Thanks and congratulations to Athletic Director Tom Jurich and President Jim Ramsey for completing the final piece of the puzzle to ensure that the University of Louisville for all time will be forever and ever a major player in intercollegiate athletics.
And you, Cardinal fans, please get ready to help pay higher and higher prices for Atlantic Coast Conference football and basketball – especially basketball.
In football, the ACC will be big time, but never at the heights that the new conference will be in basketball.
As long as there are Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and maybe a couple more with those 100,000-plus football stadiums, Louisville football will have a hard time competing.
But in basketball, because of Rick Pitino and the sparkling KFC Yum! Center, UofL will be joining the basketball crazies on an even footing with Duke’s Coach K and North Carolina’s Roy Williams. There is nothing on Tobacco Road to rival the Cardinals’ arena.
What does the K stand for? Krzyzewski. You just wanted to see if I could spell it, didn’t you? His two Olympic Gold Medals put him at the zenith of all coaches.
Won’t that be something when Coach K and Williams come to town to match wits with Coach P?
Almost lost in all the coverage of UofL’s acceptance by the ACC was the entrance fee of several million bucks. Rich Cardinal backers always have been eager to pay the freight for top athletics.
Back when winning sports were just a dream in the early days of UofL athletics, I became a Cardinal fan watching them play at Eastern Kentucky State College in Richmond, Kentucky Wesleyan College in Winchester and Berea College in Berea.
I grew up 20 miles from Eastern, 25 from Berea and 27 from Wesleyan, and I got to see Cam Henderson and his Marshall Thundering Herd and Ed Diddle’s colorful Western Hilltopers at Wesleyan. I saw one of the Cardinal greats, Jack Coleman, play basketball against Berea and Wesleyan. And also Coleman, the pride of little Burgin High in Mercer County, play football, basketball and baseball against Eastern.
Cardinal basketball got a boost during World War II from members of a U.S. Navy program that was at Belknap Campus. The best Sea Card was center George Hauptfuhrer. Among other Cardinals of that era were well-known surgeon Dr. J. Herman Mahaffey and Humana investor Lewis “Sonny” Bass. Berea also had a similar Naval program.
I have known President Ramsey since I met him in New York City when we accompanied Western Kentucky University’s basketball team for a tournament in Madison Square Garden many moons ago.
His father was a strong supporter of WKU and a long-time member of the Hilltoppers’ Board of Regents. He also was an assistant superintendent of Jefferson County Schools.
The first time I met Jurich, shortly after he came to UofL, was at a Ballard High football game when basketball coach Scott Davenport was showing him around. I thought he was a straight-shooter then and he still is.
Jurich is very much at the top of his game. For instance, when the University of Kentucky hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops as the new head coach of the Wildcats, it was after Jurich had beaten UK to the punch for the best one, Florida’s Charlie Strong, as the Cardinals’ head coach.
It’s hard to top Jurich.
Now comes another big challenge, raising the millions to pay the Cardinals’ way into the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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Denny Crum always said about me, “Earl is a good guy, but he’s Blue.” The truth is that I pull for both teams.
There are two UK graduates, one Harvard and one EKU graduate in my family. Four family members have UofL degrees: One masters, one medical, two law.
That’s the best I can do.