Largely left unsaid during the conference realignment debate is how the changes will affect college basketball. The lack of respect for the sport has to be giving some administrators and fans second thoughts in states like Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas, Connecticut, and North Carolina.

The demand for success in those states is so great that some universities will hire basketball coaches with questionable pasts, using unique recruiting approaches, gambling with the reputations of their institutions. Another basketball powerhouse is embroiled in a ticket scalping operation, prompting FBI and IRS investigations. [pullquote]

Winning an NCAA title in basketball is nice but it pales in comparison with the impact of capturing a national championship in football.


Fans and administrators, blinded by some success in basketball over the years, may have missed the big picture, overestimating the value of the sport. Maximum prestige, power and profits in college athletic programs are secured with success on the gridiron.

Winning an NCAA title in basketball is nice but it pales in comparison with the impact of capturing a national championship in football.

Tom Jurich, athletic director at the University of Louisville, obviously understands, the importance of football. He made a major misstep in hiring Steve Kragthorpe to oversee football but he followed that up with luring Charlie Strong, quite possibly his best hire ever. If his recruiting prowess is a predictor of future success, that is.

Jurich has largely done all the right things, positioning the university to become a more significant player in college athletics. The laundry list includes upgrading all the non-revenue sports with quality hires and improved facilities, aggressive adherence with Title IX guidelines, admission into a BCS conference, and the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to a capacity of 57,000 seats.

At the same time, he knows the importance of basketball to local fans, taking advantage of the political timing for a new arena and will be moving Rick Pitino’s program to a multi-million-dollar 22,000-seat, state-of-the-art facility. Administrators at traditional football schools have to be shaking their heads at this one.

Jurich, however, recognizes that a good athletic program includes the ability to be competitive in all sports. But growth in football is the most important in terms of national perception. TJ understands and that’s why Louisville is becoming a player in the conference expansion chess game.

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Interesting, the views on conference realignment of Jay Bilas, of ESPN; Jim Boeheim, Syracuse; Gary Williams, Maryland and Jay Wright, Villanova during a recent Coaches for Cancer golf outing. These are all basketball guys, trying hard to be relevant on a subject in which football prevails:

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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.

11 thoughts on “Football Key To Louisville’s Future”
  1. and re: quite possibly his best hire ever–
    I hope you’re right, but Rick’s hiring will remain the best move in my mind. And considering Coach Strong’s current 0-0 record, he’s got a lot to show the fans ON THE FIELD. Shoot, even Ron Cooper talked a good game. Let’s wait a little bit before the coronation, okay??

  2. …this got lost in the bit bucket–sorry.

    RE: Winning an NCAA title in basketball is nice but it pales in comparison with the impact of capturing a national championship in football.

    I re-checked the map, and we are indeed in Kentucky–not Texas, nor Ohio. Basketball is king here. You’re lucky Adolph has passed on. However, I’m sending your address to Joe and Denny…

    1. You may right but basketball is king until seriously challenged by football glory (not the Banjo Bowl by the way). I re-checked the map, too, and we are in Louisville. So we are Louisvillians first, Kentuckians a distant third after which ever part of the county in which reside. Basketball is a great sport and I get as immersed as much, if not more than most, people but football is far superior in so many ways. Basketball is only good for many points in the college food chain, as conference expansion is proving.

  3. Charlie strong has paid his dues and is a proven coach! Your comparing him to Ron Cooper, makes you look stupid!

    1. I wouldn’t go that far. Cooper was a highly-thought of assistant when he came here. So is Strong. Coop had no experience as a major college head coach, and neither does Strong. I expect great things to happen under our new coach, but I also expected great things from the other guy. If Strong’s program doesn’t pan out, I will be far more surprised than I was when Cooper’s went down the tubes; but we won’t really know anything until we see where Charlie takes us.

      Don’t get me wrong: I admire the hell out of Coach Strong, I have been amazed at his recruiting prowess, and I fully expect his Cardinals to exceed expectations from year one. However, given the results we got out of the last highly recommended but inexperienced head coach, some skepticism is understandable.

  4. Well not on the subject at all! But noticed one of Kentucky’s greatest writers Wendell Barry is ending all ties with Kitty Kat nation,by severing ties with UK ,mainly because of the coal industry naming of kiity kat lodge “where the NBA stays”!
    An honorable Man made even more honorable in my eyes by this statement! Way to go Mr Berry!

  5. While we’re all supportive of the Cards and excited about the potential, let’s keep this in perspective. Charlie Strong hasn’t even coached a game for the Cardinals. These comments about Strong possibly being the best hire ever and that he’s a proven coach resemble what UK fans were saying about Calipari before the basketball season started. I’ll wait until Strong surpasses Petrino’s 41-9 record, 4 bowls with 2 wins, including a BCS Orange Bowl, before I say he’s the best hire. The bottom line in football is winning…winning conferences, bowl games and championships. Strong hasn’t done any of this things at U of L. With a new offense, questions at QB and an undersized defense, it will take some time for Strong to turn things around. Let’s see if he can do it. I hope so. And I hope it doesn’t take five years or more to do it.

    1. Good points, Steve. I did qualify the comment, based on his recruiting efforts thus far which have been the most impressive in the history of the program. Recruiting is half the battle as you well know. The observer will have plenty to say about all the challenges Strong faces as the season draws near.

  6. 1) Charlie seems great. Let’s see the product on the field however…

    2) you’ve been drinking that damn Ohio football kool -aid again….

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