'Year of the Cardinal?' Jurich wants U of L to get even better


by Joe Arnold


Posted on June 10, 2013 at 6:10 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 11 at 8:39 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- On the heels of an historic Cardinal season that has witnessed a Sugar Bowl victory, a men's basketball national championship, women's basketball title game appearance and now a berth the College World Series, University of Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich is pushing for U of L's teams to do even better.

"I think someday we'll look back on it and say this is a great moment," Jurich said to reporters Monday afternoon, one day after the Cardinals defeated Vanderbilt to advance to the World Series.  "I want our people to enjoy it. But I certainly want them to strive to get better next year."

Like the dog-pile celebration after the win at Vanderbilt, Louisville has piled it on in 2013.

It is the first university to ever in the same season complete a sort of NCAA superfecta:

* win a BCS Bowl game,

* place both its men's and women's basketball teams in the NCAA Final Four

* and reach the College World Series.

"We stay very humble and we stay very hungry," Jurich said, "and humility will always serve us well.  And I think that's how we built this program. We're very appreciative of what's gone on. We're not taking it for granted. We're going to continue to build on it. And we can build on it. Every coach that we have, whether it's Coach (Rick) Pitino with his national championship trophy, they all think they can get better."

Amid the Cardinals' athletic success, the university's academic performance has come under greater scrutiny, especially after national rankings showed U of L as the weakest academic member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which it will join in 2014.

University leaders, however, describe an "upward trajectory" of its academic profile witnessed by a record number of applications for the incoming freshman class, with an ACT average score of 25, another high for Louisville.

At 2850 students, it is U of L's largest ever freshmen class, after an 11.5 increase in applications, thanks in part to the Cardinal athletic success.

On a simple table at freshman summer orientation on Monday, the trophies for the men's basketball national championship and women's runner-up team.

"I think it's just kind of a magnet to everybody," said Christian Gruner, an incoming U of L Freshman from Ft. Wright, Kentucky.  "People get really excited about it and they want to come to a team with a national championship, recently."

"It attracts more people to come," said Lily Mouser, an incoming freshman from Louisville.  "We're known more, now."

"They're all doing a little bit more research to say, 'Let me find out a little bit more about this institution I keep hearing about on ESPN,'" said Jenny Sawyer, U of L Admissions Director.

"I hope we can play a small role in it because we want to be from our standpoint a great marketing tool the University can use," Jurich said.  "Kids are coming here to come to school because I think the University is on a fantastic trajectory. 

That's all a credit to Dr. (James) Ramsey and Dr. (Shirley) Willihnganz, what they have done and the initiatives they put forward last ten years.

Ramsey is University of Louisville President; Willihnganz is the institution's Provost.

This fall, U of L expects to have its largest numbers ever of African-American students, Hispanic-Latino students and out of state students.

"The campus is beautiful," said Ali Stigers, an incoming freshman from Champaign, Illinois.  "They have great sports and great academics. It attracted me to come here."

"I think if you're a kid graduating from high school soon and out looking at universities, you're going to go to one that has a good sports program," said Jeff Gardner, a designated hitter on the Cardinals' baseball team.  "I think that's what's going on here at U of L.  If you look around, see how they are building new dorms, new Student Activity Center.  Louisville has always been known as a commuter school.  I feel everything's kind of progressing, everything's growing."

"I think people know there are a lot of exciting things going on at the university," Jurich added.  "And the great thing about our campus is this is one university.  They're not 'silo'd' out.  We don't have an athletic department, then an academic arm; we don't do that.  We're all one together.  And that's a great place to be, that's why it's such a great place to work."

The university has notified accepted first year students who did not sign up for an orientation session by June 1 that they are too late to enroll in classes for fall 2013.

The cutoff applies to first year students only. Applications are still open for transfer students, returning students who are trying to complete their degrees, and graduate students.

Sawyer noted that there is an appeal process for first year students who missed the deadline due to special circumstances.