Louisville’s three first-round NFL draft picks

Well, Teddy Bridgewater went in the first round of the NFL draft … as the very last pick.

The Minnesota Vikings took him, which means he’ll be wearing lots of gloves next year (via ESPN):

Next season will be the Minnesota Vikings‘ last in the 31-year-old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and fans of the purple and gold can look forward to blue lips and red cheeks as they shiver through two seasons of old-school outdoor football.

Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said Friday that the team plans to play at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, while the team’s new stadium gets built at the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis.

Teddy wasn’t the only Louisville Cardinal selected in the first round.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Kentucky

That’s safety Calvin Pryor on the right, who went to the New York Jets as the 18th pick. Here he is in action:

And, to everyone’s surprise another Card was drafted in the first round before Teddy. At No. 26 the Philadelphia Eagles took Marcus Smith:

Louisville had three picks go in the first round. That’s the best the team has ever done. The only other team to match that number was Texas A&M. It’ll be interesting to see how Louisville does in the coming college football season. New quarterback, new coach, new strategies and a new conference.

But for now, let’s have one more look at Teddy firing up the crowd:

teddy

The NFL draft mystery: Teddy Bridgewater

I didn’t much care about college football until three years ago. That’s when Teddy Bridgewater started playing for Louisville. Ask anyone about Louisville football, and you’d hear that Bridgewater is the second best quarterback to come from the Cardinals’ program.

The first is Johnny Unitas. And if you think about it, if Teddy had stayed in Louisville for another year, he would have been the best.

I’ve watched him play broken and bruised against Rutgers to win the Big East title. I was at the Sugar Bowl when he demolished the Florida Gators, even though the Cardinals had absolutely no running game until the end, when the game had already been decided. I watched the following season when Louisville had a 12-1 record, and could have been perfect if the defense hadn’t collapsed against the University of Central Florida, because Teddy had sealed the win. And I watched the destruction of the Miami Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

So the mystery I’m trying to figure out is why there’s talk that Bridgewater won’t be selected tonight in the first round of the NFL draft? All of Louisville knows that the Cardinals would have gone nowhere without Teddy, but in all the draft predictions I’ve seen, Bridgewater will be the SECOND Cardinal selected, with safety Calvin Pryor going early in the first round. Yeah, Pryor’s a great safety, but Bridgewater was the team.

I don’t understand this.

Meanwhile, here’s a heartwarming video about Teddy from Spike Lee:

This year’s three-point star: Shoni Schimmel

The University of Louisville’s basketball season is over. But here’s a last second highlight.

Way to go Shoni. Luke Hancock also participated in this. He got knocked out in the first round of the men’s competition.

Interesting though how Louisville’s basketball season ended. In both matches, the teams’ best players — Russ Smith and Shoni Schimmel — needed to make a three-pointer late in the game to give the team a chance at sending it into overtime. And in both games, they missed.

But neither of them should be blamed for the losses. Had their teammates made any contribution to the effort (I’m looking at you Stephan Van Trese and Bria Smith with a big fat 0 in the box score), I would be holed up this weekend in my apartment watching more games. Now, I’ll just look at reruns from last season. (Aaaaahhhhh. Baylor!  Ooooooohhhh. Michigan!)

Rick Pitino and the guys go to Washington

Is there a better way to cap off a great year for the University of Louisville sports program?

The Cardinals basketball team meets the president. They have a ceremony where politicians from both sides of the aisle are actually civil to one another. Obama gives a pretty good recap of the NCAA tournament, and Rick Pitino gives a speech praising the city and school he’s adopted.

All that’s missing?

The first lady …

And Russ Smith. Where is he anyway? (From NBC Sports):

Russdiculous is going international.

A preseason All-American and the leading scorer for the reigning national champs, Russ Smith has been named a member of the East Coast All-Stars, a 12-man team that left for Estonia to play in a tournament called the Four Nations Cup. …

He also won’t be in attendance as the Cardinals make a trip to the White House on Tuesday, which is actually a national tragedy: We won’t get a chance to see what happens when Russ Smith meets President Obama.

That would be a sight. Well, there’s always next year.

