UofL Has Lost It’s Moral High Ground

I think it’s about time something was said, and it’s not an attack, although that’s how it will be perceived. The University of Louisville has lost it’s moral high ground in the scape of the NCAA. And to be honest, in hindsight, I’m not sure how much of one it ever had.

Growing up as a Louisville fan lead me to a certain feeling of privilege. From the days of John L. Smith and the tail end of Denny Crum’s tenure with the basketball team, we always had the “plucky underdog” feel. We never got the air time that it seemed like Kentucky did, and we developed things the “right way”. We were on a “collision course” and we were along for the ride.

Things didn’t start to feel strange until Bobby Petrino left in 2006. He left the university in the dead of night. I still remember being on our home computer and seeing the update on ESPN. I told my parents and they thought I was joking. Bring in Steve Kragthorpe, and all of a sudden we had “behavioral problems” in the locker room. I’m not going to defend Kragthorpe, because at the end of the day, a coaches job is to win. I will say, though, that maybe Petrino wasn’t bringing in the most high quality individuals to play for him.

Petrino went on to ungracefully leave from the Atlanta Falcons and have a fresh scandal in Arkansas involving a volleyball player and a motorcycle.

In 2009, we were all first introduced to Karen Sypher. I won’t go into it here, because honestly if you’re reading this, you know what happened. While it isn’t a basketball related issue, and I agree that it isn’t a fireable offense, it’s a terrible black mark on the university.

Then came Katina Powell. To say it bluntly, Pitino should have been fired. Adding in the Sypher issue years ago, this was an issue with recruits, in on-campus dorms and if he didn’t know, then he should have. It’s his responsibility as the head coach. The thing that truly bothered me about this though, is that once everything came out, there wasn’t at least a bigger uproar of people calling for his termination. The fan base, from my observation, was largely defending everyone except Powell and Andre McGee, the ringleader of the whole thing. I expect fans to be irrational about their teams, but I heard almost no fans calling for a firing. That’s embarrassing to me, and it also signaled something.

The standards of our higher education facilities have plummeted in favor for more money and exposure. To be clear, the NCAA is at fault as well. The entire idea of college athletics is such a cess pool of dirty, disgusting practices that I find it hard to pull for anyone involved outside of the student-athlete themselves.

These major examples aside, we haven’t even talked about James Ramsey, the university’s former president. He oversaw over 20 scandals, almost all financially related, between 2008 and 2016 when he resigned. This includes bribery, cover-ups and theft.

The whole reason for this stream of thoughts is at the beginning: the moral high ground. I didn’t get the sense that the Powell situation humbled anyone, which is concerning. The irony of mocking Kentucky for years about losing their championship banner due to some kind of violation by John Calipari, only to be at risk of losing Louisville’s own is not lost on me. The Powell situation was everyone else’s opportunity to knock Louisville, and it was met with backlash, like this fan base hasn’t been doing the knocking. It was hypocritical at best, ignorant at worst.

Again, I know this is going to lead to a lot of backlash against myself. Unfortunately, I know how fans are. I think, though, that it’s something every fan base, not just Louisville’s, needs to hear. Looking in the mirror every once in awhile isn’t such a bad thing.

Lamar and the Other Guys

Photo: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The Heisman Trophy will be presented to the nations “most outstanding player” on Saturday night. For many Louisville fans, this is the last chance to capture something remarkable on what looked to be a special season before losing the final two games of the season. Lamar Jackson has been the Heisman frontrunner essentially since the beginning, but the last two games have let the field gain some traction.

To get it out of the way early, I do believe Jackson will run away with the trophy, and I believe he is the most deserving of it. My rank of the finalists is as follows:

  1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
  2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
  3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
  4. Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma
  5. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

The historical numbers certainly favor Jackson. Teammates inevitably hurt each other for the most part, due to the fact that the votes tend to get split between them. That being said, there has been one defensive player to  win the award (Charles Woodson, DB) which still puts Mayfield and Westbrook over Peppers. There is also a quarterback bias in recent years. In total, 44 of the Heisman winners have been halfbacks/runnning backs, and 33 have been quarterbacks. However, since 1990, there have been 6 running backs selected and 17 quarterbacks selected. All of this favors both Lamar and Watson, who most believe are the two front runners.

So when we rule out the three farthest from contention, we’re left with the two ACC quarterbacks. Watson was a finalist last season, finishing third behind Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry, who won the award. Here’s how the two quarterbacks stats match up:

  • Watson: Passing- 3914 yards, 37 TD, 15 INT ..Rushing- 524 yards, 6 TD
  • Jackson: Passing- 3390 yards, 30 TD, 9 INT ..Rushing- 1538 yards, 21 TD

Jackson has almost 500 more yards of total offense and 8 more touchdowns than Watson does. That’s a huge difference when you consider Jackson also played one less game.

