This isn’t a misleading headline

This isn’t a story about how Louisville should go play teams on the road, and not get a return game.

This is a story about the Prideful Ignorance of College Football’s Elite.

This is a story about that elite company that has cowardly danced around facing the Louisville Football team.

Why? That answer is simple, they are afraid of defeat. And well, they should be.

Before we dive into the long list of programs that have ran from the Louisville Football team, we must first recognize where the fear comes from, and why it has stifled the growth of the Louisville Football program over the last decade.

THE FEAR

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On the surface, the fear is straight forward.  Elite opponents fear a loss to Louisville. The Cardinals have done nothing to help deter this fear of the College Football world. It seems like every time the Cards have been on a major stage, they’ve preformed. The two coaches that have led the trail for the ‘fear’ of Louisville in Charlie Strong and Bobby Petrino have a cumulative 3 losses against Top 25 opponents. They’ve lost once against a Top 10 opponent. Games that started the rise of the fear? I’m glad you asked, let’s recall a few of them.

Louisville at Miami (FL) 2004-
This was the beginning of the end for Louisville’s hopes of getting marquee opponents in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. It started before here, there were games like the 1991 Fiesta Bowl against Alabama when Louisville shocked the world, the ‘Hurricane’ Florida State, but this is where the Louisville Football program shown true promise of stability.  It was a loss. But it showed the College Football world that Louisville was a threat. #17 Louisville went into the original “Orange Bowl’ when #7 Miami was still Miami and narrowly came away with the upset with their Second String Quarterback playing the entire second half.

West Virginia vs Louisville 2005-
Dubbed the ‘Biggest Win in School History’ (though I don’t agree), on a bitterly cold night, the Louisville win against West Virgina set the stage for Louisville to head to the BCS Championship. Of course, that was before, Jeremy Ito.  The Louisville win here showed the Nation that Louisville Football was beginning to embark on journey to the top of the College Football. It was a National showcase. A prime time game. And some may argue that this was still the greatest time to be a Louisville Fan.

Florida vs Louisville Sugar Bowl 2013-
After Louisville defeated Florida in the Sugar Bowl, there was little hope (despite Tom Jurich’s best efforts) Louisville would have a chance of attracting a top opponent. Why? Other ‘elite’ teams saw what so many had seen before: Louisville defeating a top tier opponent, then that opponent getting mocked because it’s the ‘City School of Louisville’. Florida wasn’t ecstatic about playing the Cardinals themselves, but unfortunately, for them, the rules of the BCS system left the two team’s destiny out of their hands.
As stated before, these are just a few instances. There have been numerous times that Louisville has surprised and dominated on the prime stage.

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I know what your asking. Why? Why would Elite Programs be ‘afraid’ of playing Louisville when they play other Elite Programs yearly?

Essentially, the answer is found in your question, Louisville is not exactly revered as elite. The Cardinals are in an odd place. They are like the actor who always continues to show promise but can never get the big film to win the Oscar. The nation knows the Cardinals are capable of greatness – they’ve shown it – but they rarely get the showcase to do so. A strange place to be indeed.

In this strange place, teams don’t want to play the Cards because they fear they have nothing to gain. Perception is everything in College Football. Opponents fear that if they lose, they will be ridiculed. The story will go something like this: “Ohio State lost to Louisville. Unbelievable that they weren’t prepared for that”. It will never be written that perhaps Louisville was the better opponent and sadly that’s the reality of this ‘strange place’. In turn, teams fear playing Louisville because the narrative will be more about they lost rather than how they were outplayed.

To be the laughing stock of College Football – even for a week – is the fear of many of the ego driven College Football Coaches that make up Elite Football Programs (Note, I said many, not all; there are still good guys out there).

But Louisville is not alone in this strange place, they have a few teams providing company. Those few teams accompanying them constantly attract Top Out of Conference Opponents. Teams like Virginia Tech who was able to open the College Football year with Alabama. Teams like Boise State, who have been able to schedule Georgia,. Even, Conference mate Rutgers, has been able to get SEC School Arkansas agree to a home-and-home.

Yet, still nobody wants to play the Cardinals?

Why?

I simply don’t know. Perhaps you could ask some of the Head Coaches of the teams I present below.

THOSE THAT HAVE RAN FROM THE FEAR

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It seems each year this number grows. Whether it’s been Elite College Football programs or simply mid-tier opponents, many teams have ran from the Louisville Cardinal Football Program. It has been most evident this season with Louisville lacking a major opponent on the schedule. Let’s go through those that have ‘ran from the fear’:

Georgia-
This is probably the most well-known case of the bunch. If your not familiar with the story, Georgia and Louisville had agreed to a home-and-home, at the last second Georgia backed out due to an opportunity to play Boise State in the Chick-Fl-A Kick-Off Bowl.

