200 in 2016, 2017 has averaged almost 9,000 through the turnstiles at Slugger, punctuated by the five-goal dismantling of FC Cincinnati in front of the club’s first ever sellout crowd of 13,812 on Aug. 12.
While all signs are pointed in the right direction, the real moment of reckoning for Louisville City has yet to come. They have a condensed schedule over the last few weeks of the season, including the recent road swing to Canada before playing out their final two games of the season at home, the penultimate contest against Charlotte, which may end up deciding who enters the playoffs in the top spot in the East, and a finale against a listless Richmond Kickers outfit, which could be an opportunity to rest some players before the start of the nearly month-long postseason.
The playoffs will begin a week after the final regular season matchday, and with the table as congested as it is, you can expect to see teams’ seeds change and if last year’s final weekend is any indication, some teams knock another out the playoffs on the final day.
For LouCity, attaining the top spot is important. They’ve gone to two straight conference championships, both on the road (Rochester in 2015 and New York Red Bulls II in 2016) and neither in front of very many people. The crowd at Louisville Slugger Field is great and to be able to play there as long as possible is a very worthwhile goal to see out the season with.
Having talked with Coach O’Connor after the heartbreaking penalty shootout loss at Red Bull Arena to end last season, I know that both he and the team expect more out of themselves, and as for qualifying the season as a success or failure, River Cities and Kings’ Cups aside, anything less than a USL finals appearance would be a disappointment.
Photos by Jeff Nunn courtesy of CardinalSportsZone.com
Louisville vs. Purdue: The Cardinals pulled off a win in the nail-biter season opener Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium
The University of Louisville’s season opener was a nail biter for Cardinal fans thanks to Purdue coach Jeff Brohm’s Boilermakers. The 26-point underdogs played Bobby Petrino’s team to the wire, ultimately losing the game 35-28.
By Zach McCrite
This is a “must-win” column. I must win this column or else something will happen, right?
Let me explain.
I would define myself as a lot of different things: I’m a parent. A husband. I’m a son and a brother. Go ahead and mark me down for coach, rabid eater and fan of Indiana University sports.
But when it comes to my career as a “sports media” member, it took me a long time to realize that what I was getting paid to do was to be an entertainer.
Sure, you’re supposed to know sports, but I know probably less about sports than you or someone in your immediate family.
“Then why are you still writing and on the radio, Zach?”
Well, it’s likely because my goal isn’t to know more sports than you. It’s to entertain. It’s not to have the most accurate, no-one-else-can-even-possibly-be-right-unless-they-agree-with-me opinion.
It’s to make you think. It’s to make you laugh. It’s to make you feel something. Anything.
That’s an entertainer, I suppose.
And with more and more outlets out there for people to be sports entertainers and get paid for it, the opinions get more and more outlandish.
And that leads us to these “must-win” folks.
It seems like every game, these days, is a must-win for someone. So much so that it’s been a staple of my brand to call out the nimrods who call for them so unnecessarily.
Let’s start with the NFL, where each of the 32 teams gets 16 games to be one of 12 teams to make playoffs. In other words, when the season begins, each team has a 37.5 percent chance to make the playoffs.
So, forgive me when in Week 2 of the NFL season I roll my eyes a little bit when you have writers from USA Today penning a column with a headline of “Lions face must-in game vs. Giants on Monday Night Football.”
I refuse to click on these ridiculous stories. They’re click bait. And you’re the fish.
If you are dumb enough to think that anyone’s second game of a 16-game season is a “must-win” when 37.5 percent of all the teams are going to the playoffs, then me and you can’t be friends.
And I can do you one better.
How about when both teams in a matchup are facing a must win in Week 2?
On Sept. 18, I googled “must win.”
Result No. 2 on Google.com: “Backed into a corner, the Giants face ‘must-win’ game in September.
Well, Giants, you ended up losing this game, so I guess you really don’t have to play anymore this season. You can go ahead and start your vacation. Let us know how the golf games go.
I don’t want to take long on this, but let’s take one of these 0-1 NFL teams and quickly give this the time it doesn’t really deserve to explain why their second game isn’t a must-win.
Let’s play the role of the Giants that lost their “must-win” game in Week 2. Have you ever heard of any NFL team that hasn’t made the playoffs at 14-2? I didn’t think so.
Take college basketball for another example, where I hear every February how such-and-such team “must win this regular season game or they have no shot at making the NCAA Tournament.”
This is in a sport where these teams, regardless of what their regular season record is, have a chance to win their way into the tournament via the automatic bid given out at each conference tournament.
