While Charlie Strong’s team is picked to finish dead last in the Big East Conference, he has numerous reasons to consider himself blessed as he kicks off his tenure as University of Louisville football coach Saturday against Kentucky:

  • Not following Bobby Petrino, a nearly impossible challenge for any coach. Petrino achieved exalted status with two top 10 ranked teams and the school’s first ever BCS trophy with the Orange Bowl victory. Bobby P could do no wrong even though his goal was punching his ticket elsewhere.
  • Succeeding Steve Kragthorpe, who was held in such low esteem by the fan base that anyone stepping into his shoes would have been viewed as an improvement. The best possible scenario for a first-time head coach in a rebuilding situation.
  • A rejuvenated fan base, eager to support him. U of L has set a record of more than 43,000 season ticket sales this season, something that would have never occurred had Kragthorpe returned, stadium expansion or not.

    Papa John's Cardinal Stadium (U of L photo)
  • Exceptional facilities, including the newly expanded Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. As someone recently said they may not be the largest but, in terms of quality, they are second to none.
  • An athletic director in Tom Jurich who rarely, if ever, says no to any request from his football coach, recognizing that a thriving college football program is integral to maintaining national respect for the school’s athletic program.
  • A college president in Jim Ramsey who recognizes the importance of college athletics, whose accomplishments and connections throughout the state enable him to successfully negotiate land mines in Frankfort … plus financial skills to imagineer perilous economic times.
  • A near respite from the basketball hysteria that engulfs the community and the state.  There are six weeks until construction of the new KFC Yum! Center is complete and 11 weeks before U of L and Butler inaugurate the new facility.
  • A collection of players who finally have a head coach they can believe in and who will bust their collective butt to be competitive. Some of them obviously talented, others hampered by previous coaching shortcomings, all of them committed to winning for a change.
  • A proven ability to recruit in talent-rich recruiting states, with natural communications skills, many carefully cultivated contacts and a 24/7 work ethic. Unprecedented access for a U of L football coach.
  • A hand-picked, well-paid and hopefully loyal group of assistant coaches who have already demonstrated by coming to Louisville that they are willing to go through hell and back for their head coach.
  • Confidence in his abilities to turn the football program around, knowing the boss will give him all the resources and time he needs to make it happen.
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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

18 thoughts on “Much going for Charlie Strong in new era of Louisville football”
  1. Charlie will succeed where St Rick will continue to suck (sorry I got nothin good) because he has heart. St Rick has …. well, Rick at heart. Sadly, the Cards will continue to suffer as long as Pitino is coach. I know I’m in a minority here but Pitino has nothing. My Cards continue to suffer.

    1. Dan, not sure what Rick has to do with football. But I agree with you on Charlie Strong. I guess the only reason your comment is relevant is because Strong is in the same place Pitino was a couple of decades ago, wanting to prove himself, with all the energy, desire and contacts to be successful

    2. Rick is our coach. He has done everything in his power for this university. Nobody should hate on Pitino! Looking forward to having him til at least 2017! Go Cards Beat Uk!

  2. Not to overlook his great charisma, a personality we have missed for three loooong years. Of course, we hold our collective breath, anticipating, salivating, all while acknowledging the upcoming season may be rocky. Go Cards!

  3. Every time I see a reference to Jurich and Strong I think about Jurich’s comment that he knew after Kragthorpe’s first year he was a bad hire. If this is so (I smell some CYA here) I want to know why a man who has otherwise been a great AD kept a man for two more years. A man who he “knew” was a bad hire. A man who in those two years sunk us another three to four years down in the standings.

    I cannot believe how Jurich keeps getting a free pass for staying with a man for two years after he “knew” he was a bad hire. Please, someone explain this.

    1. IMO, firing someone after just one year is horrible for any “loyalty points” you show any coach. I also believe a new coach (reason for hope) has MUCH to do with the stadium expansion revealing. If a new coach (not just Strong) did lousy last year or two years ago, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have sold so many season tickets this year. Oh yeah, plus Kragthorpe’s buyout money would have been higher.

      Basically, I believe it all boils down to money.