The two biggest knocks on Jackson is the teams record (9-3 with a loss in Death Valley to Clemson) and his turnovers down the stretch of the season. In the loss to Kentucky, Jackson had 3 interceptions and also had the game-ending fumble to seal the win for the Wildcats. However, in their head-to-head matchup this season, Jackson went toe to toe Watson. Jackson finished with 457 yards of offense and three touchdowns with only one interception. Watson finished with 397 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions.

What Would This Mean for the University of Louisville?

Lamar is the schools first player to be invited to New York as part of the ceremony. Of the 81 Heisman winners, only 36 current FBS schools have a Heisman winner in their history. That means only 28% of the 128 schools have winners. That’s a huge deal and would be program changing. Louisville built a statue for Johnny Unitas in the stadium. I can’t imagine what they will do for Lamar if he wins.

We all know the “first player to…” numbers Lamar has put up this season, so I won’t rehash them here. But there is something to be said for a player, who after 81 seasons of Heisman trophy presentations, is still doing things no one has ever seen. I remember in 2007 when Tim Tebow won the Heisman and everyone made a HUGE deal about the fact that he finished with 30+ passing touchdowns and 20+ rushing touchdowns, and Lamar has done that this season. In my mind, there is Lamar and the other guys. Hopefully of Saturday night, the voters will agree.

Louisville 24, Duke 14 Game Notes

Getty Images/Andy Lyons

I know it’s the middle of the season, but I’ve decided to start a weekly post on my thoughts of the Louisville game from that week, as well as some big picture notes.

The closest thing to Duke’s offense has to be dental surgery. Painful and slow. But, a win is a win and right now, that’s all Louisville needs to do. All the following notes are in order of the game, so it should be easy to follow along.

  • Papa John. What an asshole. Gave out free trash pizza though.

 

  • Lamar had one of the best pass fakes ever. Tucked the ball and completely sold the “I gave the ball to the running back and now I’m chillin” look after. Only the end wasn’t fooled, and unfortunately Lamar overthrew the receiver. But it was a RIDICULOUS fake.

 

  • Again, ridiculous play. Lamar’s pass to Seth Dawkins down the middle of the field was on a rope, thrown off his back foot, all while getting hit by a defender. Lamar is special, but more on that later.

 

  • Brandon Radcliffe had a great first half (and game, fumble aside). He showed great vision, power, and patience.

 

  • Duke’s defense was the first defense to really limit the offense. Clemson’s offense was forced to play with us because their defense was letting Lamar do Lamar things after the chokehold from hell.

 

  • Daww. Engagement.

 

  • Jaire Alexander continues to impress on special teams. Not entirely sure why people keep kicking to him.

 

  • If you had told me before the game that a skill position player would score an 80 yard touchdown, Jeremy Smith probably would have been the last guy on my list. Even below the backups and freshmen. The run came on a blitz, which took a lot of defenders out of it, but man, it was crazy.

 

  • This was definitely Lamar’s most inaccurate game. He was over and under throwing the receivers and struggled on a communication with a couple routes with the receivers. That being said, I thought it was his most disciplined game. He took what was given to him and didn’t make the stupid decisions many true sophomore quarterbacks make.

 

  • There were several plays that proved to me that Lamar is the most elusive man in sports. The way he gets away from defenders is something I can’t recall seeing. It’s insane.

 

  • Duke’s offensive playbook is 7 plays. Read option (always to the running back), hand off to the running back, rollout throw on third down ONLY, punt, field goal, quarterback punt, and quarterback fake punt. That’s it.

 

  • Lamar learned from the Clemson game. There was a read option where the defender came to blow him up after the handoff to the running back, and Lamar spun away from the contact. It was one of his smartest moments of the game.

 

  • We have no kicker. Where’s John Wallace when you need him?

 

  • The defense played a tremendous game. They were asked to maintain their poise and stamina while being on the field for 15 minutes longer, defending the same 3 plays all game. Huge credit to Grantham for his work with the defense.

 

  • I felt like Cutcliffe might have given the rest of the country the blueprint to beating this team. We had more talent, and that won out. But if a more talented team takes that plan, Louisville could be in trouble.

 

  • I feel bad for #31. My immediate thought went back to the 2005 Rutgers game with William Gay. It wasn’t such a black and white call as then, but it was similar. I never wish that on any kid. We got lucky.

 

Additionally, we have a handful of doomsday fans in the fanbase. “Lamar’s Heisman is gone” and “We lost all hope at the playoffs” were things that I saw online. Firstly, we played on Friday before basically everyone else. Secondly, Lamar finished with over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ask a normal quarterback if that’s a game he’d take. And lastly, as seen in the Ohio State and Clemson games, anyone can be beaten on any day. Best thing that can happen for us is for Washington to lose, Ohio State and/or Michigan to lose a game before they play at the end of the season, and if somebody could knock off Alabama that would be great.

Most importantly, and firstly, we have to win our games. NC State, you’re next.