By Sam Draut–
Coach Jeff Walz urged Louisville fans to take off work early and attend the Cardinals first round game of the NCAA tournament at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the KFC YUM! Center. Walz went as far as offering to write notes for fans who needed to convince their bosses to attend Louisville’s game against Central Arkansas.
It started with a fan reaching out to Walz on Twitter, asking him to “write me up a good excuse to leave work . I know I need to be there. The boss is the issue.”
Walz asked for the boss’s email address and ended up sending out several notes asking to allow the Cardinal fans to attend the afternoon game.
Though the coach’s notes spread to national prominence, the turnout at the KFC YUM! Center fell below the original goal Walz had set, which hoped for 8,000 to 10,000 attendees. Louisville defeated Central Arkansas 87-60 and the official attendance was announced at 5,823.
In 14 regular season home games this year, Louisville’s average attendance was 9,908. The 2:30 p.m. start time made it difficult for some fans to attend.
“I had a lot of friends who couldn’t make it today because the game started so early,” U of L fan Kirk Redford said. “If it would have been, say, 7 p.m., I think the crowd would have been much better.”
As some fans took the day off or left work early, Walz was complimentary of the crowd.
“It’s quite amazing, again, to have the turnout that we did of 5,823 down here on the attendance for a 2:30 game. It’s one of those things that I know we don’t have control of,” Walz said. “I’m just really impressed with our fans, thank them, thank all of our businesspeople in town that allowed their employees to come. It speaks volumes for them also. So we’d like to thank just everybody that made it out here for the ballgame today.”
Former Cardinals Asia Taylor, Tia Gibbs and Sara Hammond were also in attendance to support their alma mater.
Photos by Wade Morgen & Laurel Slaughter