Rick Pitino, Tom Jurich, Andre McGee, Katina Powell, Chuck Smrt, Dr. Postel, David Padgett and Vince Tyra are all names associated with the University of Louisville that have dominated the media over the last 2 years. For better or worse these are the facts.
For the majority of the people who read this, you all know almost everything that has happened in full detail. We all can have differing opinions on who should still have a job and who should have been fired – I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is how the rest of the sports world views the University in athletics and as a whole. I don’t want to start a whole big debate over everything because I feel now we are getting back to some semblance of normalcy and hopefully soon we will, once again, be a united fan base. What I want to do is share a couple of my experiences over this past weekend that opened my eyes as to how we look to others.
First, I was listening to a west coast national sports talk radio show where they started discussing college basketball coaches. They brought up Rick Pitino and said he was basically unhirable and his legacy will be that of a cheater. They said he ruined everything that he had accomplished by letting his players party with some hookers and allegedly paying for a recruit. While I don’t think Rick should still be the coach at Louisville, I think that national perception is from people who just read headlines and don’t do their due diligence before reporting on something. Right or wrong, that’s what it is. You can deny, deflect, dispute or disagree but that perception remains.
Another national radio show that was evaluating teams prior to the NCAA tournament selection, said it’s a shame that storied program like Louisville now resembles a dumpster fire.
I also had 2 experiences from the women’s NCAA tournament 1st and 3rd round games that I want to share with you.
Louisville vs Boise State at the YUM center – I sat right at the end of the Boise State bench in the photographer pit. I was literally 3 feet from the bench. I could hear every word the players and coaches said.
A Boise State player had fallen during a rebound and was accidentally stepped on. She was helped off the court and brought to the bench. She was crying and gasping for air. As the appropriate personnel gathered around her, I could hear all the Boise State staff and players talking about how rough and dirty Louisville played. I couldn’t help but think that those comments were partially a result of the perception of the University. The fact that Louisville was in the midst of issuing a curb stomping to Boise State probably contributed to that also.
During the second half of Louisville’s third round NCAA tournament victory over Stanford, I found myself sitting next to two photographers who apparently didn’t think much of Louisville. Myisha Hines-Allen had just been whistled for a foul that clearly was not a foul. I snapped a photo at the exact moment of the phantom foul. I pulled up the pic ( above ) on the back screen of my camera and showed it to the guy next to me. He said, “She got her pretty hard with the body.” I just said Ok and put the camera back up to my eye. Later he was talking to another photographer and he said, “It’s not fair that these girls have to travel all the way from the west coast and Louisville only has to travel 60 miles up the road.” The guy on the other side of him responded, ” Well, they are a #1 seed.” That wasn’t good enough for him. He went on to say that Louisville celebrated too much during the game. He pointed out that #2 had raised her hands in celebration at least twice and #25 had pumped her fist after making a basket. He though that was very unsportsmanlike.
I sat there and listened to these clowns talk about Louisville and how dirty the school is and that their teams play dirty as well. I wanted to just chalk it up as sour grapes but I’m starting to see a trend nationally.
My point is this, The optics of Louisville from the outside are not good right now. The last thing that we as fans need to do is to perpetuate that stigma. Rick Pitino is gone – Tom Jurich is too. No matter how you feel about that, it’s not going to change. It’s time for us to come together as a united fan base and move forward. The NIT crowds and the crowds at the women’s basketball tournament games have given me hope that we have all realized that no one is bigger than the University. We all love UofL and if we put our love, passion and support behind our student athletes, things will get better and the perception of our culture will be restored to the greatness that it once was.
As Always, GO CARDS!