Historic basketball game brings West Louisville community together to grow, celebrate area
Posted By: Sofía Montiel on January 27, 2023 |
Meek Mill’s "Dreams and Nightmares" blared through the sound system as Simmons College of Kentucky’s women’s basketball team made its way onto the St. Stephen Family Life Center court Wednesday night.
The Falcons were squaring off against visiting Fisk University. A college basketball game in Louisville on a Wednesday night isn't new. But this particular game was.
It was the first meeting of two Historically Black Colleges & Universities held in the city of Louisville.
“I used to pray for times like this,” rapped Mill over the speakers.
It was a sentiment shared by Simmons College president and St. Stephen Baptist Church pastor Kevin Cosby. He has long envisioned using college athletics as a way to bring revenue to the West End as the community continues to look for ways to revive itself following the 1949 American Housing Act, which led to the destruction of historic buildings, predominately Black neighborhoods and the area's economic base.
Wednesday night was a step in the right direction for the community west of the Ninth Street Divide — more than 100 people filled the St. Stephen Family Life Center for the historic meeting and the celebration that surrounded it.
“It's surreal, never could have imagined it,” Cosby said. “It has exceeded all of my expectations, but I serve a God who's able to blow your mind.”
Cosby's vision helped convince Daniel Price to take the job as the Falcons' first-year head coach in the program's inaugural season. Prior to the start of the season, Cosby and Simmons College athletic director Jerry Eaves — who played for the U of L men’s basketball team from 1978-82 — drove Price around the college. The men discussed how they could grow the athletic department.
“I felt like I could definitely help in so many different aspects because I've coached at many different levels,” Price said.
“So, one of the things for me is just making sure that I bring my part in the things that I could do from an athletic standpoint, a marketing standpoint, as well as a development standpoint.”
His first big contribution was scheduling a game in Louisville's West End against Fisk. He spoke with Bulldogs' head coach Victoria Crawford, also in her first year. They agreed to a home-and-home series, including a Nov. 1 regular-season meeting, a Fisk victory, and Wednesday's exhibition, a 63-52 Fisk win as well.
“Most of the time schools at a higher level do not want to come and play in an opponent's gym because if they lose, it's like a slap. It's a disadvantage,” Eaves said. “It would hurt them in their power rankings with their conference. So, it's really hard for us to do. We're really appreciative of Fisk coming, playing us in our gym. It was just an opportunity to sell it, put it on television, let the city of Louisville understand what HBCU basketball is all about.”
What it's about was on display at the St. Stephen Family Life Center's packed gymnasium, where tickets were $7 for adults and $5 for children. A DJ blasted warmup music and pregame included the Black National Anthem. The Simmons College Marching Falcons, color guard and majorettes performed at halftime.
“The crowd was wonderful, the number of people, the diverse crowd and everyone just seemed to come together to cheer for the other team,” west Louisville native Joyce Childress-Redd said. “It was just lovely.”
Fans of various HBCU schools — Fisk and Simmons, of course, but also others like Kentucky State were represented in the crowd — were joined by Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg.
"We can only get better from here at this point, honestly," said T. McAfee, who grew up in the West End and attended the University of Louisville, "because Simmons is only a few years in as far as the athletic department, but I most definitely see the potential for growth.”
Though the home team lost, the turnout and atmosphere at the St. Stephen Family Life Center Wednesday night felt like a win — and something to build on — for the west Louisville community.
“We're one of the lowest income zip codes in the city of Louisville, right here,” Eaves said. “We are generating revenue. We are starting to bring excitement to the community. It's just like a Louisville game: you go to a university football game and you're walking through the neighborhood, going to the football game, there's a lot of excitement. Well, the same thing is happening here, and that's what we want to do for this community so that they can be a part of something, grow with us and enjoy it.”
SOURCE courier journal
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