There was a time when Louisville was one of those places where people coached as a stop along the way.
Lee Corso was there. In fact, Corso was the first coach to take over after Frank Camp, making him only the second head coach of the program in the post-World War II era. He spent four years there, won two Missouri Valley Conference championships, and took the Cardinals to their second ever bowl game in 1970. In 1972, he helped Louisville to a #16 ranking. In 1973, though, he left, headed for Indiana in the Big Ten Conference.
Vince Gibson came after years with Kansas State in the Big Eight, but he left for Tulane after five years and one bowl berth. Gibson was also one of three head coaches after Corso who nearly killed the program as it became an independent in 1975.
In 1985, Howard Schnellenberger returned home after building Miami into a national powerhouse. Schnellenberger took the job because the Miami-based USFL franchise he was hired to lead never materialized (the Washington Federals relocated to South Florida and hired him, but when the league switched to a fall schedule, the team shuttered rather than compete with the Miami Dolphins). He built Louisville to an eventual berth in the Fiesta Bowl, but with the impending creation of Conference USA, he chose to leave for Oklahoma.
John Smith went to four consecutive bowls, then left for Michigan State. Bobby Petrino shepherded the program through to the Big East, won the Orange Bowl, finished in the nation's top five, then left for the Atlanta Falcons. Charlie Strong won two Big East championships, won a Fiesta Bowl, led the team through the end of the end of the Big East era, then left for Texas.
Despite this, Louisville remains an incredibly resilient and strong brand. While coaches came and went, the Cardinals seemingly found ways to find "the next one," the next coach capable of rebuilding and building them to a higher level. From Corso and the MVC through Schellenberger as an independent through Petrino in the Big East through Strong and the shift to the ACC (though he never coached a game in the league), Louisville is one of the brands that's managed to construct itself and build to a higher and higher plane.
Now part of the ACC, they face a future of stability. They've reached the top of the mountain in terms of conference affiliation, now part of one of the nation's power leagues. In the coach's chair, once again, is Petrino, a guy who should be happy enough to keep a job in the ACC if he can focus solely on managing his football team. They're a marquee team, and they're one that stands to play competitive football in an already tough Atlantic Division for years to come.
When Boston College plays the Cardinals on Saturday night, it'll be for the first time in 16 years. These are two programs with zero familiarity, having played six games in a 12 year stretch. It'll be the Cardinals' first trip north since 1991. It's virtually a blank slate, but that blank slate provides the perfect opportunity for the now bowl-eligible Eagles to fight for their seventh victory of the year.
Weekly Storylines (Aerosmith Edition)
Train Kept A-Rollin (All Night Long). We're entering very interesting territory as BC fans. At 6-3, the Eagles are surpassing every single one of our expectations. Boasting a roster filled with Spaziani recruits and fifth year castoff transfers, BC reached a cross-section this year where we thought, "Well, Addazio has his own guys but it'll take a couple of years to develop them. He's got a bunch of fifth year guys who haven't won squat or accomplished anything elsewhere. If BC makes a bowl game, it'll be a miracle." From here on out, even if they lose, BC accomplished that goal before the calendar reached the season's final month of games.
If you think about it, this might be one of Addazio's finest coaching jobs. He's created winners where we assumed there wouldn't be any, and that's a credit to a coach maximizing his team's talent. Clearly these recruits had some talent somewhere, and he's found the ability to get it out of them. And now BC rolls home with a chance for postseason positioning, something we haven't experienced in about six years.
Sweet Emotion. BC isn't just returning home. BC isn't just returning home to play a good opponent who's had a lot of recent success. BC is returning home to play a team that just went toe-to-toe with the defending national champions, a team considered #1 by many people not voting in polls, in a night game at Alumni Stadium.
We saw what happened the last time BC played at home for an 8 PM game. The fire shot into the sky, the fireworks rumbled, and the crowd went absolutely bananas. Boston College fed off that energy, and the crowd fed off the team as the Eagles knocked off #9 USC.
The Eagles will need that emotion in order to beat Louisville. A raucous home crowd can tilt the field in favor of Boston College. The fans have all day and most of the evening to get sufficiently rowdy and turn small Alumni Stadium into a loud cacophony of Thunderdome.
Dream On. You have to understand what's at stake now for BC. Even though we're all kind of happy to be (back) here, there's a great opportunity with three games left. If BC can win two of their final three games, they'll be 8-4. That's the type of record from the old Tom O'Brien era where they consistently placed in the second tier of conference bowl games.
Consider what's in play with a win. At 6-6 or 7-5, BC would have the same record they had last year, but their conference record would put them back in the Advocare Bowl or the Bitcoin Bowl or the Beef O'Brady Yobogoya Classic. At 8-4 or even (heaven forbid me) 9-3, BC all of a sudden is looking at the next tier, the Pinstripe Bowl, the Sun Bowl, or the Belk Bowl. Those are games we used to take for granted and games we wondered if we'd ever get back to.
Bottom line - these games are now important for bowl positioning in a big way.
PS - I purposely chose that Aerosmith version from the ESPN special on the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon. It quickly became probably my favorite version of the song ever, and it's goosebump material. For no other reason other than that I absolutely love it, I wanted to use it. Great stuff by Steven Tyler and company.
Bonus Song: Love in an Elevator. Pound for pound, when they were on top of their game, nobody could do crazy rock star like this band. "Hello Mr. Tyler. Going.....down?" remains one of those questions that helped me grow up.
Matchup Fun Facts
School Name: University of Louisville
All-Time Record: 484-441-17
Claimed National Championships: 0
Conference Championships: 8 (2 Missouri Valley Conference, 3 Conference USA, 3 Big East)
Bowl Games: 18
Postseason Record: 9-8-1
Head Coach: Bobby Petrino
Years at School: Fifth (First of Second Term)
Head-To-Head With BC
All-Time Series: Series Tied, 3-3
Streak: Louisville, 1
Last BC Win: 1994 (BC 35, UL 14 at Louisville)
Last Louisville Win: 1998 (UL 52, BC 28 at Louisville)
First Meeting: 1986 (BC 41, UL 7 at Boston College)