Syracuse and Louisville were supposed to be the worst two teams in the Big East this year. But in this changing of the Big East guard year, they're two of the better teams. But how well do you know that school on the Ohio River?
History: We all know Louisville doesn't make the national rankings in anything academically, which is very odd considering the school has a history dating back to 1798. The Kentucky General Assembly decided to establish a school in the new town of Louisville in that year, and the school opened as Jefferson Seminary in 1813. The school closed in 1829 because the public schools and the media thought it was full of elitist snobs (NOW we know why Louisville sucked academically; Ivy League quality don't go well in ol' Kentucky, durnit). In 1837 the city then built the Louisville Medical Institute, and the Louisville Collegiate Institute in 1840. In 1846 they merged the two schools together and built a law school on the site to call it the University of Louisville. In 1923 all programs except the med school (there were now a lot of programs) moved to the Belknap Campus, which is its current site. In order to desegregate, Louisville purchased the Municipal College for Negroes in the 30s and dissolved it in 1951, when UofL was fully desegregated. In the 1960s, suburban sprawl reduced Louisville's budget, since it was funded municipally. Because of this, the school joined the Public University System of Kentucky in 1970.
Location: Louisville, Kentucky. On the Ohio River near the border with Indiana, the Falls of the Ohio forced navigators to stop for awhile (it's FLAT AS HELL there and you can't go upstream because of a few ripples?) and they settled in the area. The city's credited founder is named George Rogers Clark, and in 1780 the Virginia General Assembly chartered the town and named it after King Louis XVI of France because of the French assistance during the Revolution (of course Louis XVI and bread-hogger Marie Antoinette were victims of a different Revolution). Louisville had a history as a fishing port early on, and perhaps very infamously, the slaving industry grew Louisville's economy (ironically, Louisville was a major stop on the Underground Railroad). During the Civil War, the Union established forts in Louisville to keep Kentucky in the Union, but during Reconstruction, Confederates took over and it was said that "Louisville joined the Confederacy." In 1875, the Kentucky Derby was first held at the Louisville Jockey Club Track (now Churchill Downs). Louisville is surprisingly safe for a city without much transit. Shipping always played a part in its economy, and now the health care and medical technology industries have found Louisville home. The Presbyterian Church is also headed there, as is Yum! Brands (which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell among others), and Papa John's, and Hillerich and Bradsby are there (they manufacture Louisville Slugger bats). Louisville is also a major manufacturer of bourbon whiskey.
Academics: Louisville has about 15k undergrads and is ranked 176th on US News' list of National Universities. In 1911, Louisville opened the first ever emergency room, developed autotransfusion in 1935, hand transplants in 1999, and artificial heart transplants in 2001. They have a decent business school and a good dental school, and offer a one-of-a-kind minor in African-American theatre.
Notable Alumni: There aren't many notable names at Louisville from off the gridiron or hardcourt. Our busom babe this week is probably the biggest name you'll come up with: Dianne Sawyer, host of Good Morning, America. Most of the rest of the big names are politicians, including the outgoing Connecticut senator Chris Dodd and the current minority leader Mitch McConnell (I think by looking at the photos it's obvious which one belongs to which party). Beyond that, Louisville also gave us Donald Ebert, who led the people who invented AstroTurf, and William Akers came up with the idea for different SPF sunblocks.
Pageantry: Louisville's logo has been that of a VERY angry cardinal since 1984, and the only thing that's ever changed is the cardinal's facial expression. Their nickname was named after Kentucky's state bird (the Cardinal). There are 18 schools which call themselves the Cardinals, including Louisville. There is one other one in Division I-A (Ball State) and one in Division I-AA (Lamar). The rest are as follows:
*Andrews University (Michigan)
*Catholic University of America (Washington DC)
*Concordia University (Michigan)
*Massachusetts College of Pharmacy (Boston)
*North Central College (Illinois)
*Otterbein College (Ohio)
*Saginaw Valley State (Michigan)
*St. John Fisher College (NY)
*St. Mary's University of Minnesota
*University of the Incarnate Word (Texas)
*Wesleyan University (Connecticut)
*Wheeling Jesuit University (West Virginia)
*York College (NYC)
One other school uses the Cardinal (singular) as its mascot, that school, of course, being Stanford, although it refers to the color, not the bird.
Louisville's color scheme is red and black, shared only with Northern Illinois, Georgia, and of course Cincinnati (last week I added Arkansas State, but their red is called "scarlet red."). According to Louisville's website, "Mrs. John L. Patterson" (why give a girl a guy's name) recommended this scheme.
Louisville's mascot gives a 3D, living version of the pissed off cardinal. The mascot's official name is the Cardinal Bird, and as you can see, he can do quite a few things. The costume apparently weights over 50 pounds.
Here are some of Louisville's helmets. The solid red helmet was used for most of the '60s, although in 1963 they used the NFL Cardinals' logo on their helmets. In 1966-67, they used the "UL" helmet. They began putting the bird on the helmet in the 1970s, and in the 80s they eventually switched to just the bird's head. On September 11th, 2010, they played using helmets with an American Flag palette swap.
Louisville's fight song is called "Fight! U of L" and it goes like this:
Fight now for victory and show them
How we sure will win this game
Fight on you Cardinals and prove to them
That we deserve our fame.
