U of L truce: Readers speak out

Seldom have I gotten so many lengthy and well-reasoned responses to a column than I got to my suggestion today that U of L needs a truce between its football coaches-administrators and fans. But what made them unusual wasn’t their length or their number.

What made them unusual was how many were signed, first name and last, and hometown in most cases. What follows is a sampling. All were signed, but I won’t use full names because I didn’t go back to everybody and get permission. Several of them were written by people who included titles with advanced degrees with their signature.

They represent old and young, and a geographic range from the coast of South Carolina to Georgia to California.

And they represent the challenge I described U of L’s football public relations machine as facing. It’s a long posting of emails, but worth the time.

From Tim, a 1983 U of L graduate

I’m an alumni and football season ticket holder.

The University is simply getting what it deserves for the arrogant way it has treated its fans in recent years.

1. Basketball season ticket holders are forced to buy football season tickets. ( I do not have bball tix )

2. Football fans are forced to watch games on weeknights so the University can get a pay day.

3. The school schedules weak teams to get another pay day from the fans. For example, Tennessee Tech, Murray State.

3. The University raised the required donation to the CAF and the prices of the tickets when they negotiated Petrino’s last contract explaining to the fan base this was the fan’s part of retaining the coach. Those prices remain today but the coach is gone and the new coach makes considerably less.

4. The University ended the long standing tradition of “first come first served tailgating” by assigning parking spots based primarily on the amount of your annual donation to the CAF.

I’m watching very closely what happens this off season. If the University does not reduce prices back to pre-Petrino contract levels; there is going to be one less season ticket holder.

Good luck finding someone that wants those tickets next year Mr. Jurich.

From Robbie

I had a chance to read your column this morning and I just finished reading the follow-up you placed on your blog. I understood the points you made and realized you dealt primarily with the fan issue in this column. Having said that, I think that’s what frustrates the fans the most. The column dealt with the things the fans ought to consider and do, but gave only passing mention to the things Tom Jurich ought to consider and do.

For some time, the focus has centered on the irrational and unfair expectations of the fans. You have been quite objective in your writing, but others in your profession have never questioned whether Tom Jurich has been fair or rational in his dealings with the Kragthorpe dilemma. He’s told us we’re too new at this to understand. He’s taken pot shots at Petrino and his program. He’s also told us we’re the only ones who don’t appreciate the marvelous coaching of Kragthorpe.

As I said, I know you have been critical of Jurich’s handling, but I was frustrated the column dealt mainly with the fans and not with Jurich. Jurich created this mess when he hired Kragthorpe and this fan would like to see a little more about what he should do to ease the pain. Suing for peace is a sign of weakness!

By the way, I have attended games since the 1988 season when Jay Gruden and Deon Booker provided Howard with an 8-3 season. My parents and I are infuriated with Kragthorpe and Jurich and have considered not renewing our tickets. We decided to give it one more year, but if Kragthorpe fails again and Jurich still doesn’t fire him, we’re out.

From Earl in Louisville

I think you raised some good points about a truce but I don’t think it will be that simple. Personally, I had my firm pull the commitment to a sizable six-figure donation (good for the Courier-Journal as we will just spend the allocated marketing dollars elsewhere). It wasn’t about the wins and losses but rather Tom Jurich’s comments in the media. The final straw was when he said fans expected to go to the Orange Bowl every week. Cardinal fans are nothing like he described as we stuck with a program that had 9 straight losing seasons in an old baseball stadium.

I think there are major money issues on the horizon. I do business with a guy whose name is on several athletic buildings at UofL and he thinks Kragthorpe should leave. When the mega major donors feel that way you have problems. Jurich can support Kragthorpe all he wants but he needs money to fund his athletic department goals and that is where the rubber will meet the road.

From Schuyler

I really enjoyed your column today. I completely agree with it. UofL fans need to continue to support the program through these rough times. With no fan base UofL gets no recruits, with no recruits UofL has no team. It’s simple. Besides, how does the rest of Cardinal Nation think the big programs survived their down years? Certainly not without fans.

Also, I loved the song. Did you write that yourself? I kind of want to hear it recorded and listen to it on my ipod.

