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Apr
04
2013

Learning about the past, present, and future of Louisville Cardinal’s athletics from one of their own – Mr. Kevin Skaggs.

louisville-cardinalsIf you’re like me, you’ve been watching the athletic success of the Louisville Cardinal’s this with amazement. BCS wins, Final 4’s you name it. How is this current Big East and future ACC school doing what the mega budgets of Texas, Ohio State, and others like them cannot? I wanted to know more about what’s going on there. Who better to tell us about the Louisville’s past, present, and future than a die hard Louisville fan.

We’ve have one here at All Sports Discussion – Mr. Kevin Skaggs. @HokieSmash and I came up with 10 questions that we thought would be interesting and provide some insight into Louisville athletics. We appreciate Mr. Skaggs taking the time to answer our questions.

You can find him on twitter at @superpreen45

1) Tell us a bit about yourself how you became a Louisville fan and your involvement with Louisville athletics.

My mom’s brothers played football at UK, so as I grew up my extended family tried to make me a UK fan. There are pictures with me in UK clothes. I was too young to know anything about sports. But as I started watching sports I fell in love with UofL.

Now, I am an intern for the performance nutrition department at the university. I pretty much feed the athletes along with research on various nutrition topics. I get to watch the athletes practice and workout. They work so hard. It really makes you appreciate them.

2) It’s been a banner last few months at Louisville University with A Sugar Bowl win over Florida, Men’s and Women’s Final Four Teams, and a top 10 Baseball team. What is the feeling on the campus and the Louisville community right now?  

Oh, it doesn’t stop there. Both our men’s and women’s soccer teams were ranked last season. Our men’s soccer team was college world cup runner-up a couple years ago.

Our softball team set a school record for wins last year (with I think around 56), and are now ranked top 15 this year. Our field hockey team is ranked; our lacrosse team just entered the rankings as they’re just crushing everybody.

Our volleyball team was ranked really high last year. I think they beat like eight ranked teams. One of our athlete’s from the swimming and diving team just won a national championship, in the 200 meter freestyle. We are winning conference championships left and right.

There’s just so many good things going on around here and our fanbase is really embracing it. This year in sports has just been amazing for UofL. We couldn’t be more excited for what’s going on right now, especially with this weekend looming.

3) How is Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware doing? We all wish him a speedy recovery.

I haven’t yet seen him other than on TV. In fact I think they’re already in Atlanta. But he seems to be in really good spirits from what I’ve seen and heard. For the media takeover that he had, he is everything you want representing UofL. He’s just a quiet, humble kid with a huge heart.

All he wants is team success. It really is a shame that this tragic event had to happen to him. In our student activities center, a get well poster was hung up for students to sign (see below).

4) AD Tom Jurich has largely been credited with building Louisville’s flourishing athletic department. What makes Mr. Jurich one of the country’s most innovative and successful athletic directors?

He’s passionate. I had the privilege of sitting in a couple seminars. He talked about passion and how it’s the main aspect he looks for when he hires coaches. His words were “If I can’t rest my head on the pillow at night without something on my mind, I keep working.”

The man knows what’s best for the university and won’t stop working until he gets whatever it is the university needs. Since his arrival, every single sport at UofL has either had a brand new facility built, or a facility upgrade, and more are to come.

A brand new soccer stadium is about to start going under construction, and the softball stadium is about to be expanded.

When he took over the AD position at UofL in 1997, the program was a mess. Our lack of NCAA compliance had us on the verge of major major penalties, and basketball was a wreck. His passion has brought sports all across the board to soaring levels. And he’s huge on NCAA compliance, so you won’t ever see UofL in any troubles in that area again while he’s around.

5) One question many ACC fans, and maybe some ACC ADs are wondering, is how is Louisville able to sustain a near $90 million athletics budget. We understand corporate sponsorships have played some role in this.  Can you elaborate on this and any other fundraising means that are employed by Louisville or is Tom Jurich just a genius with money?

