What is Success?
A ride home from work the other day found me listening to a Louisville radio show. The hosts were discussing the desire of professional leagues to see specific players improve parts of their game to make them pros while the college fans of those players just wanted to see them do whatever gave them the best chance to win while still in school. The players are stuck somewhere in the middle of this argument, obviously wanting to be successful in college but also wanting to put themselves in the best position for success in the professional game. This is much more prevalent in a few revenue sports than it is in others where there isn't huge pressure from above to buck a coach's instruction for selfish personal improvement. However, it does beg the question: "How do you, as a fan, define success?"
There are multiple types of success in my opinion. I view team success as getting wins, both in the regular and post seasons. Individual success includes not getting in trouble, performing well academically, receiving individual honors, and succeeding in the professional ranks. There are many who do not care about individual success. Obviously a Heisman Trophy and having the most decorated player in college baseball history are exceptions, but some fans do not care about the names on the back of the jerseys. They may as well be playing the old NCAA sports games; the players likenesses are unique, but they're really just guys running out there with the team. Then there are those on the opposite end of the spectrum, for whom success in the professional ranks defines a player's legacy despite what the did in college. Many detract from players like Brian Brohm and Luke Hancock because they did not shine at the professional level, despite the fact that their two programs would not be in such a position today without those two guys.
In addition to the various types of success, there are levels to success. If a team fails to win a championship every year, is that team unsuccessful? Many fans on Seattle Seahawks blogs would have you believe that is the case. But there can only be one team champion in any given sport in any year. How far into the NCAA tournament is a successful basketball season? Is making the postseason an accomplishment for the women's soccer team or an expectation? The varying levels of success that different athletic teams have within the same program we cheer for make it hard to temper our expectations for one group while keeping excitement high and expecting the most for others. Many of us fans fall into the trap of seeing Team A repeat success over and over again while watching Team B struggle. We become cynical about Team B, not recognizing the differences in the landscapes of the programs.
This season, we will see the same varying types and levels of success at the University of Louisville we always do. Teams will exceed expectations, while others fall short. Individuals will amass honors in some fashion and others will watch as their name isn't called. Some players will jump ship and see what the professional landscape holds. Others will graduate and look for a job in their field, a different type of success entirely. Yahoo recently ranked UofL Athletics as the 28th best overall program out of the power five conferences. The blurb about the Cards said that the program was on the rise, and I find myself agreeing. If a few more teams can pull out the championships they so desperately desire, the Cards will see themselves climb this list.
So how do you define success? Sound off in the comments about what you consider to be a successful season for a Louisville Cardinals team. Does Donovan Mitchell going in the lottery add to the success of the men's basketball season? What about 8 baseball players drafted? Do they take the sting out of an Omaha loss a bit? As a fan of both college and professional sports, I find myself stuck in the middle on a lot of these questions. For the sake of Cardinal Couple, though, I will focus on what I would consider a success for a few women's teams. If these teams don't achieve these marks, I wouldn't consider them disappointments necessarily. Getting close but not achieving my goals would be a scratch, falling apart completely would be a disappointment.
Soccer: 12 regular season wins; advance to second round in ACC tournament; NCAA appearance
Field Hockey: No more than 5 regular season losses; top 2 in ACC; quarterfinals in NCAA (stretch goal: win the NCAA Championship at home)
Volleyball: finish top 4 in ACC; advance to second round in NCAA tournament
Basketball: Top 3 in conference; Elite Eight (basketball is one of the toughest to set goals for, in my opinion)
Lacrosse: Top 3 in conference; quarterfinals in NCAA tournament
Softball: Top 3 in conference; win a game in the regional round of the NCAA tournament
I have high expectations for many of these teams in the ACC because I believe Louisville is near the top of the ACC as an overall program. I would go so far to say that continued success across all sports puts Louisville in the top 2 in the conference. As such, I expect teams to show that in their conference standings. I also believe that successful seasons end with at least appearances in NCAA tournaments, even if you bow out early. Like I said, there can only be one champion. I've had my take, now have yours. Let me know where you think I've expected too much or too little from a team. I'm genuinely interested in hearing what you all consider a successful season!
The Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
Today's show features a return of the fearsome foursome to the studio. Paulie, Worldwide, Jared, and I will take our seats and ramble on for an hour about whatever it is we can think of. As mentioned yesterday, we'll have an exclusive interview with Asia Taylor on today's show that you won't want to miss. Tune into WCHQ at 11AM to hear all of the shenanigans. The show can be found at 100.9 FM if you're in the Crescent Hill area, on the free WCHQ app, or on the Crescent Hill Radio website.
Until next time, Go Cards!