From T.G. in Taylorsville

Hello Eric, nice article in the CJ. I have had Football Season Tickets for 27 consecutive years. I am a long time fan. BUT….I am one of those that have already left….I wrote to TJ and told him that if that imposter of a coach is back next year, I will not donate to the CAF nor will I renew my seats…after 27 years!! I know many of my fellow season ticket holders are doing the same. Why would I want to pay $2,300 (thats what I paid for this year)…when I can go out there and pay $5 for a ticket….??? I will continue to get my Volleyball and Basketball season tickets…but I am done IF Krags returns. We are NOT rebuilding…he wrecked a fine football team…..he has proven himself incompetent. TJ said he has a fine “pedigree”……well..pedigrees are for horses….and people that don’t have proven track records. The only thing we as fans can do is to not renew season tickets..let the attendance dwindle, then TJ will let him go. We will all be back when he gets a quality coach to come in here and rebuild what Krags tore down. If I ever see Krags in public I will let him know how I feel….and beg him to resign…he has already lost the fan base……..I am pissed!! I have invested my heart in Cardinal football…..but I am done until he is gone.

From David in Paducah

Agree, Agree, Agree.

I am a UL 1981 grad. I will continue to support the football no matter what happens. UL fans might well remember the loosing years for UK. The always packed in 60,000 even in losing seasons! If there are no fans then there will be no program.

From Brian

I am a longtime UL fan and contributor-ticket holder of mens basketball as well as football.

Having traveled to almost every bowl game and many road games, I am extremely disappointed in the direction the football progra
m is headed.

I’m tired of the fans catching all of the heat. I have not played a down for this team.

All I do is shell out dollar after dollar while the university constantly is asking for more.

I’m sure coach Krag is a great guy, but he has shown the UL fans absolutely NOTHING on the field.

He took over a top 10 program with a lot of returning talent and has managed to lose to teams we have traditionally beaten.

I’m tired of excuses (injuries, suspensions, etc). All programs experience these problems.

Unless some confidence is restored (via recruiting, or coaching change) I will NOT be renewing my tickets for either sport.

At this point the costs far outweigh the entertainment value the fans are receiving.

I’ll always be a UL fan but I don’t have to pay to support such an unworthy cause.

Thank you for the time and keep up the good work.

From Rob Hickerson in Simpsonville,

During this very difficult time in his and his family’s life, I would like to offer a “Very Merry and Blessed Christmas” to Coach Kragthorpe, from a long-time CARDS fan. Here’s hoping that the “Spirit of the Season” will fill our hearts, and that words of encouragement will replace negativity, so that all of our players, coaches, staff, and students will always know that we care, reagrdless of the final score!

(PS, I originated the C_A_R_D_S cheer in 1979)

From Joseph in Georgia

I am a long distance, albeit ardent fan of all U of L athletics. For the past couple of years I have been as disappointed with the football program as any other “red blood.” It is incredulous what has happened to the program in such a short time. There is nothing more that can be said about that.

I think you hit the fickle Louisville fans right on the nose this morning. Good on you! You are spot on that something in the program is broken. Maybe Coach K can fix it given time. We’ll apparently get the chance to see. But there is another problem outside the program that you stopped short of mentioning, and I have no idea how to fix.

Louisville football fans have no stamina. We lack the fortitude of Michigan fans, Buckeye fans, and supporters of any number of other teams that experience periods of lackluster performance. Maybe it is because we have a passion for winning (not a bad thing) rather than a passion for the game. The evidence supporting this pops up often. How many times have we seen fans leaving the stadium in the fourth quarter, sometimes in the third quarter depending on the score of the game? I am a NY Giants season ticket holder and I have never left a game early. No matter the score. No matter the weather. I am ashamed to say, that is not the case with our football Cards. Last year I turned off the Rutgers game and missed what I think is the greatest comeback in college football history.

This type of problem isn’t as serious when the basketball program falters.

Anyway, that is my 2 cents. Your mileage may vary.

I didn’t want to get on my soapbox. I just thought your article is timely and said much of what needs saying.

Your dad rocked in print and on TV. It looks like you didn’t fall far from that talent tree.

