I was 18 in 1981, just finishing my first year of college. It was May, not long after the Dunkensteins brought home that glorious championship trophy. My brother Jeff, a senior football player, and I were walking north on 4th street toward Masterson's to grab something to eat. When out a the blue a white limo pulls up next to us, window rolls down, a head sticks out and says, "Hey Jeff! Going to Masterson's? Get in!" I almost could not move staring there at Denny Crum. Denny knew Jeff because he knew all the Louisville athletes, from all the sports. As he gave us a ride, he said the reason he picked us up was that he was looking for a few good basketball players with team skills that could practice with his team over the summer. Someone that understood team basketball and wouldn't get his players hurt. Jeff said, "Sure do." Pointing at me.
I spent that summer in heaven. I was 6 feet tall and 150 lb. I was a late bloomer and didn't pick up upper body strength until later, but I was playing basketball with Darryl Griffith! Many on that championship team came back to play that summer. I sprained my ankle in the first 15 minutes of playing. There was no way that I was going home. I played 2 hours on that ankle and had trouble taking my shoe off that night, it was so swollen. And I was SOOO happy.
That is what Denny Crum meant to me. More than just hero coach. I have so many memories, great memories from the period, and I owe it all to Denny. So, I can see how you think my opinion is biased. But without Denny Crum there is no Sugar Bowl championship, no Howard Snellenberger, no women's basketball championship runs, no baseball world series
, no soccer championship run, no track and field championship and no Tom Jurich.
Crum came to this university before the billion dollar athletic expansions. His teams practiced in Crawford Gym. It was an old high school style gym with no amenities. As nice as Freedom Hall was, it was not our own gym. There were no complexes, student centers, Yum Center to attract recruits. He recruited local players and hidden and developable talent. He built his teams from being a coach, from being the best coach in the nation.
I was planning to join the track and field team my freshmen year. But the university had decided to cut the budgets for all sports except basketball and football. There was a push to increase money flow into football. I was a 6 foot 10 inch high jumper and wanted to work for 7 foot. The track and field was under construction and there were no funds to finish it. Many student athletes picketed the Athletic Department in protest to the lack of funding and Denny Crum was with them. Denny would not allow those sports to be ignored!
I am not the best person to tell this tale because there are many, many more stories just like these that exemplify what Denny Crum really means to the University of Louisville's sports. But from where I stand.... when I thank all those people for giving Louisville another championship, I include Denny, without him even this championship would not have been possible.