COMMENTARY

Satterfield earns toast with revival of Cards' fortunes

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- With Louisville's football team reaching a bowl game in his first season, Scott Satterfield is due to receive a $100,000 bonus according to terms of his contract.

I am betting that if Satterfield's agreement hadn't called for a bonus, U of L fans would have solicited donations to make sure he got one because in less than 11 months he has endeared himself to Cardinal Nation. He did so by guiding the Cards to a remarkable turnaround that promises to get even better before this improbable season ends.

With Saturday's 34-20 win over North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., Satterfield has pushed and prodded a Louisville team that was tabbed to finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference to heights that probably even his wife and three children didn't believe possible.

"I'm so proud of these seniors," Satterfield said. "You know what they've been through and then to bounce back. I think that's the key. Here we are sitting two more games to play and we've got six wins. Nobody throughout the country would have dreamed of us going bowling this year."

Nobody that is, but the most important person.

"First of all, I don't listen to any of that stuff," Satterfield said following the win over the Wolfpack (4-6, 1-5) that boosted the Cards' record to 6-3 overall and 4-3 in the ACC with games remaining against league foe Syracuse and rival Kentucky.

"If you listen to that stuff, you start buying into it, you start believing it," he added. "Whether they pick you to win the league or pick you to finish dead last, like we were picked, it doesn't matter. All that matters is guys going out and working every single day, then showing up on game day and putting it to work."

What Satterfield has accomplished in less time than it takes to say 'Bobby Petrino' is taking a group of demoralized, thoroughly defeated players coming off a dismal 2-10 season that included an 0-8 ACC mark and turning them into immediate winners.

It's not that bowl games are anything new to the program -- this will be the Cards' ninth in 10 seasons -- it's the depths of 2018 from which they rose, shedding sunlight on a future that looked so bleak.

This wasn't a rebuild. This was a rescue.

"It doesn't even feel like I've been to three bowls because of how bad last year was, making me forget I've even been to one bowl," said senior defensive tackle G.G. Robinson. "This is really special because of everything we went through last year. It's a testament to all the hard work."

And, of course, tribute to Satterfield, 46, the highly respected and successful coach at his alma mater, Appalachian State, which Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra turned to only after Jeff Brohm rejected his former school's intense recruiting effort to remain at Purdue.

Brohm 's refusal to return to U o fL, where he had coached and played, caused a collective case of disappointment and heartburn for Card fans, but it's doubtful that many are still agonizing over missing out on the hometown hero.

Not after Satterfield quickly won them over with a team that week after week has shown grit, determination, fight and resilience while making its leader almost a cinch to earn ACC Coach of the Year honors.

The revival also proves, as Clemson coach Dabo Swinney noted when evaluating the Cards' improvement this season:

"Coaching matters."

Satterfield and his staff are obviously very good at the Xs and Os of football. They are just as good at the intangibles, or the mental part of the game, which in UofL's case was even more important heading into this season of low expectations.

However, Satterfield quickly won the respect and trust of the players with his discipline, fairness and ability to create a winning culture. He is not only the calmest, most even-keeled football coach I have ever seen, but he is also one of the most likeable, and his sincerity comes across without a hint of pretense, which his players responded to at the outset and have continued to do so.

Asked how far the Cards have come in the last 11 months, Satterfield couldn't find a suitable description.

"What's the largest measuring table we have," he said. "They've grown tremendously since I got here in December to right now. It's incredible. When you throw the word love around in the locker room like our guys do, it wasn't that way when we first got here. We were just trying to gain their trust, that's all. To be consistent on a daily basis, and I think our staff has been able to do that.

"We've had a lot of ups and downs and a lot of adversity to fight through. But I think these guys know that we care about them and want what's best for them. And that's why I so wanted to see the smile on these kids' faces. Now they get to see the reward for their labor."

As the Cards began celebrating their achievement in Carter-Finley Stadium Saturday night, offensive guard Caleb Chandler took the lead in making sure Satterfield got the obligatory drenching, dumping a cooler of ice water on him despite temperatures in the low 40s.

"It was just to show him that we love him and appreciate everything he's done for us since he's been here," Chandler said. "It's the first bowl game too, so you have to get him."

And there was this:

Tyra, watching Saturday's game from the sideline, told WDRB columnist Eric Crawford that he had brought a bottle of 15-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon to toast Satterfield and his staff with after the game.

Every Cardinal football fan should follow Tyra's lead and raise a glass to Satterfield and his assistants today for a job well done. They deserve it.

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.





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