A lot of opinions, many thoughtful, others of the knee-jerk variety, have been expressed about the descent of University of Louisville football. Hereâ€™s another view from a former soldier who became a Card fan while stationed at Fort Knox. He holds two degrees from U of L. He’s also is the son of a bookmaker, so itâ€™s safe to say he probably knows a little bit about football. His view is worth considering as the debate continues. Card Game welcomes your views.
By Stan Scott
With this season in apparent shambles after three consecutive losses, even those of us who have pleaded with naysayers to give Steve Kragthorpe the time and space to build his program have begun to worry. The manâ€™s record clearly shows that he can successfully construct a winning football program. Why canâ€™t he win in Louisville?
Many would respond by citing Kragthorpeâ€™s incompetence. They point out that Kragthorpe took over an Orange Bowl team that narrowly missed playing for the national championship, and turned it into an average team. True enough. But fans should ask just how much control Kragthorpe actually had over the team. I believe that the administration and fans did not allow Coach K to make the program over and create his own culture. Simply put, this is not yet Steve Kragthorpeâ€™s team.
Football coaches assemble subordinate staffs that share their philosophies for teaching, mentoring, leadership, training, and the football system itself. When Kragthorpe came to Louisville, he was largely stuck with the coaching staff Bobby Petrino had assembled. Their 2006 success and the Brohm family history in Louisville meant that Kragthorpe could not replace the core of the coaching staff he inherited.
Tom Jurich could have promoted someone already on staff, and may even have considered an inside hire of a coach who would command support among coaches and players who preferred to keep things in the family. Bluntly said, promoting Jeff Brohm to head coach probably had strong support among both coaches and players. But Kragthorpe brought in his own man to share management of the offense, and didnâ€™t even make Brohm offensive coordinator until this year.
To make matters worse, Kragthorpe attempted to demote Mike Cassity, who had put together top 40 defenses at Louisville since 2004, by bringing Keith Patterson with him from Tulsa and making the two â€œco-defensive coordinators.â€ Players loyal to Cassity probably resented this, while others welcomed the change. Patterson returned to Tulsa for â€œpersonal reasonsâ€ before the season began, but the damage had already been done. Lingering dissension probably explains a lot of Louisvilleâ€™s poor defensive performance last year.
Simply put, the Louisville Cardinals in 2007 had two offensive coordinators and a divided team on defense after someone had rejected the idea of changing the defensive coaching staff. The new head coach had tried to bring in his own system, but could not get the old one out the door.
Divided loyalty does not an effective team make â€” the various components of each unit never formed a cohesive unit. Some players, moreover, simply resisted the changes in culture and philosophy Kragthorpe brought, or just lost interest with Petrinoâ€™s departure. At any rate, the staff and players lost their commitment to a collective goal.
Kragthorpe and the staff have taken steps to move forward this year, most importantly by hiring Ron English and promoting Brohm. Perhaps, behind the scenes, he has also suggested that after a successful run he might move on to another job and nominate Brohm as his heir apparent.
At least something has already worked: the players like him and want to make him successful. But the past still limits Kragthorpeâ€™s freedom â€” he had little choice but to play Hunter Cantwell, for example, because the young man had paid his dues and because Matt Simms, Tyler Wolfe, Zack Stoudt all needed more development.
With the moderatorâ€™s consent, I hope to explore this and other issues in future posts. For now, let me just say that I think Steve Kragthorpe can build a powerful football program at Louisville â€” as soon as we let him build a team.