 

Hail to the chief and the Cards

This just in from Washington, D.C.:

Denny Crum and the University of Louisville basketball team met Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Ronald Reagan in 1986 following national championship runs.

Rick Pitino and this year’s Cardinals will do the same with President Barack Obama at 2:05 p.m. July 23.

The White House confirmed U of L’s visit, a university spokesperson announced Tuesday, and the Cardinals will be honored at the Rose Garden.

“It is truly one of the unique experiences in a young man’s life to go to the White House and meet the President of the United States,” the hall of fame coach Pitino said in a statement. “It’s not only a great honor, but our team will always remember that they got a chance to visit the White House, understand the logistics of how everything works and then meeting the President.”

Let’s see what this year’s Cardinals did the last time they met a president:

k-bigpic

This can be very inspirational, or a disaster. I’m 99 percent sure it will be dignified. But with Russ Smith in the room, you never know what’s going to happen. Just remember, here’s what he did to his coach, Rick Pitino, on national TV:

The fall and rise of Louisville sports

There must be one or two University of Louisville sports fans out there. If you’re one of them, Forbes magazine took a look at the school’s athletic director, Tom Jurich.

When Jurich took over the program in 1997:

Louisville athletics was a pariah. An organization so

Louisville Cardinals athletic logo

Louisville Cardinals athletic logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

misaligned, so bloated in inefficiency that the very conference it helped form had sued to expunge the university from its ranks. A desperate attempt to prevent the department’s disease of non-compliance from spreading to the other members of the league. There was little hope for Louisville, its faith seemingly sealed as terminal.

In his influential work on organizational management, “Good To Great”, author Jim Collins refers to the circumstances Louisville had fallen into as the “Doom Loop.” The organization lacked internal accountability, failed to achieve credibility within its own community and had lost all authenticity with the college athletics community as a whole. It was not that the department did not want to change, but rather that it lacked the discipline to do so.

The program had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.

For Jurich and his leadership team, part of that process involved confronting the hardest decision a manager must ever make – replacing individuals who did not fit within the cultural boundaries they set out for the department. In fact, within the first five years of tenure, there were more than 130 changes within the staff, or almost 50% of the entire department. Such high turnover is almost unheard of from any organization with the multi-million dollar revenues, and is testament to the dire situation Louisville found itself in.

And it’s biggest problem was it was completely out of compliance with Title IX, a crucial program that stresses the importance of women in sports.

“When it came to non-compliance with Title IX, Louisville was in dire straights,” says Jurich. “We had Lamar Daniel, a leading gender equity consultant, come to campus and tell us that we were the ‘worst program he had ever seen’. Here was someone who had spent over two decades conducting investigations for the Office of Civil Rights and who was practically at a loss for words on just how bad our situation was.”

While the problem Louisville faced was evident, the solution was less clear. At the time, the department’s budget was $14.8 million, or just 17% of the $85 million it had risen to today. Just about every area of the department needed improvement and additional resources. The problem was that not only did the Cardinals need to fund-raise, but also that they needed to invest the majority of the money back into women’s sports, none of which would provide any financial return on investment.

Wow. This place is hopeless.

But the Forbes article details the steps taken to rebuild UofL’s stature in athletics.

So what does the school have to show for it?

Some 15 years after Jurich took over as athletic director, the Louisville Cardinals have made history. The university became the first to win a BCS football game, a national championship in men’s basketball, play for the national championship in women’s basketball, and make the College World Series all in one year. Even more significantly, the University received an invitation to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), a move that all but guarantees stability for many years to come in tumultuous college athletics landscape. For any other university, achieving even one of those feats would be cause for tremendous celebration, but for the University of Louisville, anything less would have been a disappointment.

The article is worth reading. (Though it seems to have dropped a section involving UofL basketball. It makes a reference to Pitino, but no reference to Rick’s first name.)

Louisville basketball: It’s in the Cards!

The University of Louisville men are going to the Final Four in Atlanta.

Duke v Louisville

The University of Louisville women are going to the Final Four in New Orleans.

i

What’s a Cardinals fan to do?