“We were thrilled when we secured a series with Georgia five years ago,” Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich said in a statement. ” We were approached to mutually agree to cancel this series, but we declined. Georgia exercised their option to cancel our series.”

Now this is largely because of ESPN, yet Georgia had plenty of opportunities to reschedule a date with Louisville and refused to do so. The Bulldogs paid nearly 1 million dollars to pull out of the deal. Louisville scrambled late, and was able to secure a series with North Carolina.

Ohio State-
The Buckeyes may seriously think Louisville is the scariest thing in sports. Louisville Head Coach Charlie Strong has called Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer out publicly, and what was Urban’s response? Not much.
Quotes have been fired Meyer’s way by Charlie Strong like the following:

“I’d love to play Ohio State.”

“I have asked him to play us,” Strong noted about Meyer.

Strong to Meyer, “Why don’t you play us?”

Essentially, all Meyer has had to say about it was ‘Let’s think about it,”. Apparently, Meyer has thought about and decided it’s not best for his program. There are no plans in for the Buckeyes and Cardinals to meet in the foreseeable future. Clearly, this is yet another instance where Louisville embraced the challenge, yet the opponent thought it was too much.

Kentucky-

Though it hasn’t been successful, make no mistake about, Kentucky Football has tried to run from playing Louisville Football. Simply there are not many explanations to explain the things that have happened in the past five years. Louisville has been happy whenever & wherever they play Kentucky on the schedule. Kentucky has changed the game date/time five times since the two renewed in 1994. Louisville has done whatever it takes to keep Kentucky on the schedule. Kentucky has find reasons to lose it.

Louisville Athletic Directory Tom Jurich went so far as to say if Louisville had to play ‘eleven conference games, our main focus would be to keep Kentucky on the schedule.’

A pretty damning statement that gives a clear indication about how serious Louisville is about keeping Kentucky on the schedule.

The series seemed in doubt for quite sometime. It now appears that the series will continue beyond it’s contract in 2015. Not exactly because of anything that Kentucky has done, but because the Conferences of each respective school have spoken up. They’ve moved the annual battle to the end of the series and it appears – for now, at least – to have found a home.

Missed Chances-

Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich has been very public on explaining those who simply haven’t returned his calls or said simply ‘No’ on schedule discussions. Lumped in this category are Alabama, Texas A&M, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Let’s start with Alabama. This is one of the few instances where neither team had control over playing each other. I think it’s fair to say that both teams had a solid interest in making the match-up happen. Louisville surely did because they approached the Crimson Tide and ESPN. Unfortunately the match-up didn’t work out because Virginia Tech did not wish to withdraw from the game this season.

How about Wisconsin? There is little information known about this one. All that is known is that Louisville approached the Badgers who told the Cardinals they had no interest. Probably a wise decision on their part, they haven’t fared too well against quality OOC opponents. Additionally, going through the rugged Big 10 schedule is already tough enough. At least, that’s what they say right?

There are some cases that Louisville has simply not been able to work with school for a specific date. Those instances happened to every school, they are understandable. What’s not understandable is how Louisville continues to approach the ‘Top Dog’ and they cringe. It’s as if Louisville is throwing stones at a sleeping giant and that giant refuses to wake up. In fact, that Giant has been sleeping for nearly five years now.

IT CAN NO LONGER BE RAN FROM

The team that so many have tried to run from so often is finally catching up to them. Louisville joins the ACC next season and with it they’ll face elite programs yearly at home and away. Whether the College Football world likes or it, Louisville Football is on a rise to predominance. So often, Louisville has been close. They’ve got to the top of the mountain, only to be cut down by an avalanche. Sometimes is was a result of a program destroyer being handed the keys to a luxury automobile and turning it into a 1998 Fiat. Most of the time, it was a direct result of the Elite being frightened of Louisville, not playing them and thus stifling the growth. The best result is perhaps this season- as demonstrated by the evidence above – you’ve seen how folks we’re fearful of the Cardinals. I believe this is undoubtedly true: If the 2013 Louisville Cardinal Football was able to schedule one marquee opponent, they’d be the 2013 BCS Champions. But I digress, that is another story for another time.

With Louisville moving into the ACC next year. Many folks seem to question whether they will be have success. They seem to be confused though. Every time, Louisville has been given the opportunity to excel on the big stage, they have; next season will be different.

Nevermore will teams be able to run from the Louisville Football Program. Actually, Elite Programs biggest nightmare has now been realized: Louisville Football is just a stepping stone away from joining them. The fear is real.

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Chris Hatfield

Residing in Louisville, KY (via Bardstown, KY). I write things about Louisville Sports. Sometimes you'll like them. Follow me @_ChrisHatfield Email me at chatfield60@gmail.com

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