Hell in the Hall – Louisville Sports Blog

Dedicated to the joyful noise of the Card faithful

Cking in with “Instant Defense” : Roger Burkman

Posted by frankpos on August 8, 2008

Last BBall season, the appearance of one particular bench player at the scorer’s table never failed to stir the crowd. Necks craned, fingers pointed, and the murmurs began, rising to a low roar as the player took the floor.

The fans knew: The insertion of Never Restin’ Preston Knowles in a game meant ACTION !!! 150 % all- out intensity focused with lasers on one purpose: Defense.

But not just any D. No, no, not hardly. It was a human threshing machine of hands and feet and arms and legs, with a frenetic, non-stop motion unlike that seen by the Freedom Hall faithful in years.

In fact, among the fans in my section–many of whom have been there since about 3 AD — there were always some cries of “Instant Defense!”

Yes, we will never forget the man who embodied that all-out intensity so well in the past that the great Al McQuire bestowed that nickname on him during the Card’s fabulous run to the 1980 crown.

No true Card fan will ever forget “Instant Defense” ….Roger Burkman.


Roger is now Athletic Director at Spalding University.

Roger is now Athletic Director at Spalding University.

My wife runs into Lancaster Gordon occasionally since they both work down at court. A few days ago, she told me that Lancaster mentioned he had read my article on the 1983 original Dream Game.

In fact, Roger Burkman had sent it to him, she said.

Hmmm … so of course, I had to call Roger.

I had only run into Roger very briefly during one or two occasions at Trinity High –he worked there for several years at a time when my son attended.

I knew he had left Trinity, but I wasn’t sure where he had gone. One click of Google answered that question: Roger took over the reins as Athletic Director at Spalding University in 2005.

He and his wife of twenty years, The Honorable Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman, have two children, Elisa Catherine and Lukas Allen and live near Seneca Park.

He was kind enough to return my call and take a some time to chat with me about a few reminisces and his life now, and permit me to share them with you:

Frank: Roger, my wife had talked with Lancaster, and he said you forwarded the ’83 Dream Game article to him. How did you happen upon my blog?

Roger: Well, actually a friend sent it to me, Frank. I thought it was a well-done piece — it could have been done by the Courier (Journal)– so I sent it on to Lancaster.

Frank: I truly appreciate the kind words. It was quite an epic game , wasn’t it?

Roger: Yes, I was a graduate assistant to Coach Crum at the time, and you captured it well. There was an incredible electricity….a tension you could feel. U of L wanted the Game so bad, and Kentucky wanted to avoid it at all costs –they thought it would hurt their recruiting. But it really didn’t turn out that way.

Frank: Being at the Game, I remember thinking the Cards came out tentative in the first half.

Roger: Yeah. At halftime, as the grad assistant, I was the first one in the locker room, and I chewed out the players good for that first half, before the coaches ever came in. (We both laugh.)

Frank: You and Coach Crum still stay in touchl?

Roger: Definitely. In fact, we’ll be getting together soon for our annual fishing trip. We’ll be flying to Idaho in October.

Frank: Do any of the other Cards of those 80’s teams fish with you all? Somehow, I don’t see Darrell with a fishing pole…

Roger: (Laughing) No, none of the other guys were into fishing much. In fact, I think that’s one of the reasons Coach and I bonded. Dr. Larry Loehle is the only other former player who goes with us.

Frank: Before we leave memory lane and find out what you’re currently up to, I’d like to know: Is there any little insight you would like to share with me on Coach, that the average fan might not know?

Roger: I’ll tell you something that has stuck with me to this day. When we used to leave the floor after a game, Coach would always say “Make good decisions.” He said that before AND after a game. The idea was that it was just as important to maintain that attitude off the floor too.

Frank: Catch me up to date on what’s happening with you at Spalding.

Roger: Well, I took over in 2005 and we’ve made some good progress. We’re making the jump to NCAA Division III, and we’re in our second provisional year (four are necessary.) There was only only employee when I took over–me. Now we’ve got six full-time people.

Frank: What are the primary goals you’re aiming at now for the program?

Roger: The key ones right now, Frank, are that I’d like to boost the number of sports we currently offer from 10, up to around 15-16. That would be about right for our size. Also, I’d like us to get to the point where all of our coaches are full time–right now only 4 are full-time, and the rest are part time.

Frank: Roger, thanks for all the time today, and the kind words about my article. You know at some point, I’ll be doing a spread on the 1980 team. May I hit you up for a few quotes when the time comes?

Roger: Anytime, Frank. Anything for the Cards.

The 6'5" slightly built Burkman (left) was not afraid to mix it up underneath with the big boys.  Shown here in the 1980 championship game vs. UCLA (from SI mag article on the game.)

The 6'5" slightly built Burkman (left) was not afraid to mix it up underneath with the big boys. Shown here in the 1980 championship game vs. UCLA (from SI mag article on the game.)


2 Responses to “Cking in with “Instant Defense” : Roger Burkman”

  1. […] in the Hall caught up with Mr. “Instant Defense”, Roger […]

  2. Steve said

    Well, Frank, you went and fired me up for hoops again………not that I needed it. I remember watching that game on TV, at a doggone KMart, with my entire crew, lol, on a workday in British Columbia. The guys figured I was even more daft than they already did. Great interview. Keep it up! This is Senore2006, btw. Love the blog. You have to visit mine.

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