Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Louisville women's basketball -- FACES IN THE CROWD -- TUESDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
FACES IN THE CROWD
(Julie Sullivan has the write-up today and she has a great article on the BIG HEADS. Enjoy!)
I love this Louisville women's basketball team, the coaches, the managers, the support staff and the game. I especially love being a part of this amazing fan base. Last season, the Cards were ranked #5 in the nation in attendance with almost 8300 per game for home games. 28 fans followed the team to Cuba for exhibition games. Hundreds made the trip to the ACC Tournament in small Conway, SC at Coastal Carolina Arena last March. Hundreds more were in Columbus for the game against Ohio State -- and Jeez-O-Pete !! -- they were rewarded with one of the best games in recent history.
Other schools would kill to have a fan base like Louisville's. Coach Walz frequently reminds his players what a special place Louisville is and they see that when they walk onto Denny Crum Court. They also see that, especially, when they take an opposing school's court that is surrounded with just 100-200 fans. Assistant Strength and Conditioning coach and special assistant Beth Burns , who has served as a D-1 head coach for multiple big name schools echoes that:
" I truly believe that Louisville basketball has the greatest home court advantage because of how close the fans are to the bench. Because those crazy Big Heads swirling, we can see them. We can feel them and what I appreciate is I know people pay. I know they have a right to boo if they want to...but what separates the Louisville fans from the rest is...when we need them, they come through for us...You're not just playing for yourself. The consistency of the fan base year in and year out is the separator. You can always count on the people of Louisville."
What are these Big Heads that Beth refers to? People with inflated egos? I'll explain...
During a break in the action at a WBB game, have you ever looked up at the scoreboard screen and seen a crowd shot or have you scanned the crowd and seen a group and wondered what their story was? What makes this fan-base so special? OK...maybe it's just me but Paulie suggested I do today's write-up about the idea I offered about the BIG HEADS and while he and the rest of the "A" team can write great synopsis and analysis, I haven't honed that skill just yet. So, I bring you today the quirky fanaticism of Louisville women's basketball. Let me introduce you to the Big Heads.
At halftime, Al Greener's pep band breaks into the song "Sweet Caroline". The big board's cameras focuses in on Section 106. They show the fans known as the Big Heads, the Heads Up Group, with giant head shots of the Cardinal players bopping and bobbing to the beat. Flipping the giant heads as the camera angles jump from front to back to front again. It has become a game between the camera operators and the fans.
How did it all begin? Like most great traditions...quite by accident.
In October of 2010, at the Women's Tip-Off Luncheon and the Arena just days away from hosting the first UofL game (which was a women's game, by the way) the luncheon was held in the Spirit Room. Three friends, Kim Allen, Ginger Kilgore and Linda Miller just happened to be seated at a table with then freshman Sherrone Vails. At the end of the luncheon, everyone got to explore where their seats would be in the KFC YUM! Center.
Standing on the floor, Allen Miller and Kilgore pointed up to Section 106, near the middle of the stands...to show Sherrone where they would be cheering for her. One of them suggested that they would bring a sign so they could see that they were there to support her during the games. Another joked that they would get a big "cardboard head" so she couldn't miss them. Sherrone's eyes grew wide with excitement. It was later as they were leaving that Allen recalled Sherrone's excitement and the three knew that what started out as an offhand comment must be fulfilled. They plotted and planned. A good photo, a trip to Kinko's, some trial and error and they ended up with a giant cutout of her and brought it to the game. Sherrone was ecstatic and the threesome knew they were on to something special. They decided to make one for each player on the roster.
They pooled their money, got pictures and after many trips to the printer...they completed the first set. Their friends joined them, people they previously didn't know but sitting near them, joined in. Soon the whole squad of faces were dancing in 106. Some of the Heads Up Group, in addition to the original three are Becky Gamm, Jane Feger, Peggy Kilgore, Melanie Cox, Sandy Hicks, Shannon Noonan, John and Valerie Thompson and Marty Fehey. Others often join in. While Kim Allen was the driving force in the beginning...Linda Miller has taken over much of the photo, printing and cutting duties....which she refers to as "a labor of love". Group members help defray costs by contributing money to print the incoming faces each season and if a head needs to be replaced, as is the case of Myisha Hines-Allen. DOOO-BLAY elaborates:
"They took my picture my freshman year of me and I really didn't like the picture at all. It was way too much of a close-up. My lips looked really chapped. It was a bad day, bad picture...so I asked if they could create a new one and they said 'Yes!' and did".
Other replacements have occurred after cutouts have been damaged or lost. Linda now brings them and collects them after each contest. She wants to make sure each player is represented at each contest. Balancing the whirlwind basketball season and her job, she is still working on the current freshmen heads. Getting crisp enough pictures that can be enlarged to a 16" x 20" print that are flattering to the player is paramount and she hopes to re-shoot the freshmen on Friday. She also hopes to have them "in the crowd" at the home game on Dec. 5th. against the UT-Martin Skyhawks.
Since the "A" team likes to make bold predictions...I am going to go out on a limb and predict that come February, Louisville still has a big "Goose-Egg" in their loss column. Also, before the end of the season, three different Cardinals have received ACC Player of the Week honors.
As a guest writer and big fan of CARDINAL COUPLE, I encourage each reader to pitch in a ducat or to for the NOVEMBER donation drive...so this excellent site and unique look into Louisville women's sports and Cardinal Athletics goes into 2018 strong and solvent.
Cardinal Couple accepts Pay-Pal (see the top of the page) and checks can be mailed to:
c/o Paul Sykes
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-- Julie Sullivan --
LACROSSE ANNOUNCES HEAD COACH
Louisville Lacrosse now has their second coach in the program's history and Scott Teeter is the new skipper. He'll be formally introduced today at a 1:30 presser at the "Little YUM" practice facility and CARDINAL COUPLE will be there to cover it.
Teeter has been the head coach at Canisius the past 16 years and has been the MAAC Coach of the Year four times. He took the Golden Griffins to the NCAA tournament in 2017 while compiling a 15-5 record.
Vince Tyra has made a good move here. Teeter brings experience and stability to a squad that has seen its share of uncertainty and a depletion of ranks.
Feb. 2nd. earmarks the start of the season when the LAXCards host Vermont. Two months and change to develop a plan, an identity and familiarity.
Kay Morrisette, one of the best to ever play the game at Louisville, was an assistant on Teeter's staff at Canisius. Whether she'll return to the Ville to join the staff was unknown at the time of this article's publishing. I expect I'll find out in a few hours.