BOZICH | Louisville football stadium expansion another textbook - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Louisville football stadium expansion another textbook Tom Jurich move

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – If you’re scoring at home - and you know you are – the addition of 10,000 seats to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium will give the University of Louisville a dazzling homefield environment.

And a large one. Fully expanded and enclosed, PJCS will rank as the 32nd largest venue in college football, sixth largest in the Atlantic Coast Conference and largest in Kentucky.

Tom Jurich is confident that his athletic department can comfortably fill 65,000 seats at a program that wasn’t averaging 30,000 paying customers when Jurich took over in 1997.

Think of it this way: Louisville will have a larger stadium than Oregon, TCU, Mississippi and four other programs that will begin the 2015 college football season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

“I just think that’s a great size for us,” Jurich said Friday morning at a press conference where plans for the stadium upgrade were officially announced.

TRANSCRIPT | Stadium expansion news conference

Disagree at your own risk.

I remember the day the place opened. Claude Bassett, Kentucky’s bombastic recruiting coordinator, walked onto the field, surveyed the bowl and cracked, “It’s a nice little stadium, if you like 40,000 seats.”

Try 65,000, Claude, which will be about 4,000 more than Kentucky will have space for when a remodeled Commonwealth Stadium opens in eight days.

It’s merely the latest fearless maneuver Jurich has made during his nearly 18 years on the job.

This is the man who navigated Louisville’s thunderous move into the Atlantic Coast Conference. The man who has made U of L a legitimate national player in baseball, women’s basketball, men’s soccer and other sports.

The man who not only led his men’s basketball program downtown into an NBA-quality facility but also negotiated a deal that created the largest revenue stream of any Division I program.

And the man now solidly into executing the second football stadium expansion for a program that operated in the shadows of the Kentucky State Fair when the Cardinals practiced at The Fairgrounds three decades ago.

Louisville football doesn’t operate in anybody’s shadow any more. Not in this state.

Eight days before Kentucky will open a stadium that it downsized by about 6,000 seats, Louisville announced it is eager to enclose the north end zone.

Jurich did not put a start or finish date on the project. But he did say that it will borrow from the ambiance of the NFL stadiums used by the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks and will include field-level suites, more club seating and room for another 10,000 fans.

Coincidence?

“I don’t think we’ve been chasing anybody,” Jurich said. “I really don’t … To say we’re trying to keep up with anyone, we’re not. We want to do our own thing.”

Make no mistake: This is Louisville’s thing. Push. Be aggressive. Surge. Elbow. Do more. Compete. Improve. Grow, grow, grow.

PHOTO GALLERY | Renderings of the PJCS expansion 

All this started, of course, with the outrageous decision by former athletic director Bill Olsen to pursue Howard Schnellenberger as the Louisville football coach in December, 1984.

Less than 12 months after he won a national championship at Miami, Schnellenberger agreed to Olsen’s offer because A) he needed a job; B) he grew up in Louisville, attending Flaget High School and C) he loved proving skeptics wrong.

For years, Schnellenberger displayed a rendering of his dream stadium at his Fairgrounds office. Those were the days when U of L assistant coaches used to howl about the smell of livestock waste when the Cardinals practiced there during the State Fair.

No shovels were placed in the ground for more than a decade. When Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium finally opened in 1998, it had room for about 42,000 fans.

Louisville didn’t average 40,000 fans per game until 2004.

Then came an Orange Bowl. And a Sugar Bowl. And Charlie Strong. And Teddy Bridgewater. And the return of coach Bobby Petrino. And the move into the ACC. You know the story. Everybody in college football does.

The one constant?

Tom Jurich.

He’s all gas, no brakes. Some have suggested the place won’t be fully expanded and upgraded until 2019. Jurich said he would love to complete the project earlier than that.

“We all know if Tom says something is going to happen, it’s going to happen,” Petrino said.

It’s going to happen. Just as you knew that it would.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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