Unsigned, but worth considering

Your proposed truce is going to take time, if it ever happens. because if you really think about it, we are just now getting to the point where anyone associated with U of L is admitting that there is anything wrong with the program that might be related to krags’ performance. and that’s just barely, because i still haven’t heard any mea culpas from jurich, who just a few weeks ago was still advancing the “we’re rebuilding because petrino destroyed the program” spin.

and while this year was indeed a rebuilding year, there is a strange disconnect going on here that i hope you will address at some point. TJ and krags talk about the lack of depth as if it’s some strange, mysterious, force that krags had no control over. there isn’t much depth because krags ran a lot of it off. not all of it, because there were injuries that couldn’t be helped, but a large percentage. clearly, krags botched the transition.

i was alarmed when krags first arrived and the players talked about how much better they liked the new coach and his “relaxed” atmosphere. (krags himself knew how it sounded because he later tried to dispel his “nice guy” image.) sorry, i want a coach whom kids fear and respect. being a college kid myself a long time ago, i know that kids will always push boundaries, particularly if they are accustomed to being put on a pedestal like D-1 football players at a major program. it was only a matter of time before kids who felt stifled under the petrino regime would test the nice guy.

i also didn’t like it when krags bragged about his assistant coaches getting to spend time with their families. yes, family life is important, but the way it goes in sports at this level is the coaches sacrifice some of their personal life for the job. it’a demanding, grinding job with a tremendous amount of pressure. in return, the coaches get lots of money, prestige and the chance to test their mettle at a high level of competition. if krags and his staff want to spend a lot of time with their families, then they should coach at a lower level or find another profession.

yes, i’m rehashing here, but i think it’s impossible to talk about a truce without first laying out past grievances. if krags and TJ really want peace with the fans, they will have to come out and say krags screwed up a good thing in ’07, acknowledge that they lost credibility with their after-the-syracuse-loss-spin, and then do some serious making up.

p.s. i am sick of hearing about how fans at schools like auburn and notre dame continue to show up even when the team stinks. well, yeah, schools like that only have like 100 years of football history, huge alumni bases, and generations of familes for whom the football team is part of their culture. all you have to do is look at the full houses at freedom hall during crum’s lean years to see that U of L fans do the same for basketball because it is the same kind of culture (with a maor city subbing for the huge alumni base). if after 20-30 more good years U of L football fans still don’t show up when things are bad, then let’s talk. (and please, God, let there be more good years).

From Hank

You are way out of bounds on this one. Hard-headed Jurich is deaf to the fans, and the very best way to vote is with our feet and our fannies. It is for the future sake of the program that I walk away, made easier by the fact that what I have recently witnessed is unbearable to watch anyway.

From Patrick

Nice column today, straight to the point. As a long time football season ticket holder and alum from 1980. this lack of communication from Tom Jurich and Coach K is really disturbing.

One issue that needs addressing is TJ and CSK to admit that CSK was/is not a good fit with many of the players that Petrino left him. A major part of the current problem is the attrition over the past two seasons. Much of this was caused by the difference in how each coach handles their players. Petrino rules like Rick Pitino does – with an iron fist. Guys came here for the discipline. Now we have Kragthorpe who wants to be more like a father and many of the guys did not respond to that. Spillman and Council needed heavy duty discipline to stay out of trouble, like many young guys full of testosterone in high gear and they did not get it so it was easy for them to stray.

A second and major issue is that TJ needs to get rid of his ego for one press conference and
admit that he was responsible for the program. If there were deficiencies and ‘off the field problems’ (such as smoking weed and partying) the buck stopped with him and his department. If there was a lack of proper oversight, admit it and tell the fans what was done to correct it. He needs to stop blaming others when for issues he was charged with monitoring and controlling. And he needs to do it in a sincere manner instead of talking down to the fans like we are a bunch of morons who do not understand anything.

I’ll still buy my season tickets but my donations will go to the library in 2009 instead of the Athletic Department. Win or lose we are Cards fans and always will be. If next year is like this year, look for the lady reading a magazine in section 210 row DD and I’ll be sitting next to her.

Have a safe and happy Holiday Season.

From Uriah

I am only 28, and have been a UofL fan for as long as I remember. I grew up right outside the fairgrounds and used to sneak into UofL football practices, games, and Basketball practices as well. I will never quit being a fan, but doesn’t that also mean I have the right to pick and chose which program I support financially. I have had Season tickets on and off, (because of money and school) for years. I will still go to a couple of games but paying $500 or more is a joke when the tickets are being given away outside of the stadium walls. (WVU this year) I appreciate your article and realize our fan base isn’t that strong, and i would go as far as saying UofL fans for the most part are bandwagon jumpers. But not this fan, I have sat through the Cooper years, In my teens I cheered on my Cards while they were getting pummeled at Old Cardinal Stadium. I have been through it all in my lifetime mind you, but the only way other than blog, call talk radio, or complain to my friends about my frustrations with this Coach is to keep my money in my pocket. I know Kragthorpe has a year or two left, but in my heart I know the guy isn’t going to last and fans won’t be the blame. The record on the field will be.