In researching for this column, I stumbled across a column from a Penn State basketball blog pointing out which games were must-wins this season. For crying out loud, we’re six weeks from the season even starting and we’re already pointing out games as “must-wins?”
I need a drink.
Look, if the goal is to win championships and you automatically get entered into a conference tournament at the end of the season, must-wins will certainly never happen months before the season ends.
“WHEN IT COMES TO MY CAREER AS A “SPORTS MEDIA” MEMBER, IT TOOK ME A LONG TIME TO REALIZE THAT WHAT I WAS GETTING PAID TO DO WAS TO BE AN ENTERTAINER.”
There are exceptions, but not many. Most notably, college football, where there isn’t an “everyone is welcome” conference tournament to give out an automatic bid. So, the regular season does matter. You could, perhaps, consider a game against someone inside your own division as a must-win early in the season, since it means you’d likely have to hope those teams will lose twice down the road to fall below you in the standings (if they only lose once, they have the win over you as the tiebreaker … see Louisville against Clemson).
But in the grand scheme of things, “must-win” is more improperly used than a teenage girl telling you she “literally died” when she dropped her smartphone and the screen broke.
Speaking of “literally,” I’m sure I’ll get blamed for taking the “must-win” phrase too literally.
Perhaps I am. Or, perhaps you could not try to sensationalize a game that no one has to win to keep their season alive.
Find a different way to entertain your audience. “B.S. meters” everywhere will thank you for it.
Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ
Role Play: If I Were Athletic Director At Louisville
I should be an athletic director.
Well, I guess I should first explain: I am not qualified to be an athletic director at the collegiate level.
Why? Well, I’m not real good at raising money.
You got to be the ringleader of raising a lot of dough when you’re an A.D. I’m just not good at that. I could do it once. One big capital campaign.
But, continuously going “back to the well” would be like going to the dentist for me (no offense, Dr. Fust). Perhaps with practice, I’d be better.
For purposes of this space, here is the one and only thing I would do immediately if I, indeed, were athletic director at the University of Louisville, a school that has been a mainstay of the usually-dormant summer sports news cycle.
I would learn to be happy again.
It’s been a tough go for Athletic Director Tom Jurich. But, hey, who doesn’t hit turmoil at their job every once in awhile.
I don’t know what goes on privately there, but publicly, Jurich has come out smelling like a rose far more often in his 20 years at the helm of Cardinal athletics than not.
But then, last month happened.
That’s when WAVE-TV Sports Director Kent Taylor had a one-on-one interview with Jurich in which the A.D. talked about how the last couple of years – between the basketball program’s escort scandal, the UofL Foundation scandal and much more – has been tumultuous.
Jurich was asked if he was happy right now.
“I’m getting there. I’m getting there. It’s been a long couple of years.”
There’s no doubt that things haven’t been all rainbows and lollipops over there. However, life doesn’t seem all that bad at UofL.
It’s not like someone slammed all the way down on the brake pedal and impeded the progress Jurich has made.
Having a national championship banner coming down on your watch is no picnic, and that banner is coming down unless UofL wins what many are calling a “long shot” appeal to the NCAA.
Let’s not be phony, that one will leave a mark.
But, there’s far more in the good column than the bad for Jurich.
The latest evidence are the cranes currently affixed around Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Another expansion for a place that is seemingly always being expanded.
That’s something for which to be happy. That’s something for which to be proud.
College World Series appearances, a Heisman Trophy winner, more fancy athletic facilities and the most profitable college basketball program in the country, right?
I understand always wanting to be better. That’s the kind of drive that made him the respectable, if not legendary, athletic director that he is today.
But, if I were A.D., I would find time every now and again to appreciate what is already there.
You could almost literally trip and fall anywhere on the UofL campus and land on something for which Jurich is responsible, at least in part.
To most fans, Jurich has been given carte blanche to do with the athletic department as he pleases, without as much as a sign-off sheet from the school’s former president on much of the matters at hand.
And that carte blanche equalled Cardinal skyscrapers and success.
However, I’m going to guess where some of his unhappiness lies.
It seems, perhaps, some checks and balances have been put back in place between the athletic department and the university as a whole.
At least, that’s the vibe many got with the introduction of interim president Dr. Greg Postel, who has taken over the mess created, in part, by the school’s former president James Ramsey.
That vibe strengthened among many in the area when Postel apparently decided to spearhead an effort to pay higher rent to the Yum Center for being it’s main tenant.
Why? Well, it seemed that the university got a “sweetheart deal” the first time around that made it tough for the arena to pay off the arena’s $690 million loan.
And that’s not UofL’s fault that it signed that deal. We know that.
That initial deal – a deal put together by Ramsey, Jurich and others – was deemed by one current university trustee as a “bad deal, and we’re paying for that now,” according to a July 20 story from The Courier-Journal.
