ATLANTA — The Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball team will play in the NCAA tournament’s title game Monday night against the Michigan Wolverines at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. And in New Orleans tonight, the Cardinal women’s basketball team plays California in a semifinal.
A few ambitious Cardinal fans will be in the audience for both games.
Jenny Sawyer has been the University of Louisville director of admissions for 30 years and is also a die-hard Cardinals basketball fan.
“You want to see my good luck charms? I’ve had them ever since I went to the Big East tournament,” Sawyer told a Georgia Dome security guard, producing two silver coins.
With a Cardinal victory in the men’s semifinal, she’ll keep these silver in her pocket when she travels this morning to New Orleans for the Cardinals’ women’s semifinal.
Why would I?” Sawyer said. “You know somebody asked me that. They’re like, ‘You’re going to do that?’ I said, ‘This is like a historic moment.’”
She had planned to drive, but instead will ride on a bus, organized by the university to leave from the team hotel.
It’s a different story for Steve Head, who works in real estate in Louisville. Until his solo drive from Louisville to Atlanta, Head didn’t decide to continue his journey to New Orleans until yesterday.
I’m already halfway there,” Head said. “I don’t have a hotel room here. I kinda came down on a whim. I’d just assume being in a truck driving than sitting in a hotel watching the sun rise.”
Head’s hands were shaking moments after the game. He sweated it out along with those he befriended in the seats around him who pulled for the Cardinals as they overcame Wichita State’s early lead to win in the last minutes of the game. But once Head gathered himself he shared his final thoughts with what was left of his voice before driving off.
“Well, I’m just glad we won,” Head said. “It’s sure going to make this ride a whole lot easier because if we had lost I’m not a 100 percent sure I could have made it.”
Head got into his car and drove off from the Georgia Dome, shouting “Go Cardinals!”
Only UConn has had men’s and women’s teams win their respective NCAA tournaments in the same year. And this is the closest U of L has come to matching them.
It started last week when the men won their regional final in Indianapolis. There were mixed feelings because the victory was marked by the disturbing leg injury to Kevin Ware. But on the bus ride back to Louisville, the team erupted in joy when they watched the streamed telecast of the women’s upset victory over Baylor. Jordon Bond, a walk-on player from duPont Manual High School, will never forget it.
“It was great,” Bond said. “The whole bus, I was surprised it didn’t flip over with how happy we were.”
With the task of getting ready for the finals, the men will practice and prepare for the title game. But that won’t stop them from watching the women’s game, and cheering for their fellow Cardinals.