Since the inception of Conference USA through today, a distinct league honor has eluded the University of Louisville. As strange as it may seem, Louisville will be playing for the program's first C-USA men's regular season title this week.
For a program that won 12 of the 19 conference titles awarded by the old Metro Conference, playing for its first in the 10th and final season as a member of C-USA, sounds odd.
That can all change on Thursday night when U of L hosts No.18 Charlotte in Freedom Hall. Both the Cardinals and 49er's enter the game with a league mark of 12-2, with the winner assured of atleast a share of the regular season crown.
I can't think of a better way to honor Ellis Myles, Otis George and Larry O'Bannon on Senior Day, as well as Francisco Garcia, who could be playing in his last home game, than with a roaring home crowd that helps lift the team to it's 25th win of the season and the school's first C-USA regular season crown.
As reported in the Courier-Journal on Tuesday, the Kentucky Senate approved unamimously on the state's new budget. Millions of dollars were cut from numerous statewide projects, including U of L's health research center. However a 'surprising' $15 million, earmarked for a new basketball practice facility at UK, somehow found a way to sneak into the budget.
While that project will almost certainly be removed before the final budget approval, it does raise a few questions.
1. Are the priorities of the people in the state of Kentucky that far out of whack?
2. Can't UK build new athletic facilities without turning to the tax dollars of the Commonwealth?
As for the first question... imagine the image it must give about Kentucky when our state senators slash money aimed for a health research center, but find room in the budget for a basketball practice facility. Yes, some in Frankfort have their priorities out of whack!
Regarding the second question... I'm starting to seriously wonder if UK can't fund their own projects.
While U of L has continually reached out to it's private and corporate donors to fund projects such as Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Jim Patterson Stadium and the Ralph Wright Natatorium, as well as the future construction of an indoor practice facility for the football program, UK has struggled to raise funds for similar projects. Add in the fact that the school has been receiving a nice BCS (cough-cough) check for a few years and it becomes rather puzzling.
Just one of the many reasons that Cardinal Pride has never been stronger is that U of L fans take great pride in the fact that the school hasn't leaned on state money to fund it's athletic projects. That the new facilities found around the U of L campus were essentially funded by the fans is an amazing accomplishment for the school and it's supporters alike.
NOTES FROM THE BBC
With the Cardinals shooting poorly from the floor, having scored just 28 points in 30 minutes of action and falling behind Memphis 39-28, a quick glance around the dining room and bar at the Bluegrass Brewing Company would reveal dozens of concerned Cardinal fan faces, except for one.
I spent the majority of the second half watching the game with Rick Southward at the dining room bar. We both remained confident throughout the first half and the beginning of the second half, but at this point in the game when you could easily feel the tension in the room, Rick remained calm.
Down 11, with less than 10 minutes remaining, Rick says to me, "hang on, they have a run in them still." My reply? "they need it now!" Rick then confidently responds, "they will."
Seconds later Taquan Dean drills a three-pointer, which would be the front end of a 12-0 Louisville run.
Good call Rick!
As everyone was still exhaling after the Cardinals tough fought 53-44 win over rival Memphis, none other but Tattooed Cardinal Fan, a.k.a. Pete, turned to me and gave me three teams that he practically deems locks for the upcoming Final Four.
"Illinois, North Carolina and Louisville," he said.
Hey, I'm not going to argue with him!
Time's Are A-Changin'!
Think back if you will, to a time when Louisville football was struggling. Now recall just a few of the memorable moments during it's steady climb into what is now the nation's 6th-rated team. Doesn't seem like that long ago that the team was starting to upset some the 'name' opponents that visited the old baseball stadium.
Times have changed indeed.
Per a published report in Murfreesboro, Tennessee Daily News Journal, U of L has agreed in principle to a three game series with Middle Tennessee State. According to the article, which quotes MTSU interim athletic director Diane Turnham, two of the games will be played at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in 2007 and 2008, with the third game at The Coliseum in Nashville in 2006. It was also stated in the article that MTSU will be in the 2005 Billy Minardi Classic in December.
"I think the biggest thing is the urgency to all of this. This isn't five or 10 years down the road," MTSU President Sidney McPhee told the Daily News Journal. "This is a basketball game at Freedom Hall this year and Louisville coming to our university's home state next year for a football game.
"To get Louisville to come to The Coliseum for us the first year is a huge step forward."
Cardinal football has evolved from being the hunter, to the hunted.
Plus, it sure sounds like an easy road trip for Cardinal fans.
LET THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN!
Despite the presence of snow flurries over the last 24 hours, it is March, which means the countdown to the start of spring practice is now less than a month. Practice starts Thursday, March 31st and comes to an end on Friday, April 22nd, for the annual spring game.
You can dowload all the latest, including an updated roster and depth chart in the Louisville Football Spring Prospectus at UofLSports.com.
Also, you may be the impatient kind as well and join the countdown to the start of the 2005 season.
As of Monday, the host Memphis (State) Tigers had sold fewer tickets to the Conference USA men's basketball tournament than Louisville, which lead's all teams in tourney ticket sales.
Things better pick up quick in Memphis or someone may rename the host arena from FedEx Forum to UPS Forum during tournament week.