    2. cbccard, you’re a long time fan and that belief is silly. If Jurich would have dumped coach k after the first year, no coach or coaches in their right mind would ever want to come here. After his first year, Jurich said he just wanted to get through these next 2 years. He did and here we are with a brand new head coach and staff. The fan base is jacked up to a level I’ve not seen in all my years as a Cardinal fan. Coach Strong has done something that I thought was impossible. He and his staff have been engaging with fanbase to the point we are fired up for the season. I’m not expecting miracles. I just want an honest effort from our boys to try and win games. I’m very much appreciative of the fact that Coach Strong loves it here. I hope if or when other colleges come calling, he pulls a Denny Crum and stays here. He’s impresses me that much.

      However, Jurich is still on my s**t list for the way he treated coach Crum. He should have let coach Crum retire on his own terms.

      1. I don’t remember TJ talking about giving it two more years. What I remember is constant vocal support. This was vocal support that greatly displeased those of us who had decided, and rightfully so, that a big mistake had been made.

        Each volley of support was like fingernails scratching on a blackboard. And worse, comments thrown back into my face by my UK friends.

        Yes, coaches are almost never fired after one year. But losers don’t usually get what I remember to be such strong support such as saying I know he is the right man for the job. He wasn’t.

      2. Sad reality was that Denny wasn’t going to retire on his own terms and his teams weren’t going to get any better. If he had retired on his own terms, he probably wouldn’t have gotten the $7 million thank you note.

  4. cbcard is why I hate reading fan message boards. Every time I randomly check one out there is always some hindsight and armchair genius who claims to know better than what his mundane hourly rate job would indicate he knows.

    1. Usually cbcard makes a good point. Most of us were behind Tom Jurich and what he thought was best at the time. And I guess when you’re in the middle of a season, there’s only so much straight talking to go around if you happen to be the athletic director.

    2. I completely understand your point. But in this case it is not valid. I have half a dozen witnesses who will back me up when I said four games into Kragthorpe’s first season that he was the wrong man.

      And lest you think they are all armchair geniuses they include some people who have a good grasp of athletics and coaching such as Scooter McCray.

  5. To reiterate CardRon’s point, Jurich would have lost all credibility as an AD had he dumped Kragthorpe after his first season. It is beyond unreasonable to demand a new coach succeed straight out of the gate regardless of the the situation; in addition, an AD cannot allow the lunatic fringe of the fan base to dictate his/her actions.

  6. Let’s just hope the fans current love affair with Strong stays as “strong” if the Cards stumble out to a 2-2 start in football…which is highly possible.

    The Cards dumped a coach that went 4-8 in his final year. Will there still be love and admiration abound if the Cards go 5-7 this year…as a few are predicting?

    Some of Louisville’s fan base is notorius for developing a “what have you done for me lately?” attitude if instant gratification isn’t acheived.

    I hope, obviously, that Charlie Strong exceeds the expectations of various media and “insider” predictions. If he doesn’t, I hope that the flamers and Monday morning quarterbacks cut him a little slack.

  7. Coach Strong will get a pass this year because he’s all about accountability. We’ve heard so many excuses for the fall of Cardinal football in recent years. We’ve seen native sons chased out and blamed. It was like having to go through Carter to get Reagan.

    Last year after one game, hope was lost. I don’t think we are looking at the same situation this time.

    Go Cards beat UK and WVU!

  8. When I read Jurich’s comment regarding Kragthorpe’s early tenure I took it to pertain more to the relationship that he had developed with the fan base not necessarily with his lack of coaching ability. Without support from the fan base, Kragthorpe’s ability to succeed was greatly diminished. Jurich accurately sensed early on that the fans had quickly determined that, right or wrong, Kragthorpe was unqualified for the job. Jurich understood that without fan support and approval, success was not probable. Knowing that fan support was crucial, he tried to sell his coach to the fans and did a very poor job. Professionally he knew he couldn’t fire a coach after one or even two years. Jurich’s only hope was to hold out and see if Kragthorpe could succeed and win over the fan base. Kragthorpe continued to fail and the rest is history. I honestly believe that Jurich has been greatly humbled by all of this.

    1. Great insight, TxCard. The poisonous atmosphere surrounding the program was not conducive to success, adversely affecting recruiting. When recruits check in on the message boards and see post after post criticizing a coach, that has an effect on the ability to recruit. Tom did know the fans would quickly change their opinions if the team starting winning. However, I think in the end everyone was convinced that Kragthorpe would never have gotten the job done.

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