BY CHRIS HAAS
Tom Jurich is universally praised as being one of the very best athletic directors in the country. His influence goes well-beyond football and basketball, as the University of Louisville has become a sports haven in athletics across the board. He’s diligent, knowledgeable, and experienced. He understands the needs and wants of everyone associated with University of Louisville athletics, including the fans, players, the university president, board members, alumni, local business supporters, alumni, and on it goes. He somehow has to please all involved, no easy task. These are the people Jurich took into account when he made the controversial decision to re-hire Bobby Petrino. The decision was not made on a whim, it was well-calculated by a mastermind.
Former head coach, Charlie Strong was a perfect example of the type of hire that pleases everyone. He is an outstanding role model and he is an outstanding football coach. He wins hearts and he wins games. However, this sort of dual threat is a double-edged sword for Louisville because a coach that demonstrates both of these qualities is hard to find and there will always be a “Texas” looking. Realistically, Louisville has little chance of keeping a coach like Strong long-term.
Strong, of course, did leave and Jurich had a head coaching position to fill. Undoubtedly, Jurich is the most qualified man to make an educated decision on what’s best for Louisville, now and in the long-term. He knows the college football landscape as well as anyone, few would argue this. This is why Jurich’s decision to re-hire Bobby Petrino to fill the coaching vacancy speaks so loudly. The hire says the formula for success begins and ends with winning. Graduation rates, character building, community-involvement, and leadership are small factors but they aren’t nearly as important.
If the football team goes 3-9, the community doesn’t care that 90% of the team graduated, or the players learned life-lessons that will carry them into adulthood. Ask Steve Kragthorpe. Steve Kragthorpe, by all accounts, was the anti-Petrino. He had good values, he treated others with respect, and he carried himself with dignity. He was an upstanding fellow. However, he didn’t win. The irony is, you would have thought Kragthorpe was Darth Vader himself in Louisville. He was vilified, disrespected, and couldn’t have been disposed of fast enough. It’s all about the win-loss column.
When people refer to the “one-miss” Jurich had, they refer to the Kragthorpe hire. He hired a man that demonstrated the morality and ethics one would hope for in a college football coach and it was a disaster. Can we blame Jurich for valuing winning above all else? That’s a monster we all created.