Rah, Rah, Rah!
Roll up the score now and beat the foe
So we can give a yell
With a FIGHT! give them all you've got
For we are with you U of L.
"All Hail U of L"
All hail to thee our U of L
As we stand up for her fame.
All hail to thee our U of L
As we fight to win this game.
Sing praises for a victory,
We wish our heroes well.
All hail the Cardinal Spirit.
All hail our U of L!
Athletics: Louisville's athletic conference history is standard for most schools. They were an independent in all sports until 1963, when they joined the Missouri Valley. They stayed a member until 1974, when they became an independent in football and joined the Metro 6 for all other sports as a charter member in 1975. The conference changed its name to the Metro 7 the next year, and became the Metro Conference in the 1980s. In 1996 it became Conference USA and began sponsoring football. Louisville left for the Big East in 2005.
Louisville began playing football in 1912, and their all time record is 431-411-17, with a 6-7-1 record in bowls. Their bowl history includes four Liberty Bowls (1993, 2000, 2001, 2004), two GMAC Bowls (2002, 2003), the 1958 Sun Bowl, the 1970 Pasadena Bowl (NOT the Rose Bowl), the 1977 Independence Bowl, the 1998 Motor City Bowl, the 1999 Humanitarian Bowl, and the 2006 Gator Bowl. Of bowls currently in the BCS lineup, they went to the 1991 Fiesta Bowl and the 2007 Orange Bowl, and won both games (against Alabama and Wake Forest respectively). The Orange Bowl win came on their first ever Big East title. They won Conference USA in 2000, 2001, and 2004 and the Missouri Valley in 1970 (they also shared that title in 1972). From 1951-1954, Louisville was led by the arm of Johnny Unitas, one of the best ever to play the game. Other notables include receiver Deion Branch, kicker David Akers, and linebacker Otis Wilson. Head coach John L. Smith, from 1997 to 2002, had five straight winning seasons. Bobby Petrino coached the 2004 team to near-perfection; their only loss was to Miami. The team is currently coached by Charlie Strong and plays in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Despite having to play in the shadows of a certain school coached by a certain cheater in Lexington, Louisville has a tradition-rich basketball program that began in 1912. Louisville is known as the Team of the '80s for their success throughout the decade under long-time coach Denny Crum. Louisville's many basketball accolades include 5 Missouri Valley titles (1967, 1968, 1972, 1974, and 1975), the 1977 Metro 7 title, 11 Metro regular season titles (1979-81, 1983, 1984 (split), 1986-88, 1990, 1993, 1994), the 2005 Conference USA regular season title, the 2009 Big East regular season title, the 1978 Metro 7 tournament, 10 Metro tournaments (1980, 1981, 1983, 1986, 1988-90, 1993-95), 2 CUSA tournaments (2003, 2005), and the 2009 Big East tournament. They've been to 36 NCAA tournaments (1951, 1959, 1961, 1964, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1977-84, 1986, 1988-90, 1992-97, 1999. 2000, 2003-05, and 2007-2010) (5th most all time), 29 seasons in which they won an NCAA game (1959, 1961, 1964, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1977-84, 1986, 1988-90, 1992-94, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2005, 2007-09), 23 Sweet Sixteens (1959, 1961, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1978-80, 1982-84, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2005, 2008, 2009), 11 Elite Eights (1959, 1972, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1997, 2005, 2008, 2009), 8 Final Fours (1959, 1972, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986, 2005), and the 1980 and 1986 National Titles. Both titles were won by Crum, the first led by Darrell Griffith and the second by Pervis Ellison. Louisville also holds the distinction of being the only team to win the NCAAs, the NIT, and the NAIB tournament. The team is currently coached by Jim Boeheim student Rick Pitino (who is also a sleazebag, but that part has nothing to do with Jim Boeheim) and will play in the KFC Yum! Center after spending 54 years in Freedom Hall.
Sadly, Louisville has no lacrosse team.
Rival: When I was driving home from college after my graduation, I stopped over in Louisville for the night. One of the things I noticed (besides all the Christian bookstores) was a chain of stores specializing in selling merchandise related to the Louisville versus Kentucky rivalry, one of the fiercest in college sports, and one of the few that encompasses both football AND basketball, although, not surprisingly, the basketball side of the rivalry (known as the Battle for the Bluegrass) is fiercer. The rivalry began in both sports in the teens (with Kentucky winning most of the football and basketball matchups; Louisville only won two basketball games in this time) but stopped in basketball in 1922 and in football in 1924. For a long time, the only time the two schools would see each other is in the occasional NCAA Tournament (only a 1948 game in New York did they play in this hiatus in a non-tournament game). However, in the 1983 NCAA tournament, the schools played a memorable game in the Elite Eight, with Louisville winning. The rivalry was thus reborn in basketball, and the football series resumed in 1994. Since then, the winner of the football game often loses the basketball game. Kentucky leads all time in both football (14-9) and basketball (27-14), but Louisville has a slight edge in football since 1994 at 9-8.
Outlook: This could be a trap game, but Louisville's specialty is running, and Syracuse has proven it can stop the run. But this is no ordinary challenge. Louisville has one of the best backs in the country, so Syracuse will have to force Louisville to throw the ball. A fast paced game should favor Syracuse 24-14. Go Orange!