CRAWFORD | Ten things U of L fans should know about the Russell Athletic Bowl
1. Louisville is 2-1 in bowl games in Florida. Most recently, the Cards won the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in Charlie Strong's first season. Before that, they beat Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl in 2007. Their lone loss came in the 2005 Gator Bowl, to Virginia Tech.
2. U of L is 8-8-1 overall in bowl games and has played in 12 bowl games in the past 15 years. It is 2-1 in bowls under Charlie Strong, having won the Sugar and Beef O'Brady's bowl, while losing to N.C. State 31-24 in the Belk Bowl in 2011. That was the last time U of L faced an ACC opponent in the postseason.
3. The game is scheduled to kick off at 6:45 p.m. on Dec. 28, on ESPN. Bowl organizers say they will show the U of L-University of Kentucky basketball game -- played earlier that same afternoon -- in the Fan Fest adjacent to the stadium. More plans are still to come.
4. The Cardinals will face an ACC opponent in Orlando -- whether it is Duke (a heavy underdog to Florida State in the ACC title game), Virginia Tech, Miami or another selection will be determined by other bowls' choices.
5. The game will be played in the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, a historic venue that actually began as a Works Progress Administration project by Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. In 1989, it underwent a $30 million expansion and renovation to add upper decks and luxury suites. It's currently undergoing another $10 million renovation.
6. What's in a name? The Russell Athletic Bowl has had its share. The bowl began in Miami under the name Blockbuster Bowl. Attendance dwindled over the next decade, and Orlando lured the event away from South Florida. The game also has been known as the CarQuest Bowl, the MicronPC Bowl, the Tangerine Bowl, the Mazda Bowl and the Champs Sports Bowl.
7. Ticket information from U of L: Fans can order tickets through Louisville's Bowl Central website (www.GoCards.com/bowl) immediately, where the online seat selection option will allow you to view real-time availability and select the best seats in Louisville's fan sections. Lower and mid-level tickets are available for $77 each. No upper level tickets will be assigned from the institutional allotment.
Bowl tickets can also be ordered through the athletic department's ticket office by calling (502) GO-CARDS or by visiting the location at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on weekdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The ticket office also will be open and taking bowl orders at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday, Dec. 7, during the men's and women's basketball doubleheader.
By purchasing tickets from the Cardinals' Ticket Office, fans will receive free 7 p.m. admission to the University of Louisville Alumni Association and Athletics Department official Fan Appreciation Party. The event will be held at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort (9939 Universal Blvd.) on Friday, Dec. 27, from 8-10 p.m.
Additionally, the Florida Citrus Sports Foundation is offering discounted pricing to two marquee theme parks in Orlando for bowl fans that purchase from the Ticket Office, including the Walt Disney World Resort and SeaWorld.
8. U of L is stressing the importance of fans buying from the school this year. The school lost money on last year's trip to the Sugar Bowl, and its financial take from this year's appearance will be determined in a final settlement from the American Athletic Conference to be agreed upon this summer. The school is telling fans who are unable to attend "can donate their tickets to a UofL student, active members of the military, or to an Orlando-area charitable organization. It is critical that Louisville fans purchase bowl game tickets from GoCards.com/bowl, as institutional ticket purchases can impact future bowl opportunities." All fans who pre-ordered tickets will receive word on their seat locations by Saturday.
9. U of L athletic director Tom Jurich has heard the grumbling of fans who had BCS Bowl hopes. But he hopes fans embrace what the program accomplished this season. "At 11-1, you need to be happy," Jurich said. "I remember my first game right here in Nippert Stadium. Chris Redman nearly got killed. We weren't close to competitive. We've come a long way, and our fan base has grown and improved and always stepped up for this program. I know we're going to have a great crowd."
"Russell Athletic is thrilled that the Louisville Cardinals will complete their outstanding season by appearing in the Russell Athletic Bowl," Gary Barfield, the senior vice president of Russell Athletic, said on Thursday. "We are eager to find out on Sunday who Louisville will be facing in what is sure to be an exciting game."
10. If you've taken a look at the Russell Athletic Bowl's official web page, it's hard to miss the image of Teddy Bridgewater on the opening screen (pictured above). It looks almost as if the Cardinal junior quarterback is backstage preparing for a curtain call. And in reality, it could be just that for Bridgewater, though he hasn't said, and he and his mother are actively saying they are only focused on U of L football right now.
"I don't want to look at the future," Bridgewater said. "I love this team and this program. And we've got a big game to prepare for."
Regardless, among the game's bigger lures for U of L fans is a chance to see Bridgewater in perhaps his final U of L game. He and his many U of L teammates from Florida are looking forward to going back to their home state.
"Absolutely," Bridgewater said. "Warm weather. We'll take it."
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