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Louisville athletics year in review: 2020

It wasn’t overly awesome, but it had its moments.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 18 Louisville at Duke Photo by Mary Holt/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Klusterfuk: clus•ter•fuk ‖ (noun) – a complex and utterly disordered and mismanaged situation: a muddled mess

2020 - Need I really say more?

The past 365 days, while not all completely bad, will go down as a year to remember for a multitude of reasons, many for the worse….a global pandemic, a controversial presidential election, social injustice/unrest and more. In terms of Louisville Athletics specifically, things went ebb and flow at times with the rest of the world almost as if the two were connected at the hip in some bizarre way. There were certainly bad instances but seemingly, and sometimes forgotten, for each negative occurrence UofL managed to have sprinkles of good things. Some, in fact, great.

In this piece, I attempt to take a quick and very abbreviated view looking back over the past year while highlighting a lot of the good and bad that we experienced as sports fans of any and all things related to the University of Louisville. Getting right to it, let’s start this journey with a positive (+) occurrence in the early part of 2020.

(+) Before many of us knew much of anything about COVID-19, the Louisville Men’s Basketball team got 2020 started off in pretty spectacular fashion by invading Cameron Indoor Stadium and beating a 3rd ranked Duke team 79-73. David Johnson would finally become a household name among UofL fans by pouring in 19 points and dishing out 7 assists. In addition, Malik Williams placed a cherry on top of the road win after putting Jack White in a body bag late in the game on a posterizing dunk that went viral in the social media world within minutes. Great win for the Cards, great moment for Card fans.

(+) On February 1st and for the second time ever in a unanimous vote, former UofL Heisman winner Lamar Jackson was officially named the 2019 NFL MVP. Quite an honor for a running back playing the quarterback position eh?

(+) Near the end of February (2/27 specifically), Coach Jeff Walz & the Women’s Basketball team secured an outright regular season ACC Championship behind the strong play of All-American Dana Evans and a loaded roster.

(+) March 1st (regardless of year) would forever be labeled as Keith Odd Day after the transfer buried a 3 pointer from the corner late in a blowout Senior Night win over Virginia Tech. Oddo’s shot would create a robust reaction from the bench that frankly I haven’t seen since UofL won the 2013 National Championship. I was at the game with my son and I screamed so loud I considered seeing an ENT a month later due to strained vocal cords.

(-) The COVID-19 pandemic causes the NCAA to cancel all spring sports. For UofL fans this particularly hit home because this would mean that the Louisville Baseball team, loaded with promise and talent, would not be afforded the opportunity to play for a chance to go to Omaha and compete for a National Championship. It was a somber time for those that support the Cardinal Nine and Women’s Softball as well.

(-) Around the same time as the spring sports cancellation announcement, the COVID-19 pandemic took its hold again on college athletics, namely basketball, by causing the cancellation of all conference tournaments and, gasp, March Madness.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams had entered March with hopes of making a run to their respective Final Fours. Sadly, but understandably, neither had a chance to do so. It was at this time that I believe many of us began realizing the true gravity of the situation and the seriousness of the pandemic. To keep myself from going into a state of full blown depression, I kept my blu-ray player hot by watching old tournament games….games that UofL won of course. I still get hyped watching Otis George hit that long jumper from the top of the circle against West Virginia in 2005.

(+) On April 17th, Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook were selected as back-to-back picks (Jones 12th & the final first round pick, and Shook 13th respectively) by the New York Liberty in the 2020 WNBA Draft.

(-) In late April, the UofL Football program and the UofL Sports community alike were deeply saddened after hearing the news that 2020 signee Dexter Rentz had passed away in Florida after being caught in the crossfire of a drive by shooting. Rentz was only one month away from enrolling at the University of Louisville and was 18 years old at the time of his senseless and unfortunate death. He had intended on playing the wide receiver position.

(-) On June 2nd, UofL Basketball legend Wes Unseld passed away at the age of 74. Unseld, the primary reason that my high school alma mater (Breckinridge County) led by Butch Beard only won one (1965) and not two straight KHSAA state titles (Western won in ’64) would produce an All-American career while suiting up for the Cards and would be the #2 overall pick in the 1968 NBA Draft. Many basketball historians label Unseld as the most important figure in the history of Washington Bullets (now the Wizards) franchise. He was elected into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988 and his number (31) is retired by the University of Louisville. In 1996, Unseld was named to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

(+) Some positive news by way of the Louisville Baseball program came to Cardinal fans on June 10th when pitchers Reid Detmers and Bobby Miller were both selected in the first round of the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft. Detmers was drafted by the Anaheim Angels and Miller by the LA Dodgers. The stockpiling of former Cards onto MLB rosters by Coach Dan McDonnell took place, COVID be damned.

(-) On August 28th, many Card fans, certainly myself included, were shocked to hear that Sean Moth would be resigning as the UofL PA announcer after 21 years on the job. Let me just say that I was an intern in the UofL Sports Information Dept the year that Moth came to UofL by way of Colorado and you couldn’t find a more humble, professional guy if you looked til the end of time. I knew when I heard the news how badly I would miss many of his famous taglines, namely the “Threeeeeeeeeee” call in basketball games – I was right. Fortunately, baseball fans found out that Moth would still call games on the radio so there was a small consolation price, albeit not good enough.

(+) After months of speculation, the UofL Football team suited up and played football in front of a limited number of Card fans on September 12th beating WKU 35-21. The game highlighted the resilience of the program itself, the players and the fan base and served as a form of goodwill giving many of us hope that a return to normalcy wasn’t too far off. UofL would go on to set program records for turnovers and would finish with a losing record but I’m not gonna train wreck this whole piece over that.

(+) Jordan Nwora became the 45th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft on November 18th after being selected by the Milwaukee Bucks. Nwora, who had one of the more roller coaster careers of any UofL player in recent memory, would be fortunate being drafted by a team already in a position to push for Eastern Conference title and beyond.

(-) After months of utter silence, the NCAA finally reared its ass ugly head on December 7th by sending a response letter to UofL as it related to the “Pay to Play” scandal and Adidas. In a nutshell, the NCAA basically told UofL that they didn’t agree with any of their own initial responses to allegations. This is an ongoing issue and frankly a dark cloud that is still lingering over the men’s basketball program. The sooner any final resolutions are made the better. For now, UofL fans will have to wait as the University decides on its next step (My guess: the IARP route).

(+) Denny Crum is one of my favorite human beings of all-time. On December 10th, AD Vince Tyra announced that Cool Hand Luke’s name would be used to represent the new basketball dorm that UofL will be constructing in the near future. Based on the positive impact he has made throughout his career on UofL both athletically and academically this couldn’t have happened to a better person. Denny Crum for life.

(+) Louisville beats Kentucky 62-59. Yes, 2020 was full of ups and downs but I’ll be damned if UofL didn’t find a way to tie a positive bow on it for all Card fans. Carlik Jones will never buy his own drink in the city of Louisville. The win over the now 1-6 Wildcats was Chris Mack’s first over Kentucky since becoming the head coach at UofL. I look forward to many, many more.

So, there you have it, a very condensed version of the 2020 sports happenings for UofL Athletics. I know that many of the readers of Card Chronicle had some great things they experienced in 2020……the birth of a child, weddings, graduations, etc. And for those of you who experienced any and all of that, I am happy for you and yours. If nothing else, 2020 has taught me that sports is still a form of entertainment but its also one of the ways that we as fans stay connected and maintain a sense of community.

I wish good health and happiness to all of you as we go into 2021. Be good to one another, unless said person is a UK fan.

Thank you for reading a lot of the dumb shit I’ve written about over the past 12 months on this site but most importantly thanks for supporting Card Chronicle. I’m obviously biased but, despite there being a lot of impressive avenues for UofL fans to get their fix on UofL Sports, it’s still the leader in the clubhouse.

Happy New Year Card Nation, Go Cards!