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University of Louisville’s 1980 NCAA Basketball Champions

Courtesy of the University of Louisville Et Cetera spotlights the University of Louisville’s first NCAA championship title win, in its 30th anniversary year.

U of L’s success on the hardwood is well-known. It is the only school in the nation to have won the championship titles of three national tournaments: the 1948 NAIB, the 1956 NIT and the NCAA in 1980 and 1986.

At the helm of the 1980 NCAA championship U of L basketball team was coach Denny Crum. Crum joined the Cardinals as head coach in 1971.

Courtesy of the University of Louisville In a dramatically close game the Cards ultimately flew to number one in post-season play, with a 59-54 triumph over UCLA - coach Crum’s alma mater.

U of L Senior Darrell Griffith, a first team All-American, scored 23 points in the game.

Nicknamed “Dr. Dunkenstein”, Darrell Griffith was the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player, and the team was referred to as “The Doctors of Dunk".

The 1980 Cardinal victory was played on March 24th, in Indianapolis - the hometown of teammate Roger Burkman.

In 2010 Indianapolis once again played host to the NCAA Tournament Division 1 championship.


  • The 1980 Cards had a 33-3 record.
  • According to The University of Louisville, the 1980 championship team created the “high five.” It was referred to as a “high-five handshake” by NBC analyst Al McGuire during the telecast.
  • With over 2,333 career points, Darrell Griffith remains Louisville's all-time career scoring leader.
  • Darrell Griffith was the 1980 NCAA Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player, an honor in which he was preceded by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and succeeded by Isiah Thomas. Griffith also received the John R. Wooden Award (1980) and was named NBA Rookie of the Year (1981), preceded in both by Indiana’s Larry Bird.
  • Griffith played his entire NBA career, ten seasons, with the Utah Jazz. His number 35 was retired by the franchise in 1993. His number 35 was also retired by U of L.
  • The Cardinals won their second NCAA title in 1986, against Duke University. “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison became the first freshman to be honored as the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
  • Before taking the head coaching job at U of L, Denny Crum was the assistant coach at UCLA, under John Wooden.
  • Coach Denny Crum in 1980, Courtesy of the University of LouisvilleCoach Denny Crum retired from U of L in 2001. In his 30 years with The Cards, Coach Crum led U of L to 21 seasons with 20 or more victories, six Final Four appearances, and two NCAA titles.
  • Both coach Denny Crum and former U of L/NBA standout Wes Unseld have been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (in 1994 and 1988, respectively).
  • Several former U of L players have gone on to the NBA, including: Junior Bridgeman, Pervis Ellison, Earl Clark, Francisco Garcia and Terrance Williams.
  • U of L was ranked #1 for the first time in during a regular season on March 16, 2009.
  • The U of L Cards had played their home games in Louisville’s Freedom Hall since 1956, but March 6, 2010, marked their last game in that facility. Their new home, an arena in downtown Louisville, opens in the fall.

If you like this story, be sure to catch up with the Lady Cards, who prove they're role-models on and off the court, in our Season Three segment.

Program 419
"Louisville Life" meets prankster comedian Tom Mabe, visits the Louisville Beer Store, relaxes at a historical bed and breakfast, relives Louisville’s first NCAA men’s basketball championship title and more. (#419)