But, the new lease amendment, led by Postel, was to make sure the Yum! Center could stay afloat financially.
Ensuing reports came out that Postel kept Jurich in the dark about the lease renegotiations. WAVE-TV reported a “source also said the new deal represents a shift in power from the athletics department to the president’s office.”
Although Postel denied that claim, my guess is that’s one reason Jurich happiness at the University of Louisville isn’t at peak levels.
Postel has become a watchdog for the school. And we saw what happened when the school was without one. Not all of it was pretty.
And even if there is a “shift of power” going on at UofL, Jurich has landed on his feet.
Sure, a piece of neatly-knitted cloth may have to come down from the ceiling of a building where basketball is played. But look what’s left? Unwavering support of tens of thousands of Cards fans all over the Commonwealth and surrounding areas.
And, I mean this in the least aggressive manner possible, how many athletic directors around the country would survive the turmoil that, while not directly your doing, happened while on your watch?
Not many, if any at all.
That’s because of the behemoth Jurich is responsible for shepherding.
And I would wager a healthy amount that Jurich will continue to nourish his behemoth – even if he has a watchdog now.
I would be happy with my creation if I were the UofL A.D.
But, alas, it’s back to my recliner for more football.
Where’s my beer?
Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ.
BY JIM BIERY
As the Purdue Boilermakers begin their 2017 football season Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, they will be led out on the field by first-year head coach Jeff Brohm.
Coach Brohm has led teams into battle before, most recently at Western Kentucky University where he led the Hilltoppers to consecutive Conference USA championships in 2015 and 2016.
The big difference this year is that he will have a pretty large task ahead of him: trying to rebuild a program that has seen little success in recent years and, more importantly, has lost a large part of the fan base mainly because they haven’t posted a winning record since 2011.
When it comes to rebuilding a program, it helps to understand exactly what steps need to be taken and what direction you must lead not only the players on the team but the fan base as a whole. I sat down with Brohm to ask him exactly what the business of rebuilding entails.
Brohm played under Howard Schnellenberger at the University of Louisville from 1989 to 1993 and credits his former coach as being the master of rebuilding programs. Schnellenberger turned the University of Miami into a national championship winner and football powerhouse. He is perhaps best known in these parts for stating the Cardinals were “on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time.” This seemed laughable at the time.
The key to the start of a rebuilding process is to get people interested and motivated while giving them a product on the field that is entertaining to watch. Another aspect is to create a brand for the program and also market it in the right way. “As far as getting the team to buy into the right philosophy, you need to get them to believe they are better than what they think they are,” said Brohm. “Create a sense of confidence and swagger as they take the field against any given opponent. The players need to know you are a genuine person and you’re in it for the right reasons, and if you surround yourself with the right people, anything can be achieved.”
For the fans, he said, you have to provide an exciting style of football that they want to come and watch, and know that the team is going to play to the very end with confidence, to see a team that plays hard and lays it all on the line.
Over the past three years, the Boilermakers have averaged 35,731 in attendance and have compiled an overall record of 8-26. This is the lowest three-year average since 1950-1952. That’s pretty dismal considering the seating capacity at Ross-Ade Stadium is 57,236. During this span, teams like Nebraska, Ohio State, and Notre Dame have had more fans in the stands for the game than the Boilermaker.
As far as the boosters of the program are concerned, Brohm said being open and honest with them and having an open-door policy is critical. Letting them know you are listening to them and willing to address any questions they may have is vital to building their support. “If you can get them to buy into what we’re trying to do and show the effort on the field, it helps to get them to trust in your beliefs for the team,” he said.
When it comes to putting fans back in the seats, you have to play an exciting schedule with teams outside the Big Ten that people want to see, Brohm said. You need to show the fans that you are competing at a high level, and if you can’t win all the games, the fans need to see the effort. Eventually, you win a few games that you’re not “supposed” to and get better every year, which should bring more people to the games.
When asked what a successful first year would look like, Brohm said he wants a team that is competitive and fights to the very end. This competitiveness should be evident to the average fan. They should be able to walk away from the game and say, “These guys play hard and they competed.” Of course, trying to win six games and go to a bowl is the logical first step.
With such an impressive start to his head coaching career Brohm had several opportunities to choose from when it came to taking the next step. So, why Purdue? “The school has a great tradition, is part of a great conference, and people are hungry for success,” he said.
Is Purdue football on a collision course like Schnellenberger believed UofL was? Who knows. But I’ll tell you this, given Brohm’s track record so far in coaching, not to mention his legendary mentor, I can’t wait for the journey to begin. Boiler Up!