Every Thursday morning like clockwork, nearly 30 alumni gather at storied Wagner’s Pharmacy on 4th Street for breakfast and stories. They reminisce and keep up-to-date on each other’s lives and families. The stories stand out for one particular reason — all of the men are University of Louisville alumni and former student athletes. This group’s attendee list reads like a Who’s Who of Cardinal Athletics. Nearly all of the men played football, basketball, track or a combination of these three sports, spanning the 1950s–1970s. There are All-Americans (Ken Kortas, 64A), 1958 Sun Bowl championship team members, Alumni Association board members (Mario Cheppo, 58A, Bill Pierce, 77A, 81GM, and Phil Rollins, 56B) and even football great Lenny Lyles, 58A, was part of the group before his passing. Jim Gatewood, 57E, jokes about the pressure of taking over as quarterback after Johnny Unitas left.
Most men are connected not only by their teams but through the late Coach Clark Wood, AC. Coach Wood succeeded Dean David Lawrence as the UofL men’s track coach in the 1950s and remained for 25 years. In 1965, he founded the present men’s cross-country program. While at UofL, he served as a professor and eventually became the chairman of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (now HPES) until his retirement in 1985. Clark Wood was inducted into the University of Louisville Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986.
The breakfast tradition began around 12 years ago when a small group, including Coach Wood, Gil Sturtzel, 58A, Kenny Porco, 61A, and Elmer Collina, 60A, regularly met for golf. Golf turned into breakfast at the campus McDonald’s, then the Parrish House, until about five years ago when the meal moved to Wagner’s Pharmacy down the street from UofL’s campus. Although each of their lives took a different path, their alma mater, sports background and mutual love for the Louisville Cardinals are the ties that bind this breakfast club for the record books. As Sturtzel says, “You might say we are the inspiration behind the slogan ‘Louisville First, Cards Forever.’”