Starting next season, the men’s and women’s teams will compete at the new downtown arena.

Freedom Hall, considered one of the great venues for college basketball, has been home to the men’s and women’s basketball teams for many years. Such UofL legends as Wes Unseld, Charlie Tyra, Darrell Griffith and Angel McCoughtry played there, and the games sparked many memories.

As the university community bids farewell to an era, UofL Today asked faculty and staff to share their favorite memories. Here is what we received:

Games with Dad

During the years 1967-1971 when the head coach was John Dromo, he was married to my mother’s sister, my aunt Edna. He always left an envelope with the name King on it with two free tickets to the basketball game for my father and myself. These are great memories for me going to all of the home games for those years. For one Cincinnati game, Freedom Hall was so crowded my Dad and I had to sit in the student section. I will never forget the intense atmosphere.

Ben King, supervisor, Ekstrom Library

Pack the House for Lady Cards

One of my favorite moments in Freedom Hall was just two years ago on Jan. 12, when we had our first Pack the House for a women’s basketball game. It was a full house and the energy was overwhelming. As far as I know it was a record crowd for women’s basketball nationwide that year – 19,123 fans. I gather that for many, particularly the young children, it was their first visit to Freedom Hall. We didn’t win that day but we made a statement about the love Louisville has for our Lady Cards!  

Jenny L. Sawyer, executive director of admissions

UofL vs. Memphis State Tigers, 1986

The year was 1986, and the game that sticks out most in my mind was against the dreaded Memphis State Tigers, coached by the late Dana Kirk, the subject of Louisville ire for years.  The game was for the regular season Metro Conference Championship.

Louisville fell behind an astounding 14-0 to start the game, and Memphis guard Andre Turner was looking unstoppable. Louisville guard Milt Wagner, who got to Freedom Hall late that day due to the birth of his child, started leading the Cards back. The Cards came back in a big way, yet with seconds left, Memphis guard Andre Turner, a 93-percent free-throw shooter, was at the line with a one point lead.

 These were the days before the three point shot, and if Turner hit these free throws – game over. Turner missed! Louisville’s Pervis Ellison rebounded, outlet a pass to Wagner and as the clock was ticking down, he took a mid-range jumper and was fouled! Milt The Iceman Wagner calmly steppeds to the line and sank both. The inbound pass by Memphis and desperation shot at the buzzer was no good, and Freedom Hall erupted!

As a longtime season ticket holder, having seen many games at the hall to this day, that is the LOUDEST I ever heard the hall. My mom jumped up as the buzzer sounded and sprayed six rows in front of us with the drink at our feet and no one seemed to mind or notice up in section 329.  The seniors of the ’86 team – Milt Wagner, Billy Thompson, Jeff Hall and Robbie Valentine – then made some final remarks to the still cheering crowd.

Wagner, the day’s hero, told the crowd, We are gonna bring a championship back home to Louisville! The crowd erupted again. Less than a month later, Wagner, the hero of the Memphis State game, stepped to the line with two seconds left and Louisville leading Duke 70-69 in the National Championship game. The Iceman sank both, securing yet another game at the line, this time as a National Championship, 72-69 over the Blue Devils.

Tim Taylor, UofL Xerox Team

Freedom Hall brings back feeling of childhood

Mine may not be all that generalizable, but is memorable for me. My major role is to facilitate getting Kentucky students into medical school, especially those who are service-oriented and will serve where most needed in Kentucky. My daughter, a first-year med student at UofL School of Medicine, and I attended that supercharged UConn game on Feb. 2, 2009, as guests of the president.

There are two things that stuck in my memory. First, both my daughter and I had spent many hours working as, and with student athletes. We both noticed when Terrence Williams pulled a hip muscle, then proceeded to hide it from everyone (including, apparently, the trainers) as he finished the game with no interruptions. It wasn’t until a week later that minor public mention was made of it. I am still convinced that we would have won that game if not for that injury.

Second, there was this other middle-aged guy in the seat in front of us who was acting just like the fanatic that I was, screaming until we were hoarse. At halftime, making small talk, we discovered that he is the pre-med adviser at a Louisville high school. We had this very professional, intellectual discussion about service-learning and the millennial generation. Then the second half started and we both went back to acting like 8-year-olds. It is amazing how sports allow one to regain the enthusiasm and carefree feeling of childhood, and there’s nothing like the deafening roar of the Hall to stoke those feelings. I hope the new arena can do the same for all us kids.

(Thanks for the opportunity to be there, Jimmy.)

William J. Crump, M.D., associate dean, UofL School of Medicine Trover Campus

Three great memories

I have so many wonderful memories of Freedom Hall that it’s hard to identify any one particular occasion. Actually, three come to mind.

1. Being there the night Freedom Hall was named — Western Kentucky State College was playing the University of San Francisco. A young woman had submitted the name Freedom Hall and won the naming contest — the Freedom was in remembrance of our war efforts during World War II and the Korean War.

2. When the University of Louisville won the national championship in 1980, I was working with Governor Brown’s administration and worked with George Fischer in doing the financing that resulted in the expansion and renovation of Freedom Hall.

 3. In 1999, we moved from Chapel Hill, North Carolina back home to Louisville. North Carolina had beaten the Cards in Chapel Hill the year before – the Cards got their revenge that night.

So many wonderful memories of Freedom Hall.

Jim Ramsey, UofL president

A great excitement

Celebrating the 1980 NCAA Championship was especially memorable. A great excitement to share with so many others.

Jim McCabe, associate finance professor

Ball girl in 1985

Finding a single favorite moment of Freedom Hall is extremely difficult. I have so many fond memories of Cardinal basketball.

In around 1985, I was a ball girl for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team and occasionally they would play prior to the men’s games at Freedom Hall. As a benefit, the ball girls would get to go behind the scenes at Freedom Hall.

My favorite memory is the behind-the-scene experience of stepping over the men’s legs as they stretched in the hallway, all the wide smiles and winks I would receive as I made my way to the ladies locker room, arms overflowing with towels and water bottles, and being lifted by some of the tallest people I have ever encountered to touch the ceiling. An amazing memory that has not faded over time.

Kira Johnson Hazelwood, program assistant senior, University Honors Program

Send-off for Coach Crum

I have attended UofL games for 20-plus years. One of my fondest memories was attending the last game coached by Denny Crum. My husband was not able to go, so I went solo. I was determined to be a part of the send off to our Hall of Fame coach. I don’t recall who we played or if UofL won. I just know it was a wonderful experience that will always be etched in my memory. Farewell Freedom Hall!

Ruth A. Moser, unit business manager, College of Education