Greg Nord May Be Leaving Louisville

The coaching carousel goes round and round.

Greg Nord is reportedly leaving the University of Louisville as an assistant football coach to join Paul Petrino who is said to be joining coach Ron Zook’s staff at Illinois as the new offensive coordinator.

Greg Nord
Greg Nord

Paul has worked on the staff of his brother Bobby Petrino for the past seven years, with stints at Louisville, the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL and at the University of Arkansas. He was among the interviewees for the head coaching position at Western Kentucky in November.

Nord has been the one constant among assistant coaches at U of L for 15 years, having served along side coaches Ron Cooper, John L. Smith, Bobby Petrino and Steve Kragthorpe. He had strong ties to the Louisville area and is widely respected by high school football coaches throughout the state.

Illinois was in the market for an offensive coordinator after Zook fired four coaches — including offensive coordinator Mike Schultz — last week following the Illini’s 3-9 season. Illinois ranked 50th in the nation.

Louisville football will have an entirely new look next season, at least on the sidelines.

Petrino Makes It Back To Liberty Bowl

Bad karma for Bobby Petrino.

The former University of Louisville football coach will be in familiar surroundings when he returns to Memphis for the 51st Liberty Bowl renewal. His Arkansas team will play the winner of this Saturday’s Conference USA game between East Carolina and Houston.

Not a candidate, nah, no way.
Not a candidate, nah, no way, never, not him.

Another big bowl appearance for the Bobby, for sure. One of the reasons he left Louisville, to get to the big stage, name in lights. You know he’s really looking forward to getting back to Beale Street, him being the life of the party and all.

The last time he coached a game there, his Louisville team defeated a good Boise State team 44-40 in 2004, finishing the season ranked seventh in the Associated Press poll. But, as usual, he was more interested in other job openings. Remember the LSU turndown? And the cold shoulder from Notre Dame?

His Arkansas team this season is 7-5 overall and 3-5 in the SEC West, and nowhere near the top 25 in either of the major polls.

Think he’s aware of a job opening in Louisville?

Jurich Owes No Apology To Football Fans

Sadly, a small group of University of Louisville football fans believes Tom Jurich owes them an apology for a few comments. Yes, that Tom Jurich, the vice president of athletics, the person who over the last dozen years has made Louisville a major player across the board in NCAA athletics.

We’ll rehash the comments later. Suffice it for now to conclude that a boisterous minority insults the collective intelligence of the Louisville fan base. Before TJ’s arrival in 1997, Louisville was still considered by some outsiders to be a mid-major school, even in basketball with two national championships.

Tom Jurich
Tom Jurich

Juirch’s most significant accomplishment was getting Louisville into the Big East Conference, elevating the program’s national stature and improving scheduling for all sports programs on Belknap Campus.

Integral to his efforts was completion of the Owsley Frazier Cardinal Sports Park, which was very much still in the blue-sky dreaming stage in 1997. Yes, Bill Olson had the blueprints and the vision, but the project was very much in limbo after completion of the women’s softball stadium.

Fast forward to today. A year from now, U of L basketball will move into a $238 million downtown basketball arena in downtown Louisville, underscoring his vision of the importance of the university’s athletic program to the community. Jim Host’s involvement has been absolutely critical but without Jurich’s involvement, the project would still be a distant dream.

The hiring of Rick Pitino as men’s basketball coach was initially considered a pipe dream, becoming a reality only because of TJ’s persistence. His hirings in other sports have led to an unprecedented number of U of L appearances in NCAA post season play, most notably baseball and women’s basketball.

Jurich probably made the Orange Bowl comment in jest. And he still may not have been convinced that Kragthorpe was wrong person ... If some fans were really offended by those comments, they need to grow thicker skin.

As for football, Jurich brought in John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino, making it possible to aspire to the highest levels of college football. Multiple appearances in the Liberty Bowl. Then on to the GMAC Bowl, the Motor City Bowl, the Gator Bowl, and a win in the BCS Orange Bowl..

Pre-Tom Jurich, followers of Louisville football could never in their wildest dreams, despite Howard Schnellenberger’s promises, have realistically envisioned U of L being among the nation’s top 10 football programs for two consecutive seasons, let alone a viable contender for the national championship game in 2006.

Success, however, does strange things to some fans. After following a team through thick and thin for decades, fans were ecstatic that the football program had finally arrived in 2006. How sweet it was until Petrino deserted the program just two days after the Orange Bowl victory.

Three seasons later, the football program appears to be churning aimlessly in a downward spiral. The fan base is disheartened, sensing little chance of a turnaround. The athletic director, while recognizing the frustration of fans, is also cognizant of the feeling that it would be unprofessional to fire a coach after two seasons. Defending the decision to retain Steve Kragthorpe, he says something about fans expecting to go to the Orange Bowl every week and people outside of Louisville knowing that Kragthorpe is a great coach.

Not the best way to placate angry football fans. But one must face facts. Jurich probably made the Orange Bowl comment in jest. And he still may not have been convinced that Kragthorpe was wrong person who could turn the program as the third season began.

If some fans were really offended by those comments, they need to grow thicker skin.

Tom Jurich is the administrator who reinforced and encouraged the high expectations. Jurich has given Kragthorpe every chance to show progress. Despite what he says for media consumption, Jurich knows when the evidence on the field indicates otherwise. Until this season is over and Jurich has announced his verdict on Kragthorpe, he must publicly support the coach.

But he will still not owe Louisville football fans any apologies.

Petrino Snub Gets Job Done At UConn

By Paul Sykes

He dreamed of playing football at Papa John’s Cardinal stadium, kicking for the red and black. Kickoffs, punts, extra points.  Didn’t matter to Desi Cullen. Louisville was his favorite school and any way he could help was the right ticket for him.

Except Bobby Petrino had no interest. Submitted game tapes went unviewed. Calls from Butler coaches didn’t get returned.  Cullen would wind up in the Big East, but it was at UConn instead of Louisville.

Cullen has been the punter and kickoff specialist for Randy Edsall’s squad the last three years. He did eventually get to punt at Papa John’s last season, rocking the Cards for five punts for an average of 44 yards in a 26-21 UConn win.

Currently, he’s the second leading punter in the Big East, with a 43.4 punting average. 70% of his kickoffs have gone unreturned this year.

He recently told the Hartford Courant:

“I have some great discussions with my grandmother back in Louisville, because she’s so pro-U of L and I’m up here. The great thing is that she’s coming up to watch the game Saturday and it’s homecoming and it’s my senior year so that is really special to me.”

Cullen admits he was “too jacked up” when he first punted against Louisville in 2007 and “wanted everything to go 60 yards … but after I shanked the first one and it went about 20 yards…the coaches told me to calm down and focus.”

Butler coaching assistant and mentor Keith Beisler describes Cullen as “one of those kids that comes along once in a lifetime. Good student, great personality, a team leader and motivator. Why Petrino didn’t grab him up is still a mystery to me…but Desi’s happy at UConn and that’s all you can wish for him.”

You Go, Bozich

[stextbox id=”custom”]The observer is not about to knee jerk Rick Bozich’s analysis that Bobby Petrino had much to do with the rapid decline of Louisville football. Writers like Bozich have a great deal of access to the program. They also recognize the bounds of personal restraint within the athletic department and the tremendous challenges of privacy laws.

Common sense tells you that an individual who is contantly looking for other jobs doesn’t have your best interests in mind. The short-sighted Petrino failed to recognize he was sitting on a potential gold mine in Louisville.

Don’t even try to turn this into a defense of Steve Kragthorpe. Just another deserved jab at old steely face in Fayetteville.