Midway through the 2012-13 season, University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino promised his team he’d get a tattoo if Louisville went on to win the national championship.
The Cardinals held up their end of the bargain by beating Michigan 82-76 in the April 8 title game. A few days after the win, Pitino made good on his promise by announcing he’ll get a tattoo of a cardinal with the words “2013 champions” on his left shoulder this May. Pitino’s gesture is pretty impressive, especially considering the tattoo will be the 60-year-old’s first.
But what if, say, one year from now, Pitino decides to get a tattoo of the Kentucky Wildcats’ “UK” logo? Pitino coached at the University of Kentucky from 1989-97 and won a national championship there in 1996.
Louisville and Kentucky have a longstanding rivalry dating back to the early 1900s, so neither university would probably be too fond of the move. Louisville’s cardinal red and Kentucky’s royal blue are clashing colors, after all. It would be like Harry Caray getting a St. Louis Cardinals tattoo and a Chicago Cubs tattoo. That would be weird.
It’s why Webster University junior Julie Greenough, a cross-country and track athlete, jokingly calls cross-country and track and field volunteer coach Bill Boxdorfer a “big contradiction.” Boxdorfer has a tattoo of the Webster Gorlok athletic logo on his left calf as well as a tattoo of the Fontbonne University Griffin on his back.
Both Webster and Fontbonne have competed against each other for St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference supremacy since the SLIAC’s inception in 1990. The two schools’ geographic proximity makes them clear rivals in the athletics arena.
“With any sport, if you put Webster athletes next to Fontbonne athletes, it’s kind of different,” Greenough said. “We don’t talk. It’s just, ‘I know who you are. Cool. Good luck.’”
Boxdorfer sees his tattoos in a different light, though. He graduated from Fontbonne in 2012 with degrees in sports management and business administration. While at Fontbonne, Boxdorfer participated in a multitude of extracurricular activities, including running for the cross-country and track teams, interning at the Office of Admission and working as a Student Ambassador.
“I do have a background in athletics, but more so (the tattoos aren’t) about the rivalry,” Boxdorfer said. “It’s about symbolizing I’ve done this in my life. … Yeah, there’s rivalries, but it’s about the student experiences. It’s memories that students can make to last a lifetime. … The tattoos are all a part of me. All those experiences I had made me who I am today.”
Shortly after he graduated from Fontbonne, Boxdorfer was hired as Webster’s graduate assistant for the University Center and Campus Activities. He is pursuing a master’s degree in management and leadership in addition to coaching the Webster men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field teams.
Boxdorfer got the Gorlok tattoo in mid-March. When Boxdorfer showed up to track practice one day with the new ink, Greenough said several members of the track teams were surprised by the tattoo — its placement, size and the fact that it was in color (Boxdorfer’s Griffin tattoo is in black ink).
“As a team, it was kind of like, ‘No, he didn’t. Did he really? He really got a tattoo?’ But then after you kind of let it sink in a lot, that’s his character,” Greenough said. “He’s so dedicated to what he does. You kind of expect it from him. You see how into anything he is — whether it’s work or just being there, just giving us splits on the track — he loves doing this. So it makes sense that he’d get a tattoo.”
Boxdorfer got his first of three tattoos one week after he graduated from St. Mary’s High School in St. Louis. Instead of getting the St. Mary’s mascot, a green dragon, Boxdorfer elected to get the Chinese symbol for “dragon” tattooed on his right shoulder. In January 2012, Boxdorfer got the Fontbonne Griffin tattooed onto his back.
“There’s a lot of meaning behind (the tattoos),” Boxdorfer said. “It’s to symbolize I made it through that time of my life. Each tattoo represents a different period of my life — all the hard work and dedication I did during that segment. It’s kind of a reminder. If I were to look down: ‘Oh, yeah, you’ve been through worse. So just get over it.’”
Greenough and senior track athlete Aaron Oberneufemann both like Boxdorfer’s tattoo to the point they’re considering getting a Gorlok tattoo of their own. Boxdorfer said despite the uniqueness of his Gorlok tattoo, a vast majority of people don’t react to the tattoo when they see it.
“It’s something more personal. If people like it, OK,” Boxdorfer said. “Like, some people say, ‘Man, didn’t that hurt?’ Or, ‘I would never do that.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, you know, that few moments of pain is something I can get over because it symbolizes something more.’”