From Don in South Carolina

Big fan of yours down in Pawleys Island, South Carolina.

Creativity is a gift from God, and you certainly were well connected when you wrote your column today and did the re-write of “Favorite Things.”

Great job on a very thought provoking and well written column.

From Steve

I read your article expecting the “between” part of the title to mean something.

Instead you point out what the fans are doing to hurt the program – why do (apparently) you and Tom Jurich think that people should support/cheer for a team that performs poorly and an administration which shows little beyond disdain for supporters who’ve followed this program for years (over 40 in my case).

Apparently the difference between a fan and a fanatic is lost on you folks – most people do not blindly follow. These barely veiled threats that the fans are hurting the program more than what Jurich and Kragthorpe are doing are absurd.

Here’s a thought — quit telling us how to be fans. The University of Louisville has some of the best and most ardent supporters in the United States (and it’s not just people in Louisville who know that), just ask any bowl representative.

I expect better from you Eric.

From Bryon in Atlanta

First of all I have been a lifelong fan. I born and raised in Louisville. I have been a fan for thirty years. I sat in the old cardinal stadium in the late 70’s and 80’s.

My main concern is we haven’t improved from year to year. We have gotten worse. Now recruiting will be difficult because of our record. A top twenty or even forty recruiting class will be difficult. When one player is quoted in saying the Syracuse was a wake-up call. I got some news for them, the Kentucky game was a big wake-up call . The players aren’t buying into Kragthorpe’s coaching. I now live in Atlanta and Georgia Tech went from mediocre to a excellent team because the players bought in Paul Johnson’s coaching. He hates to lose and demands perfection out of the players. If not they don’t play. What is your opinion on whether or not Jurich should make a change before the program can’t be fixed? Thanks

From Scott in Florida

Eric, Scott from Naples here. I am going to be honest with you on this. I am a UK fan, I have been a UK fan my whole life. I grew up in Louisville and have been friends with UL fans my whole life. I mean this with all respect: YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME…. This is the big problem that most UK fans have against UL fans. They are fairweather fans. They never supported the program until the program started winning. If the program loses, they complain and retreat. UK has always sucked at football, but everyone knows that Commonwealth is full because of a love for the PROGRAM. And I am not talking about the people talking smack on the message boards, we all have a loons in our fan bases. But the problem you have with most UL fans, at least the ones that I know, is that they just want to be attatched in some way with a winner, and if their local area school isn’t giving it to them, they will bail. Always has been this way.

Again, thanks so much to everybody for reading and responding.

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3 thoughts on “U of L truce: Readers speak out

  1. I was glad to see a reader, Patrick, made a comment about Jurich stepping up and taking responsibility for some of the progam’s problems. Even though I am not a defender of Petrino, I have always felt that it is unfair that Jurich will blame the player issues on him. What was Jurich doing during those times? Was he totally oblivious to the problems? A cynical person might think that all was OK as long as Petrino won. I criticize Jurich with the knowledge of all of the GREAT things he has done for Louisville Athletics. We are fortunate to have him, but he needs to step up and take resposibility for these issues. As far as Kragthorpe goes, I keep falling back on what happend the first couple of years at Duke with the original Coach “K”. His first couple of years were pretty rough as well and Duke fans were calling for his head and look at him now. Having said that, I am struggling with providing my support as well. I keep coming back to the conclusion that I don’t want to be a fair weather fan so I will more than likely renew my season tickets. GO CARDS!!

  2. Eric, I liked the diverse range of opinions offered by your readers. I missed these responses over the weekend, so I am late w/ any response. I resigned myself to the fact that Kragthorpe would be the coach next year midway through the season, which is bad enough, but Jurich’s assertions about the fans are false. I have been a UL fan for as long as I can remember, but I am not old enough to remember the pre-Howard days. What I have witnessed the past 2 years is beginning to sound like what my dad and others described. In my opinion, the sub-par performance and lack of recruiting thus far is due to CSK, not the facilities nor the fanbase. I’ll still give Coach K his shot, but I hold little optimism for next year. I’ll still go to games and yell for my team, but not for this coach. Lastly, 2 comments stated that UL fans are fair weathered fans, but I disagree. UL fans travel well and support their team, even in down years. Patrick has said that Commonwealth is packed which, for the most part, is true. I would suggest that he check the attendance figures for much of the ’90s at Commonwealth before he puts forth an anecdotal observation about UL fans.

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