A History of Louisville Women’s Sports Chapter 6: Basketball
We have reached the halfway point of our history lessons and the 12 UofL women’s sports. Today we look at the most popular of those sports- basketball. It seems as if basketball season is still ages away but in reality we’re just a little over four months from the regular season starting up.
Normally I start with the coaches and the founding of the program but I’m going to start with their home courts today. Currently, the Cards play at the prestigious KFC Yum! Center. The facility first went live for the 2010-2011 season. It plays host to both the women’s and men’s teams, including a host site for several NCAA Tournament games. The KFC Yum! Center has also hosted a few volleyball tournament games. Outside of sporting events the venue consistently brings in artists for concerts.
Prior to the KFC Yum! Center was Freedom Hall. Freedom Hall, located at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, had two outings as home to the women. It was the original home for the Cards from 1975-1981. After a stint at other venues UofL returned back to Freedom Hall from 1998-2010. Before the official move to the KFC Yum! Center, Louisville had played at least one game in Freedom Hall every year except the 1993-1994 season.
Smaller venues played home to the program between 1981-1998. The main one of those was Cardinal Arena. Seating just under 1000, Cardinal Arena was large enough to hold regular season crowds for quite some time before it no longer became suitable at the new millennium. Manual’s gymnasium and Bellarmine were also hosts for a few games on occasion.
Louisville has seen its fair share of conferences. They started off in the Metro Conference and have six championships (regular season or conference tournament) under their belt. They then joined Conference USA. During that brief stint they took home three regular season titles. Louisville moved to the Big East after that, but never won a conference championship after running into powerhouses Connecticut and Notre Dame. The Cards played in the AAC for one season, where they met up with UConn again. Since then, they’ve been a part of the ACC and have had success with regular season and tournament championships in recent years.
Now I am going to look at who the coaches have been... from when UofL considers the program to have started in 1975. There is a little further history to go back to before that, which I will cover later on...
Terry Hall is considered to be the first women’s basketball coach at UofL. She coached from 1975-1980 and never had a losing season in five years. There very first game was ugly as they were throttled by a well-respected WKU program. Their first victory came against NKU in Freedom Hall. During the early days most opponents were from around the Kentucky area and a few surrounding areas. Hal passed away in 1997.
Margaret ‘Peggy’ Fiehrer took over for the 1980-1981 season and stayed for nine seasons but struggled to find success. Fiehrer is the only coach to have a career losing record. She led the Cards to their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance in the 1982-1983 season. They lost to Texas in the opening round but a stepping stone had been reached.
Bud Childers came in as the first male coach for the program in 1989 and stayed for eight seasons. Childers held the honor of being the program’s winningest coach until Jeff Walz changed that a few years ago. Childers helped the Cards reach three NCAA Tournament appearances and saw home court time split between Cardinal Arena and Freedom Hall. Our senior editor and co-owners Paulie and Sonya began attending games at this time, as fans, and it was in the 1993 season that Louisville first beat UConn.
In 1997, we saw a dual coaching situation. The husband-wife team of Martin Clapp and Sara White took the reins. White changed her job title to operations director after three seasons but Clapp stayed as head coach until the end of the 2002-2003 season. The Cards has a slightly better record under the two head coach look as opposed to one during this era, but their most successful season during this time was Clapp,s first sole season. They went undefeated at home and won the conference title with a 14-2 record. Clapp was named Conference USA Coach of the Year that season. White has been a part of the television broadcast crew, along with Don Russell for the last several years.
Tom Collen came into the picture in 2003. He stayed for four years and had the best winning percentage of any UofL women’s basketball coach at the time of his departure. Collen oversaw the transition into the Big East and made the 20-win season a normal at Louisville. He is also the coach responsible for recruiting UofL greats Angel McCoughtry, Candyce Bingham and Jazz Covington.
Jeff Walz first took over for the 2007-2008 season. He had great talent to work with and got the Cards to an NCAA Runner-Up finish in his second year. After three seasons, Walz oversaw the move from “The Hall” to the KFC Yum! Center. He has since led the Cards to three NCAA Final Four appearances and several Sweet Sixteen appearances. He continues to produce WNBA talent where there are four former Cards playing currently (Angel, A-Tayy, MHA and Nite-Nite). With over 300 wins during his time here, Walz has doubled up on wins from the next winningest coach. He has become an advocate for equal rights and recognition for women in the realm of sports.
Now let’s rewind for a moment. Before 1975 there was a basketball team at UofL. Becky Hudson was an assistant athletic director at the time and coached the basketball team. How far back the program goes remains a mystery but it can be assumed that it was sometime before 1970. There was a major lawsuit between Hudson and the University so its hard to find much information from this. There was a major lawsuit between Hudson and the University and it is hard to find much information from this time. I found a Cardinal Couple article from August 16, 2011 where a former player who chose to remain anonymous gave us some history of the pre-1975 time.
Louisville has produced quite a bit of professional talent including the 2009 #1 overall draft pick in Angel McCoughtry. Asia Durr, Myisha Hines-Allen, Shoni Schimmel, Asia Taylor, Antonia Slaughter, Candyce Bingham, Lori Nero, Jill Morton, Sam Fuehring and Arica Carter have all heard their named called in the draft at some point.
We will continue to bring as much Louisville women's basketball coverage as possible each year for you. You can find Paulie and Sonya on the sideline media row, Worldwide watches from his normal season tickets seat and I'm on the floor taking pictures.
You can also spot some of our CARDINAL COUPLE RADIO HOUR regulars in Daryl Foust and Paige Sherrard present at some games on media row.
When Cardinal Couple was debaating getting into the coverage of women's sports at UofL, Paulie asked athletic director Tom Jurich and assistant A.D. Julie Hermann their thoughts on starting Cardinal Couple. They both gave an enthusiastic "thumbs up" to the concept. So did Charlie Springer, who Paul and Sonya were doing occasional articles over at UofLCardGame.com. In the beginning, Paulie and Sonya found they were one of the very few places covering women's sports...beside the UofL website and an occasional newspaper article. I'm pleased to note that this has changed for the better. Although Sonya's duties are now administrative, she still posts and provides articles about women's basketball at a few sites under the name "Sonja".
|From the early days of The Cardinal Couple Radio Hour|
Look to Cardinal Couple as your "go to" source for the joy and excitement of UofL women's sports.
I'd welcome any comments, reflections, suggestions or corrections on today's article in our comments section.
Happy Friday and Go Cards!