Louisville first.

I must have started typing out what I wanted to say and deleted it 12 times. I’m still not sure my words say what I want them to, or even make sense, but here it goes.

To say the last two days have been tough on Louisville fans would be the understatement of the decade. Maybe the century. The past two years have been a grueling, devastating, unending tunnel of despair for Cardinal fans. And to be entirely honest, I’m not sure that even truly scratches the surface.

When the initial news broke on Tuesday, the pit in my stomach was akin to the feeling of watching Kevin Ware compound fracture his tibia. It didn’t take long to transition to something the likes of reading the tweet announcing Stripper Gate, but soon after…
I went sort of numb.

When the news broke about the alleged stripper scandal just shy of two years to the day ago, I stood proudly behind my (now) alma mater. Hell, I even wrote a letter to Sports Illustrated that went semi-viral. I believed whole-heartedly in the words I kept repeating to myself, the words I heard over and over from university officials.

“Louisville first.”

But now, I’m not convinced any of us know what to expect, where we go from here.

As I write this, the news is breaking that Tom Jurich has been relieved of his duties, and that Rick Pitino is soon to follow. I’m afraid we’re in for a true showing of that old saying, “things are going to get worse before they get better.”

Today, “Louisville first” doesn’t feel quite the same. I don’t know if it ever will, now that the light has shone on what those two words meant to an athletic department we believed in, we trusted in, we supported, with our hearts – and our wallets.

When the Penn State scandal a la Jerry Sandusky broke 6 years ago, I’ll be the first to admit I wanted the program crucified. I didn’t understand how anyone could still stand behind an institution where such immoral, corrupt, and outright disgusting things could happen. “How can they still wear their blue and white, and shout their ‘We Are!’s with such pride,” I wondered. “How have they not turned their backs?”

My, how the tables have turned, haven’t they?

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When this photo was taken, a lifetime three years ago, I would have probably punched you in the teeth had you tried to warn me this would happen. Or, at the very least, kicked you in the shin with my cowboy boot-clad foot. I could have never imagined that, soon, I’d come to understand pretty damn well how those PSU’ers did it.

I don’t stand for what my university’s athletic department allegedly did, actually did, any of it. I am heartbroken. I am embarrassed. I am raw. I am angry.

I saw a tweet yesterday that really hit the nail on the head….

The UofL community deserves better.”

And you know what? We damn well do.

I didn’t choose Louisville because I was offered strippers or $100,000 and a professional sponsorship (sure would have been nice though.)

I chose Louisville because the community, the whole city felt like family. I chose Louisville because from the minute I stepped onto campus for the very first time, I knew there was something special about this place. I chose Louisville because of the way the city rallied around this university, in a way I had never seen before.

I chose Louisville because I wanted to be a part of a vibrant, diverse, supportive community. And there’s not one ounce of me that regrets choosing UofL.

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So, here’s my official apology to Penn State fans – I finally get it.

As much as I wish I didn’t, I understand standing behind your school when the rug is ripped out from beneath your feet. Standing alongside your fellow fans, wondering if there will be a light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel of dark days ahead.

“Louisville first” means something different today than it did 48 hours ago. What was once a rally cry for the ‘best college sports town in America’ has some tarnish on its shine. So, the question is, where do we go from here?

We take one day at a time, put one foot in front of the other. There are some dark, dark days ahead, we can’t fool ourselves about that. But most importantly? It’s time we reclaim the rally cry. We show the world what Louisville is truly about. We love one another, we support one another, and we walk down the road ahead of us together.

Because after all, it’s not just Louisville first. There’s another part that, while certain athletic leadership has seemed to forget, I know that we haven’t.

Louisville first. Cardinals forever.