Football Coaches, Talk and Jobs

You have to admire a public figure who refuses to buckle under public pressure, remaining dedicated to the job at hand and doing the right thing. He could very easily have cut and run at the first opportunity. No, not referring to national politics, but to Louisville football coach Steve Kragthorpe.

Coach Kragthorpe describes reports that he has interviewed for the head spot at Southern Methodist University as “absolute fiction.” One could not blame him if he had interviewed with SMU, based on the criticism he has incurred as the result of a disappointing 5-6 season.

U of L fans have heard similar denials before from coaches. Schnellenberger, Smith and Petrino, Petrino, Petrino. Forgive fans if they have problems believing any football coach. The only difference this time is that a vocal group actually wants the coach to be lying.

If Kragthorpe does stick around, he’s a brave soul. You have to admire that in him. And if the rumblings about “off the field” problems are true, you may even thank him some day.

Some History Needs To Repeat

The painful loss of David Padgett inevitably brings back memories of the 1979-80 University of Louisville basketball season when Scooter McCray went down with a knee problem, lost for the remainder of the year. He was replaced by younger brother Rodney who became a pivotal force in the Cards’ march to a 33-3 won-loss record and the school’s first NCAA championship.

For history to have an opportunity to be repeated, several things need to happen: First and foremost, Padgett’s replacement, Derrick Caracter, will have to be a prime mover. Derrick’s got the talent, and everybody knows that basketball is his first love. He needs to improve all aspects of his game, as he seems to have done already with his free throw shooting.

Court awareness is among the most deficient; he needs to learn getting the ball to open players. He also needs to give U of L a lot of playing time, which will require fewer fouls. Derrick is close, and if anyone can get him there it is Rick Pitino. Not saying it’s on Derrick’s back but it absolutely can’t be done without continuing improvement on his part.

Terrence Williams needs to keep doing what only he is capable of doing, keeping his exceptional athleticism under control. Edgar Sosa just needs to remember he’s the play maker and that the points will come. Jerry Smith, keep being Mr. Consistency. Earl Clark needs to work harder to get open. Andre McGee, after he loses a few pounds, should keep hitting the threes. Will Scott needs to be able to shoot while on the move and become a defensive presence. Terrance Farley, time to show what Pitino saw in you. Above all, these guys need to make defense a top priority, starting against UNLV. And, for gosh sake, please stay healthy.

The exhibitions are over, the lightweights under the belt. Let basketball fever begin.

Cold Shoulders, Chairbacks & Rutgers Game

The next big question challenging some Louisville football fans is whether they will make it to the Rutgers game next week. Wanting to make some kind of statement about the coaching staff, as if all the whining and gnashing of teeth could have somehow been ignored.

Don’t want to get weepy on you but there are many reasons to go, including the fact that it’s Brian Brohm’s final college game. It’s the last time to see Harry Douglas, Art Carmody, Gary Barnidge, Scott Kuhn, Malik Jackson, Jonathan Russell, Preston Smith, Breno Giacomini, and Willie Williams. Guys who put their bodies on the line, taking you to Orange, Gator and Liberty bowls.

Unfortunately, it may be the last U of L football game we’ll see this season. No more train whistles, fireworks, marching band, no more tailgating, no more leaving two or three hours before games to avoid traffic congestion, no more Card Marches. Probably no bowl. Won’t see your neighbor seat holders till next year. College football is fun, more fun when you’re winning, and it keeps on giving even during the lean years.

Programs like Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee will always thrive and grow. Their fans endure the losing along with the winning — sure they complain if their teams are losing — but they will be there. Sure tradition helps, but they didn’t always have tradition. And you can’t thrive on tradition alone. People passionate about their teams can’t be ignored when crucial decisions are made. Fan bases that dissipate during troubled times can expect the worst.

Fortunately, Louisville football will survive and prosper, despite the turmoil currently surrounding the program. Tom Jurich thinks long term, already taking the first step to get the stadium expanded. He will do whatever is necessary to get things back on track. It helps U of L to know you are there, through good times and bad.

Go to the Rutgers game, enjoy the chairbacks and college football. Surely, we’ve seen the worst. Might even win.

Bad Thing Happens To A Good Guy

Fans will never know just how good a player David Padgett could have been at the University of Louisville. The shocker of the day is that his college career is probably over, busted kneecap just when it appeared he was going to start enjoying basketball for a change.

Padgett has battled adversity since his sophomore year, playing through pain and undergoing five different surgeries. This one hurts for a number of reasons. He’s the kind of person you want to be successful in everything he does.

A memory that will last is the image of 6-foot-11 David jokingly extending his arms out over Koby, my then 8-year-old grandson, as he attempts to shoot a free throw at a Pitino basketball camp a couple of years ago. It’s one worth sharing as we try to digest the awful news. (Click on the photo to see a larger image.)

Good luck, David. We appreciate everything you have done, on and off the basketball court, and we’ll keep pulling for you.

Monday Morning Memo

To Louisville Football Fans:

You deserve better than what you saw on the football field this season.

You’ve seen defensive players not lined up correctly, inexplicably out of position on crucial pass plays, unable to put pressure on quarterbacks, forgetting how to tackle, wilting in the path of big backs, getting injured at an unprecedented pace, spending too much time on the field, and giving inconsistent effort from one play to the next.

You’ve witnessed former offensive stars becoming sub par, dismissed, suspended, injured or just plain missing, often without any explanation. You’ve seen Brian Brohm, a hometown favorite, go from having a legendary college career to an embarrassing senior season. You’ve grimaced as Harry Douglas, Mario Urrutia and other talented receivers always seem to be covered like glue. The tight ends, as well.

You’ve endured an offensive backfield that includes Brock Bolen, Anthony Allen, George Stripling and Sergio Spencer (remember him?) now struggle to get 80 yards a game. You’ve wondered why a talent like Bilal Powell was limited to mop-up action.

Still, most of you have bent over backwards to give the new coaching staff the benefit of doubt much of the season. You’ve waited, patiently, for the light to go on, for this team to show glimpses of past greatness. But it hasn’t happened, and you’re wondering how many more future seasons will resemble this one.

If this writer could offer any ray of hope, it would be that the deficiencies we have seen this season are so obvious that they can’t be ignored. My gut feeling, and I don’t have any inside information, is that major changes will be forthcoming when this season concludes. The program has come too far to be allowed to further embarrass the university.