BG5XylECAAQm_xy

According to the Louisville Athletics Twitter feed, it’s the:

10th time in NCAA history that a school has sent both men’s and women’s basketball teams to the NCAA Final Four in the same season …

Schools to accomplish the feat: UGA (’83), Duke (’99), Oklahoma (’02), Texas (’03), UConn (’04, ‘ 09, ’11), MichSt (’05), LSU (’06).

The president and the Cards

Last night, the Louisville Cardinals won the Big East basketball tournament for the second year in a row, after coming back from a 13 point halftime deficit to beat Syracuse by 17 points. But despite that miraculous win, this gathering, which happened a couple of days ago, has to be the highlight of the tournament:

5646_423300774420720_2096740604_n_mediumThat’s (from left) Russ Smith, Bubba and Peyton Siva in the front row and Chane Behanan and Luke Hancock in the back.

I saw former President Bill Clinton on the University of Louisville campus in 2010, the day before Election Day. From what I remember, the candidate running for the U.S. Senate, who was standing beside him for a couple of hours, did not display any desire to stick out his tongue.

But then, Clinton seems to be having a better time here …

clint1.0_standard_709.0

… than he did at the rally for the guy who ended up losing to Rand Paul.

The Final Four: Splendor in the bluegrass

There is nothing more important in Kentucky than basketball.

University of Louisville script "L" logo

University of Louisville logo

There. I’ve said it.

You can say, “Oh, no! There’s the Derby and bluegrass and bourbon.” But the Derby’s once a year and it doesn’t take much skill to look at bluegrass or drink bourbon. The residents of the state live for basketball, and this weekend, in the NCAA Division 1 men’s Final Four, the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky are going to have it out for a shot at the championship game, and more important, the designation as the state’s best basketball team.

The rivalry is like Ohio State-Michigan, or Army-Navy, without having to cross state lines.

If you take a statewide poll, an overwhelming majority are going to be rooting for UK. Mainly because they consider Louisville Sodom on the Ohio River. I’ll be rooting for Louisville because that’s home, now, and that’s where my son goes to school.

When I worked at the newspaper in Louisville (a lifetime ago), I remember the complaints we got during basketball season when we wrote about the teams. If Louisville story was an inch longer than the Kentucky story, fanatics would threaten to end their subscriptions because of our big city bias. If the Kentucky story was an inch longer than the Louisville story, fanatics would threaten to end their subscriptions because our managing editor was a UK graduate and was bias.

Folks, it didn’t matter. We were just trying to get the stories to fit on the pages.

The Washington Post sent a reporter out to Kentucky this week to capture the insanity. He wasn’t disappointed, coming up with this snippet of insanity:

These two schools don’t like each other. Never have. The game is still a couple of days away and tension is already heated. Local police, in fact, had to respond to a fight earlier this week — at a dialysis center, of all places.

“I didn’t talk to him about the ballgame,” one of the combatants explained to WKYT-TV. “I was talking to another guy about the game. He was meddling and told me to shut up and gave me the finger!”

Rick Pitino, the Louisville coach who actually won a national championship as UK’s coach back in 1996, said last week that if Kentucky loses, they’re going to have to build fences around bridges so people don’t jump off. John Calipari, the current Kentucky coach, said of his team’s fans:

“They are piranhas. . . . If you’re going to attack Kentucky, just be right. . . . I’m just telling you, piranha — womp, womp, womp,” he said, using his hands to bite the air in front of him. “They’ll come and eat your yard, your house, these people are nuts.”

UK Basketball logo, recreated in SVG format, u...

UK Basketball logo

This is one of those games where politicians have to weasel their way around, not directly answering questions on who they’re rooting for. Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson (the former Louisville mayor) are going to the game and one will sit with Kentucky fans and one will sit with Louisville fans for the first half, then they’ll switch seats in the second half. C’mon guys, take a side!

I remember years ago in New York, when the Yankees and the Mets met in the World Series, and politicians wore hats that had half Yankee symbols and half Met symbols. I admired Rudy Giuliani when he essentially said, screw the hat, I’m a Yankee fan.

That was a profile in courage.

Anyway, come Saturday, I’m going to be out of pocket for a couple of hours watching the game. And I’m not worried about fences over bridges.