NEW ORLEANS —Tom Jurich has been one busy — but happy —man the past few days.
The athletic director at Louisville has been commuting between Atlanta and New Orleans, watching first the Cardinals men and then the women advance to the national championship games.
“Good thing they’re close together,” said Jurich, who was in Atlanta for the men’s title game Monday and will fly to New Orleans on Tuesday for the women’s game.
If Louisville wins both games, it will match a feat accomplished only once — by Connecticut in 2004. The UConn women won their title in New Orleans.
“To see your teams perform on the highest level is something you strive for,” he said. “But you dream about it more.”
And win or lose, it’s been a very good year for Louisville.
The Cardinals football team beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl to cap a stellar season.
And more importantly, the school was able to escape the decline and demise of the Big East with a move to the ACC in 2014. Adding a little incentive for the women’s game is the fact that UConn was the school Louisville beat out for the ACC berth.
“I don’t think that’s a factor in this game,” Jurich said. “But we are looking forward to the future.”
The pregame preparations complete, the Louisville women watched Monday’s men’s game at the Crazy Lobster, the same place they viewed Saturday’s semifinal.
“We’re texting and tweeting and congratulating each other all the time,” Cardinals senior Shoni Schimmel said. “Winning would be huge for everybody.”
The NCAA will honor schools and individuals who excelled in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women more than three decades ago at halftime Tuesday.
A group of AIAW legends, including former Louisiana Tech coach Sonja Hogg and Wade Trophy winner Pam Kelly-Flowers of the Lady Techsters, will be among those recognized.
A total of 22 schools will be represented, and it’s a Who’s Who of the 1970s and early 80s — Nancy Lieberman (Old Dominion), Ann Meyers Drysdale (UCLA), Carol Blazejowski (Montclair State), Lusia Harris (Delta State), Debbie Brock (Delta State), Denise Curry (UCLA) and Lynette Woodard (Kansas).
Wave on deck
While being introduced at halftime of Sunday’s second semifinal, Tulane got a glimpse of a future American Athletic Conference opponent: UConn.
“To see that level of play that Connecticut has excites our players,” coach Lisa Stockton said. “We’ve got 10 freshmen and sophomores, and we’ve talked to them about how, when they’re juniors and seniors, they’re going to be playing Connecticut.
“Now that they’ve got the opportunity to see it, that will change the way they look at things in the next couple of years.”
While Tulane has made 10 NCAA tournament appearances under Stockton and played several other top programs, no Metro or Conference USA team has made the Women’s Final Four.
Remembering the fallen
To honor the victims of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, UConn had a green ribbon on its home court in Storrs, and the team wore green patches on its uniforms.
Also, Huskies coach Geno Auriemma and his wife, Kathy, began a scholarship fund for the families of the slain school personnel that has now reached $1 million.
“When it happened, everybody was so hit by it,” said UConn senior Heather Buck, the only player on the team who is from Connecticut. “Things like that are supposed to happen in other places. Newtown’s a place just like my hometown (of Stonington).”
Buck, who had worked at a camp with older kids in Newtown last year, said the fact that most of the victims were children really hit home to the players because so many of their fans are young kids.
“The first thing we wanted to know was if the ones we knew were OK,” she said. “But those kids are just like the ones who come to our games.
“I grew up dreaming about playing for Connecticut. It was just so sad.”