Jan 28, 2013; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals center Gorgui Dieng (10) dunks against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the second half at the KFC Yum! Center. Louisville defeated Pittsburgh 64-61. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The Growth and Rise of the Louisville Athletic Program


This past academic sports year may just be the best that the Louisville Cardinals have ever had. Tom Jurich has helped build Louisville into one of the best all-around athletic programs in all of Division 1. Take a moment to look back at how far the Cardinals have come since Jurich became AD in 1997. Back then the Cardinals Basketball program was not at its best. Denny Crum was getting closer and closer to retirement. The basketball program was also under sanctions at the time. The Cardinals football team was a whopping 1-10 and was finishing out it’s final year at the old cardinal stadium. The Cards were playing in Confrence USA and if you had told anyone back then that Louisville would someday be an ACC program, they would have laughed and thought you were nuts.

But Jurich slowly but surely began to build up the Cards. He fired Ron Cooper and hired John L Smith and one year after going 1-10, the Cards were 7-5 and on their way to the first of 9 straight bowl game appearances. A few years later when Denny Crum retired, Jurich went out and got the biggest fish on the market in Rick Pitino. Over the years the Cards got better and better in football and basketball. The football program got better and better, winning the C-USA title in 2000 and 2001. The Basketball program under Rick Pitino was quickly turning into one of the best in the country, and in 2005 Pitino led  the Cardinals to their first final four in nearly 20 years! Then the Cards made the big move and got themselves into the Big East, a then flourishing conference where the Cardinals expected to be for many years to come.

The Cardinals immediately responded. In their 2nd year in the Big East, the Cardinal football team won the conference title and were a Rutgers missed field goal away from possibly playing for the National Championship. Instead the Cardinal found themselves in the Orange Bowl and in the first BCS game in school history, the Cards took down ACC champ Wake Forest 24-13. Then the Cards went through a dark little period. The football program fell down missing a bowl game 3 years in a row. While the Cardinal basketball team continued to thrive, the football team was going backward. So Tom Jurich made another great move, he hired Florida’s Defensive coordinator to be the new head coach. A man named Charlie Strong.

 

Fast forward now to 3 years later. The Cardinal football team is back on the map after another Big East title and a stunning sugar bowl win over the Florida Gators. The Cardinal basketball team is coming off a final four season and is one of the main contenders to get back there this year. After the Big East fell apart, Jurich worked his magic again and now the Cardinals are on their way to the ACC. The Cardinal program has come a long way since 1997. Tom Jurich took what was a nobody athletic program and turned it into arguably the best athletic program in college sports. It is a wonderful time to be a Cardinal fan. and from what it looks like, the best is yet to come.

 

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