This is one I’m not quite sure of. Like I said, he is a genius. I do know that corporate sponsorships play a big role, and the Yum! Center brought in $26.9 million in profit last year. But overall, this one has had me stumped as well, because we were getting very little (compared to the other power conferences) from the Big East TV deal.

This is one reason why we’re excited for The ACC, because we’re going to be able to do even more.

6) Are Louisville athletes and fans excited at the prospect of playing in the ACC in 2014? I know many ACC fans are looking forward to the time the Cardinals join the conference.  

We are beyond excited. This is actually like a story. When conference realignment began happening (around when it was announced the Pitt and Syracuse were going to the ACC and WVU to Big 12), we started to worry. We had thought for a while that there would be further expansion from the Big 12 and we would get in. That was our big hope. Never happened. And then Notre dame announced that they would be leaving. After that was Rutgers.

When it was announced that Rutgers was leaving, we were deflated as a fanbase. It seemed like all hope was lost and we would be stuck in the Big East. We feared we’d start losing all of our coaches who had brought up our athletic program, which we knew was too good to be stuck in this conference.

Around this time, our football team lost two straight games against less superior teams. They said it wasn’t conference realignment related, but I refuse to believe that. When I say deflated I mean we were deflated.

Conference realignment went on for so long, it seemed like it was the very last seconds that the ACC became a possibility for us to find a new home in. We had hope again. And then the invite happened. I still remember the exact date: November 27th, 2012.

I was sitting in class that a bunch of athletes were in, and the news spread fast. It became the talk of the university and ACC logos were drawn in chalk on campus sidewalks. Two days after the invite, our football team goes into Piscataway for a showdown at Rutgers (who was ranked at the time) in a game that decided the Big East champion and a trip to the Sugar Bowl. We came away with a victory in a very hostile crowd.

I think it is from then on that sports began to soar.

7) Aside from the strong athletic teams, what else does Louisville bring to the ACC, that the current conference’s fans can look forward to?

We seem to take pride in the conference that we’re in. For instance, when rumors were floating around that the ACC was going to lose more teams, I remember Tom Jurich saying: “We’re going to do everything we can here to help make the ACC a stable home.”  I think that pride is only going to get higher in a conference like the ACC.

Also, our fanbase is really passionate, which ACC schools will find out. We travel well. And when fans of other ACC schools travel to Louisville, you’ll see all the new facilities that have been built for UofL athletics in Tom Jurich’s time. Everything just looks modern and really makes UofL a nice campus.

The Yum! Center is in the heart of downtown Louisville and has excellent walkability to many restaurants, tourist attractions, etc.

8) With the addition of Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse, the ACC will become the ACC’s premier basketball conference. There is no question about it. How can football centric schools like Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Florida State succeed in this new environment?

In regards to basketball, it’s only going to get tougher. You just have to prepare for it better than ever. The ACC was already a tough basketball conference. Only thing to do is just prepare for the toughness.

They definitely need to make themselves more competitive. Necessary changes have to be made to do so. Whatever Miami (who is also more football centric) did this year, do that!

9) What is Louisville doing to try and maintain this current level of athletic success? Obviously at least one thing I’ve seen in regards to this is the ability to successfully retain coaches like Charlie Strong.

The program just tries to stay innovated. Whether its equipment, facilities, exercise methods and routines, even nutrition; the University of Louisville is always trying to stay as updated as possible. And our staff here, from coaches to trainers to consultants, is top notch.

They not only do a great job to maintain the health, wellness, and competitiveness of the athletes, they care about them. It is a care that is capped off by our amazing AD, who is ready to stand by each and every athlete’s side from the moment they step onto campus. I think that care goes a long way.

10) Give me your final thoughts on Louisville, the ACC, anything you like. This is your time…

I can’t preach enough about this school, and I can’t preach enough about the ACC. I just think it’s the perfect home. It’s an amazing conference with amazing schools and what I see as a great commissioner. I understand he took a gamble on UofL by going outside ACC traditions and came out on top.

Our fanbase is very thankful for that decision, and I hope he is too. I’m one of the many fans fully embracing the ACC, and can’t wait to get started. Louisville, not just the school but the whole city, is going to be in great company.

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