(As I slide into the back of the courtroom a strong sense of déjà vu comes over me as I feel as if I was in this same position not so long ago. The defendant is different, but the vibe is eerily the same. Those in attendance are clearly frustrated, but there are also plenty of bright red open seats throughout the room. Apathy is a silent killer. The bailiff is walking in…fair warning, this is gonna be a long one).
Bailiff: All rise for the honorable Judge Kapowski
(The judge enters the room looking like she could have been a fashion model in Paris but chose law school instead. Her face says she absolutely means business, especially when she gets really bad headaches. Rumor is she put a guy in a wheelchair back in high school).
Bailiff: Judge this is case 201-2BCS, the City of Louisville versus Scott Satterfield. All parties have been sworn in.
Judge Kapowski: Thank you bailiff. Reminder to those in attendance that is a court of law. I will not tolerate any outbursts or disruptions from those in the gallery. The line of those who have tried and failed to do over the years is longer than the beer line during the first game at Cardinal Stadium this year. I’ll be happy to add you to the list. This is a jury trial, but I’ll oversee the proceedings. Counsel, you can proceed with opening statements.
City Attorney: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I don’t want to be here any more than you do. In fact, it’s growing quite frustrating that I’m investing so much time representing a city and a fanbase that deserves much more than what we continue to get year in and year out. I feel this city and fanbase is one of the more understanding groups in the country. After getting burned over and over and over again by coaches looking for greener pastures, we continue to welcome new coaching professionals and their families and allow them time to settle into this beautiful community and then set reasonable expectations as they are often taking a leap into a new role as a head coach or jumping into the next level of competition. Mr. Satterfield is no different. He was brought in with the job of reviving a football program that wasn’t looking to replicate success from 20 years ago or even 10 years ago, but to simply build off the success from the 5-6 seasons leading up to the collapse in 2018.Updated facilities, recruiting tools, freedom to bring in his own guys on staff, plenty of talent left on the roster, he has had the pieces needed to bring the Louisville football program back to relevance in the ACC and nationally, and it just hasn’t happened. My recommendation to you today is that the time for him to prove himself has come and passed and we as a fanbase are ready to move on. I’ll present evidence today to support that claim but I think each and every one of you already have that feeling in your gut before I even said a word. That should tell you something. You’re not being sold. You’re not being pushed; you’re simply acknowledging the painful facts being presented. We need to move forward, and that move doesn’t include Mr. Satterfield. Thank you, your honor.
Defense Attorney: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. The city attorney said exactly what I thought he would say, because it’s the same nonsense that some have been spouting about college football coaches for years, especially around here. Seemingly over the last couple decades the microwave mentality has crept into athletics and people want results not just quick, but instantaneously. He mentioned Mr. Satterfield has had plenty of time yet the man hasn’t even had an opportunity to complete a full recruiting cycle, being the head ball coach less than four years. And while I mean no disparagement against the student-athletes on the 2018 team saying that there was talent on the roster is tough to digest from a team that limped to a 2-10 record. Absolutely there were/are a few players who have made impacts, but that roster was so mismanaged it took a couple seasons just to get it back in decent shape from a number’s standpoint, and provide balance across position groups, that’s ignoring overall athleticism and program culture. Are we to just ignore the fact that a 2-10 season is not isolated to only wins and loses but also to the players mentality, morale, and in general the national program perception? No one can argue that not only were those areas improved upon Mr. Satterfield’s arrival, but they are significantly better than what they were ever under the previous staff. That should not just be a footnote in this story, but something praised by all across the board. Fixing that was priority number one when Mr. Satterfield arrived, and he nailed it. It doesn’t count for anything under the win column, but it was crucial to establishing a new foundation about what Louisville football stands for.
We’ve seen the quick fix approach before, and while it may translate to faster results on the field, we see what happens after a few seasons….the bottom always falls out. The new core has been constructed and Mr. Satterfield now deserves time to build off that hard work that he and his staff have put in. Thank you.
Judge Kapowski: Thank you for your opening comments and your professional candor. City, you may proceed.
City Attorney: Thank you judge. The defense mentioned Mr. Satterfield building a new “core” and quite frankly I’m shocked he didn’t somehow incorporate the fact he is also building a new house in Louisville as that has been thrown around as some type of unwavering commitment the last couple years. Frankly, I’m under the impression that Mr. Satterfield is actually building a henhouse here in town to store all these eggs he’s been laying the last few seasons…
Defense Attorney: Objection your honor! The city is making unsubstantiated comments which may mislead the jury.
Judge Kapowski: City, please refrain from cheap shots that do not pertain to the case.
City Attorney: My apologies your honor. I should be more sympathetic to his personal situation with his current home.
Defense Attorney: Your honor, I have no idea where this is going but….I object already.
City Attorney: Your honor, I meant no offense. I’ve just witnessed firsthand he in no way can protect his home against a rival, I figured it was a security concern forcing the move.
Defense Attorney: Objection! More nonsense not relevant to trial.
