RedRage Blog: Derby Day

This afternoon at 6:00 p.m. the city of Louisville will host the 131st Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs. The two minute race will cap off a two week stretch full of events and parties. It's just a horse race for many of those around the country that have never experienced the Kentucky Derby, but for those of us living in the host city, we know that it is must more than that.

Thunder Over Louisville (
For Louisvillians, this is our New Year's Day! Yes, it's our New Year's Eve as well. :] It's a time to celebrate in your accomplishments of the past 12 months and become excited for what the future has in store.

The University of Louisville has a lot to celebrate today. The past year has been one of the best - if not the best - in the history of Cardinal athletics. Both Bobby Petrino and Rick Pitino have the fans talking about and expecting championships over the next few seasons. The Cardinals have enjoyed conference championships in men's basketball, field hockey, football and volleyball, while also having great success in every other sport. The beautiful Jim Patterson Stadium held it's grand opening a few weeks ago and now gives the baseball team a state of the art facility.

The success the school had on the gridiron had the Cardinals flying at an elevation never reached before. The season kicked off with the Cards taking a knee at the goal line in a 28-0 blowout victory over Kentucky.

Liberty Bowl Champions
Two games later U of L visited Chapel Hill and shutout the Tarheels 34-0. Thursday, October 14th, the 17th-ranked Cardinals lost a 41-38 heart-breaker at the Orange Bowl against 3rd-ranked Miami. Despite the loss, somehow it felt like Louisville had won. With the exception of a nail-bitting win at Memphis, the Cardinals cruised through it's Conference USA schedule, winning the league undefeated. The season was topped off by a thrilling 44-40 come from behind victory over No.10 Boise State in the Liberty Bowl. The Cardinals finished the season 6th in the nation and boasted of having the country's top-rated offense. Just weeks ago, seven Cardinals were taken in the NFL Draft, including Stefan LeFors and Eric Shelton.

The action on the hardwood was equally thrilling. Under the continued strong play by Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean, as well as a reborn Larry O'Bannon and rebuilt Ellis Myles, the Cardinals play began drawing comparison's to some of Denny Crum's championship teams. Despite watching the referee's hand rival Kentucky the win in Freedom Hall in mid-December the Cardinals ignored the loss and put together a great run through league and tournament play. A week after Pitino's team won the C-USA regular season title, they cut down the nets at the FedEx Forum in Memphis in celebration of their C-USA Tournament Title.

Albuquerque Region Champs
The next few weeks brought exciting wins over Louisiana-Lafayette, Georgia Tech, Washington and West Virginia as the Cardinals reached the Final Four for the first time since 1986.

And while the accomplishments over the past 12 months have brought a new level of excitement to the U of L athletic programs, the future remains bright as the school makes the transition to the Big East Conference. Many of the Cardinal squads, including football and basketball, are expected to compete for Big East Conference crowns. The natatorium and indoor football practice facility will complete construction over the next 12 months. It's becoming clearer each week that a new arena is in the near future for the basketball program, while it is just a matter of when for a sizeable expansion to occur at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

So, while we celebrate the recent accomplishments of the Cardinals, we must also do as former U of L coach John L. Smith often suggested and 'rip off the rearview mirror' and look towards the future. There are title's to be won! Let's say we throw this party again twelve months from now!

By the way, just in case you are wondering, I'm taking Nick Zito's horse High Fly to win the Kentucky Derby.

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