A Necessary Reminder On Senior Day Eve

Joe Robbins

This is not a lecture. It's not a plea, it's not a request, it's not even a call to action.

This is a reminder.

A little less than four years ago, we weren't arguing over whether or not the team was beating opponents by enough points or breaking down the ways the Cards still might be able to sneak into the BCS.

This is what we were doing.

I'm not here to speculate on why or how this happened - because aside from broad, simple generalizations, I really don't have a clue - I'm just here to state the obvious fact most of us would rather ignore: the Louisville football program under the direction of Steve Kragthorpe is an abomination. It's a luxury ship headed straight for an iceberg, and it's being captained by a man who won't stop talking about how the iceberg got where it is and why it might move, because he has no idea how to turn the wheel to the left.

...

The worst part about all of this is that it's not going to be fixed any time soon. "Louisville football" won't elicit the old images of top 15 preseason rankings, conference championships and home field dominance until all of our lives are significantly different.

The tailgating will still be fun, we'll all cheer like hell for the guys wearing our colors, and eventually we'll celebrate our return to a minor bowl game with a funny name with all the unspoiled vigor we did in 1999, but in the back of our minds we'll all know that it didn't have to be like this. We'll all know that there was no excuse for a fall from grace this sudden and this absolute.

I'm aware that talking about this will do nothing to remedy the situation, but neither will ignoring or denying it. The fact of the matter is that the Louisville football program is bad and getting worse, and there's no acceptable reason for why that's the case.

Coming to grips with that isn't fun, but it's healthy.

We've talked in recent weeks about how this season has become strangely exhausting. It's exhaustion that should be celebrated when compared to the fatigue brought upon by extended losing streaks to Kentucky, Syracuse and Connecticut, and three straight years without any postseason game to look forward to during the holidays.

The trip from Point Z to Point A wasn't instantaneous, but it kind of felt like it.

In the 48 months since that post was written, Louisville has been to three straight bowl games, captured two conference championships and notched the biggest win in the history of the program. It earned a top 10 preseason ranking for the first time ever, and is a win on Saturday away from achieving double-digit wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history.

None of that happens without the 20 seniors (and potentially the two or three juniors) Louisville will be saying goodbye to tomorrow afternoon. I honestly believe that.

Charlie Strong would have turned things around here eventually, but it never would have happened as quickly or as dramatically as it did without the right group of young players to buy into such an extreme culture shift.

We spend a lot of time questioning the decisions that these 18-23-year-olds make over the course of a 60-minute football game, but something that should never be questioned is the level of effort and determination it takes to bust your ass day after day, month after month, year after year for four collegiate seasons, partly so that we as fans can have something to look forward to once a week during the fall. That type of commitment demands respect, especially when it's done with the ultimate goal of changing the entire culture of a program.

Bigger and better things are no longer desired here, they're expected, and that's largely because of this group. With that elevation in status comes a duty, I think, to remember and honor the seed-planters and the cultivators who made the entire thing possible.

I understand that it's going to be early, that it's going to be cold and that it's going to be Memphis, but we've taken so much joy from the effort these 20 seniors have put forth over the past four years, and been asked to give so little in return.

However you celebrated in the hours (or days) after Louisville's Sugar Bowl win last January, think about that for a second. Now think about how you felt watching a Cardinal team with nothing to play for go through the motions and lose at home to Rutgers by 20 on the day after Thanksgiving in 2009.

You can't put a price tag on the contrast between those emotions, but if you tried, I'm pretty sure it would be something more than four hours of your time. But that's all this group and their coaches are asking for tomorrow.

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