City Attorney: What’s the house alarm code Mr. Satterfield, 52-21?
Defense Attorney: Your honor?!?
City Attorney: I’ll stop, I’ll stop. I was just using that as a lead in to my first exhibit. If it pleases the court, please allow me to introduce ‘Exhibit A’ to the courtroom.
Ladies and gentlemen, while there is a decent amount to digest here, let me point you to the three distinct categories that you and most other fans are concerned about year over year. Overall wins, conference wins, and wins in big games like Top 25 opponents and games against your rival, the University of Kentucky. I’ve started this chart back in 2014 when UofL joined the ACC to be fully transparent and fair to Mr. Satterfield, because that’s the type of guy I am. You can see it just as clearly as I can but for those who want to boil it down to something very simply feel free to take a look at the linear trendlines in all three categories. Not only are we trending down but they are trending down quickly. In the last two seasons Louisville has finished with a losing record on the year. These are the first back to back losing seasons in this town since 2008 and 2009. But we hear things are improving? We’re “so close”? Only one year away? To me this paints a very different picture that is not filled with happy trees and fluffy clouds, but of empty seats and program desperation.
Now, I’m trying to be understanding and look for the silver lining, once again, that’s just the kind of guy I am. Plenty of programs have dips or down years but often times there are wins you can point too during the year to say “that’s where we need to be every week” or “that’s the team that can make some noise next season”. Where are the big wins? In his entire three year tenure this staff has produced a single win against a Top 25 opponent or the team down the road. One. And that was a Wake Forest team in 2019 who lost four of its last five games. Not only are they not winning games overall, but we don’t even get to celebrate a big win here or there anymore either. College Gameday, Top 5 rankings, Heisman trophy…this was our place on the national scale just a few short seasons ago. Now we celebrate big wins over Syracuse. I’m afraid if we wait much longer beating the “pulp” out of the Orange will become the new normal, and that’s not something I’m willing to accept. Thank you.
Defense Attorney: It may surprise you to hear this ladies and gentlemen, but I actually like this exhibit the city has presented. He slaps a dashed line on there and paints an image of despair, but you know what I see? Exactly what I noted earlier. A coach and a staff that was brought in back in 2014 to band-aid the move to the ACC and then the walls come crashing in like a motorcycle crashing on a winding road after only a few seasons. Do we just ignore 2018 on this chart? That’s what my client inherited. Not College Gamedays, Heisman’s or any other notable achievements he cares to dig up from over 4 years ago. This program was a mess and I make the notion that the turnaround was almost too triumphant in that first season, and Mr. Satterfield has become a victim of his own success. Let me take you into an alternate reality where a new coach comes into a program coming off of two wins, and a black eye on the athletic department, and he pulls out a season the following year where he doubles the win total, improves morale, and gets the players back on board. I submit ‘Exhibit B’ which shows just that scenario….
Building off that he continues to develop and is moving in the right direction year over year. Does this chart look like a coach on the hotseat, or a coach who is rebuilding a program one piece at a time? By coming out in Year One and winning eight games Mr. Satterfield overachieved on nearly every measurable expectation, so what, he now loses that realistic timeframe to rebuild? Instead of 4-5 years to get back on track he now has to be winning championships in year three? The program is moving in the right direction, and creating a full on culture shift and recruiting new athletes to fit your style of play does not happen overnight. This picture, which actually drops his win percentage, would be acceptable to many in this very room, so what are we even talking about right now? The timer has not run out, the page hasn’t turned….the story of Mr. Satterfield at Louisville has barely even started, let’s give him an opportunity to keep building and reaps the rewards of this new foundation. Thank you.
City Attorney: So, let me get this straight. The defense drops an “alternate reality” approach and instead of saying “we were so close this game and if one play went our way that game, etc…we should have been 8-5, 9-4” he actually goes with making Mr. Satterfield’s record worse while at Louisville?! A real vote of confidence there. “If only he had sucked more early on” is a bold strategy. But since we are talking about the future and building of a program let me introduce ‘Exhibit C’ to the panel. This is a recap of the recruiting classes for the University of Louisville football program over the last three seasons as per recruiting site “247sports.com”.
“The story of Mr. Satterfield at Louisville has barely even started…”. That’s what he said (pointing at defense attorney). Let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, I can see the next few chapters coming based upon this image, and it’s quickly evolving into a murder mystery, with the prime suspect in killing the football program being the man sitting right over there. The defense attorney will say “throw out 2019, not his class”…sure. I’ll appease them with that. But what about 2020 after this “overwhelming success” he couldn’t get in the Top 40 nationally or even the Top 5 in the ACC? New culture, new program, “promising” results on the field….same old recruiting. Then I’m sure the COVID excuse will come out for 2021 but let’s not forget COVID was not isolated to the beautiful city of Louisville. This was a national pandemic that all teams were fighting through, yet once again we sit just inside the Top 40 and drop to NINTH in the ACC? “Stars don’t matter they, this guy develops players, gets guys that fit the system”…I say four years in he’s stuck recruiting App State guys to play in a Power 5 program. Atlantic Sun, Sun Belt, Sunkist soda, who gives a damn...it ain’t good enough in the ACC! He’s not winning games, he’s not getting the players, and he’s getting beat out in his own city by his biggest rival. What more needs to be discussed?
