By Michelle Lewis–
During the “Year of The Cardinal” as this past year has been dubbed the University of Louisville saw a huge jump in admission applications and quality of applicants. The school has also seen increased national exposure and a sizeable increase in both the number and amount of donations campus wide. Student and faculty as well as alumni have rallied around the success of the athletics department and everywhere we look we see people decked out in their red and black. This isn’t just a local phenomenon either, fans have reported spotting “Cut The Nets”, College World Series, and Sugar Bowl apparel being worn across the country, and even in other countries.
“When we took our grandson to Disney over the summer we were surprised to see so many Louisville t-shirts. Everywhere we went somebody commented on the Cards. It was literally everywhere we went on the trip, be it the parks, Walmart, or dinner. Even in the airports when we came through Atlanta and Raleigh. In Birmingham we got at least three ‘how bout them Cards’ in an hour” recalled one pair of fans who attended the football game against Memphis last week.
“I was in India and Japan for business a few weeks ago. I have made multiple trips overseas the last few years and if someone recognized where Louisville is they knew us for the Derby or our bourbon. Well this time when I checked into my hotel in Tokyo I gave the clerk my credit card and reservation information he looked at me and said ‘Ah, Louisville Cardinals, you watch them?’ said Speed School graduate Desmond Miller.
Not everyone is as thrilled with the university’s attention to athletics. There’s been quite a bit said lately about the university over-valuing athletics or even that some sports like football don’t belong on campus. There is a lot of misinformation floating around about how tuition dollars are being used for the new and expanded athletic facilities we see driving down Floyd and how the university is misusing our or our parents, hard earned money to pay the coaches on campus. This is just not true.
The University of Louisville’s athletics department is completely self sufficient and operates at a significant profit. Between ticket and apparel sales as well as donations athletics not only supports itself but puts money back into the general scholarship fund each year. A New York Times article from this past August stated that over the past several years the athletics department has given back at least “$350,000.00 annually plus a one-time $2 million donation to finance a pay raise for faculty and staff whose pay has been frozen” due to decreased funding of higher education from Frankfort.
According to the university’s office of admissions there was an increase of 11.5% in applications in 2013 compared to the previous year. Those applicants are also said to have the highest average grade point average and highest ACT scores of any applicant pool in UofL history. The increased success in sports has put the university in the homes of millions of high school students who may never have otherwise known about UofL and has attracted those students to our campus.
Many high school students are looking for not only quality academics but also a thriving campus and social activities, such as sporting events, that help provide a real “college experience” and they have discovered they can have that in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Sports help unify us, they help build school pride and campus morale. Maybe it’s not quite right or fair, but sports are a big part of how we relate to one another. They feed our competitive nature whether we’re players, coaches, or students. I here that from instructors and advisors too when I visit my guys’ classes and check in on them.” stated Clint Hurtt, the defensive line coach for the Cards. “Athletics give us a rallying point and create camaraderie for the players and the fans. That’s true of all sports, not just football or basketball. Whether it’s soccer or volleyball or the ladies playing field hockey, they’re all here to be Cardinals and they all give us a chance to be proud of our school.” he continued.
Coach Hurtt also pointed out how big an impact sports have in the lives of the athletes on campus. “Some of these guys don’t come from the best situations. A lot of them, for their families, sports are their way out of a bad, or even dangerous, neighborhood. Sports are a way to teach them discipline and give them motivation. That’s not just our guys, that’s every sport that probably has at least one or two athletes who are here, who are learning to be leaders, who are having that chance to get an education who might not otherwise get that chance and that’s one thing we’re proud of as coaches. Louisville players are succeeding in the classroom as well as on the field.”
There is a lot that can be improved in how we see or value things both on campus and in society as a whole but sports do matter and are worthy of our time and attention, especially when the athletes are working so hard, on and off the field, to give us something to be proud of and earning the support they receive on game day.
Photo by Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal