LOUISVILLE, Ky. --- When Charlie Strong first beat Kentucky, his Louisville team did it on the road under the lights in Lexington as an underdog. Most did not expect nor predict it.
It was the 2011 season, week three. I had been working at WDRB for less than a month. As much as I studied up on the rivalry, there's only so much you can learn in a month.
But Charlie Strong's passionate post-game news conference left even a Governor's Cup beginner like myself with a crystal clear conclusion - that was the kind of win that could change a program.
It was, in many ways, the start of Louisville's ascent into the national spotlight. In fact, Lexington was the birthplace of the Legend of Teddy Bridgewater, as he came off the bench for an injured Will Stein with ice water in his veins, throwing 2 touchdowns en route to the 24-17 win.
Below is an article I wrote following Charlie Strong's powerful post-game proclamations after that memorable Saturday night for Cards fans:
LEXINGTON, Ky. --- As Charlie Strong entered the post-game interview room, under the stands at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday night, it was clear he was fired up about his team's big win at rival Kentucky, but he wasn't just fired up about the game itself.
The first thing out of his mouth, before anyone in the media even asked him a question, was about much more than football - it was about changing the culture of his program and its fanbase.
"We had said earlier to our team, we needed to have a statement game," said Strong in his opening remarks. "But the reason why this is so important, we talk to our guys all the time about changing the culture of this program. We needed a statement game to change the culture."
That's something Strong said the team didn't have last year, despite getting to a bowl game in his first year at Louisville, after three subpar seasons under Steve Kragthorpe.
"We have to change it within our university also," Strong continued. "You see students on our campus that walk around with UK. I always say to them, 'If you're going to walk around with UK stuff on...you must not have gotten accepted to UK...you're here at University of Louisville, so let's represent our university."
In terms of academics, Kentucky has a larger student body (close to 20,000) compared to Louisville (around 16,000), with a lower percentage of accepted applicants and higher standardized test scores for incoming freshmen.
Senior linebacker Dexter Heyman has also seen what his coach sees.
"I'm from here, so I'm savvy enough to understand there are going to be guys on campus who are UK fans," said Heyman, who played his ball at Male High School, in the 'Ville. "At the same time, you really want those guys to buy into what you're trying to do and understand everything you do is an effort to make campus life better for them. So, it's rough, but we get through it."
Strong's blue beef doesn't stop with some of the students on-campus either.
"You see alums that have graduated from our university, and they still have UK stickers on their car," said Strong. "What do you have to say to that?"
Strong's message was clear, with an even more crystal goal.
"We have to get the support back into this university. We go play two games, and we didn't sell out the stadium."
Louisville reported attendance numbers of 42,510 against Murray State to open the season and 47,228 against FIU. Papa John's Cardinal Stadium has a capacity of 55,000.
"Our alums should feel like they come to watch our players play, and don't worry about who we play...that's the only way the culture's going to change within our program.
For Strong, the formula for changing the culture is simple.
"I tell my players all the time. If we win, then they'll change. The only way it's going to change is we have to change it ourselves."
Strong then left this message for fans on Twitter:
"Cardinal fans thanks for all the support today! This was a statement for this program and the direction we're headed!"