Defense Attorney: Here we go once again. The city said they only present facts, no manipulation, no shady business. He’s lying to your face. These numbers may be factually accurate, but the world of recruiting is so fluid and opinion based the numbers on the sheet aren’t worth the cost of the paper they’re printed on. You heard of Yaya Diaby? What about Jalen Mitchell, Monty Montgomery? Those guys any good? All three star athletes. Lamar Jackson? Another three star guy according to these experts. This is who Louisville football is. Get the undervalued talent and show the world what they can do. As much as the city wants to focus on COVID recruits and shortened cycles I see he “accidently” forget to mention that the reason the 2022 class is lower is because it’s a smaller class and therefore these “point total” rankings will be much lower, even though this class includes three four star athletes including one from right here in this very city where he claims Mr. Satterfield can’t secure hometown talent. The recruiting can improve, but it’s on par with what UofL has done the last 10-15 seasons. There are facts, and there is this nonsense he’s feeding you to try and raise the hype on a discussion about job security that is misplaced and unwarranted.
Judge Kapowski: Closing arguments. Keep it brief, we’re approaching 2,500 words…I mean, 2 hours.
City Attorney: I had some other exhibits I brought today that would clearly show you the offense has flatlined, the defense is getting worse, and the excitement level for the program is at an extreme low, rivaling that of the Kragthorpe era, but I don’t need to show you that. Why? Because you already know it. Just like I stated when I opened up my case at the beginning of this trial, your gut knows the window of opportunity has closed for this staff and any momentum they had off that first year was swept away faster than a South Carolina wind just looking to get closer to home. Back to back years with more ticks in the loss column than wins. No Top 25 wins in nearly three years. No wins over Kentucky since he put on the Cardinal head visor. Recruiting classes getting progressively less and less inspiring, and all of this done with statistically one of the Top 5 QBs in program history on campus. Mr. Satterfield seems like a nice guy. A family man who no doubt cares about and loves these kids like his own. But big meals at the house and “ahh shucks, we’ll get ‘em next time” doesn’t sell tickets and obviously doesn’t win football games at this level. I’ve got nothing bad to say about the man, other than he’s just not the right guy for this job. But you already knew that. Thank you.
Defense Attorney: The picture being painted by the city is one of doom and gloom and program crushing morale. But that’s just not true. Step away from the message boards and the twitter accounts and go talk to real people. People who have had season tickets for years, fans who braved the cold temps in a Triple-A stadium. This ain’t that, folks! Joining a new conference, stepping into a Power 5 head coaching position, dealing with a cloud over the athletic department, having bosses come and go, losing staff members to the NFL and top tier college programs. These aren’t excuses but a picture into reality. This program is not anywhere close to what we saw back in 2009 or even in 2018, a mess Mr. Satterfield had to clean up on his own.
The city mentioned back to back losing seasons but omits that 2020 was only eleven games and had a single non-conference opponent, likely losing out on a couple more wins, and 2021 was only one game under .500, while still getting to play in the postseason. In a down ACC the opportunity for Top 25 wins hasn’t been there the last couple years like seasons past, and the recruiting classes aren’t as large as some seasons past but have more fire power at the top than Louisville has seen in years. Mr. Satterfield will be the first to tell you he is not satisfied with what they have done the last couple seasons and he’s taking the responsibility of making the necessary adjustments to improve it. No one in this room benefits from a poor product on the field, and this staff knows what needs to happen to get this team over the hump and start pulling out those one score games, to start getting deeper at the primary positions, to get stronger in the trenches, and ultimately do what it takes to start winning division and conference championships.
The city made a statement earlier that I can’t get out of my head. That the current picture of the program was not filled with “happy trees and fluffy clouds”. I assume he was referring to the beautiful paintings of Bob Ross who often used those terms. I like watching Bob Ross too, have enjoyed his show many times. But, almost every single time when watching I’m stunned when about halfway through he makes a big streak right across the canvas or throws on a dab of color that seems very out of place. I think to myself…“it’s ruined, he ruined the picture”. But every single time, he takes that patch of color or that mark that seems so out of place and turns it into something incredible before the closing credits roll. Let’s not take the brush out of Mr. Satterfield’s hand before he has had the chance to finish his picture, because I think he’s working on something incredible himself. Thank you.
Judge Kapowski: Thank you all for your time and participation in this trial. The jury will adjourn and we’ll reconvene in 365 days with a verdict. Take your time, look through the items presented and reach your own conclusion. The responsibility is not a small one and could impact the next few years of the program no matter what you decide. Best of luck and Go Cards.
(All information depicted above is straight from the mind of CardinalStrong and does not reflect the views of Card Chronicle or it’s editors. Any resemblance to real world events is strictly coincidental and frankly, somewhat scary.)