My love affair with the University of Louisville and our athletic department started at an early age. My family moved to Elizabethtown, KY when my dad retired from the US Army around the time I was entering the 6th grade. Having lived the majority of my life in Germany, I had never really experienced college athletics. I had no idea the passion, intensity, and support that this life-altering affair would have on me going forward.
I can say with one-hundred percent certainty that the choice to attend UofL was one of, if not the very best decisions I have made thus far in my life. I couldn’t have had a better college experience. I ended up joining and becoming President of a fraternity, was elected as President of the Student Council for the College of Education, met my wife who was also President of her sorority, and about a thousand other memories that I cherish that can still not fully explain my emotions or attachment to our wonderful university.
So, why have I told you all of this? After all, even I understand that this has been a very long introduction to a blog post. I wanted to give you my frame of reference with my feelings about what is going on in our athletic department as a whole and our perception as a university in the national media. As I reflect on my thoughts and opinions, they don’t necessarily paint us in the best picture. However, my concern is that sometimes perception is reality.
Let’s take a look at our last several years as an athletic department. We chose to keep Rick Pitino as our head coach after his own personal scandal. We then brought back another controversial coach when we decided to bring back Coach Bobby Petrino to lead our football team into the ACC. We decided to keep Clint Hurtt even though the NCAA had sanctioned him for his involvement at the University of Miami. We were then awakened to news that Chris Jones had been accused of awful things on campus and once again made national news. Just as we were fading from the negative backlash of all of these incidents and occurrences, we started offering scholarships to football players who have been released from multiple universities for multiple offenses, and yes, once again we’re in the national media. Some experts argue that there no such thing as bad press, but I have a different opinion completely.
There’s so many positive things going on at the university. I take it very personal and get emotional when I think about the negative tone currently associated with our athletic department. Many UofL fans disagree with me on this and say that I’m exaggerating our recent events. Am I? Didn’t all of these things happen within a fairly short period of time? I absolutely love our university and every one of our athletic programs. Two of the best experiences I’ve had in my life were going with my wife and a bunch of our friends to the Sugar Bowl and watching Coach Strong and his team do amazing things in a win over Florida, and taking my children to watch our men’s basketball team win a national championship. My family goes to whatever bowl game our football team plays in every year, and we also travel and follow our basketball team as they dance in March. Recently, due to my current scandal fatigue I was told on social media that maybe UofL doesn’t need fans like me, that they need “true” fans. I genuinely love the university. I will support both the school and our athletic department for the rest of my life. However, I am not naive enough to think that we’re perfect or to think that the criticism we’re receiving isn’t warranted.
It’s hard to step outside of our comfort zone and self-reflect. Sometimes, we find things or see things that we don’t want to admit. No one can question the success of our athletic department over the past ten years. It’s been an amazing run and an awful lot of fun to watch and experience. That being said, it’s time to re-brand ourselves. We cannot continue to have our name associated with scandal. I cannot listen to one more daily local talk show where two of the three hours of programming is discussing scandals. I cannot read one more national article discussing the University of Louisville and if it’s a safe place for females to attend college. I think it’s an amazing place for females to attend; but if you aren’t from here, and the only stories you hear are the ones listed above, what would you think?
In closing, I hope that my scandal fatigue doesn’t make you question my love for the university. If anything, it should show you just how much I care about our public image. When I hear people talk about the University of Louisville I want it to be associated with scholarly research, outstanding athletics, community support, and unequaled opportunity and diversity. We can and will get there, I just have one final request. Please, no more scandals.