Kragthorpe Failure Was Inevitable

It’s over. He has been fired.

Steve Kragthorpe will be remembered mostly as the coach who took over University of Louisville football at its peak, following a BCS/Orange Bowl win, and was at the helm as the program disintegrated over the next three years.

He was apparently unable to trust the fans to accept his reasoning but he never even tried. After all the losses on the field, this shortcoming was perhaps his biggest failure.

His first mistake was following the coach who had made such unparalleled success possible. Never follow a legend in coaching is one of the Cardinal rules in sports: You will never live up to the standards of a legend, even if you are winning.

Kragthorpe, of course, was never close to being successful at Louisville. Starting with the Murray State’s opening drive for a touchdown in his very first game, he never gave fans reason to think he would come close to matching Bobby Petrino’s success at U of L.

During those three years, player after player, coach after coach, administrator after administrator either left or was dismissed from the program for vague, often inexplicable reasons. Players were held out of games, for unexplained injuries or disciplinary problems. Players who showed promise during games would never get the calls again, again for unexplained reasons.

Kragthorpe was apparently unable to trust the fans to accept his reasoning but he never even tried. After all the losses on the field, this shortcoming was perhaps his biggest failure, as far as fans were concerned.

He was sorely lacking in communications skills and even basic public relations savvy, not understanding the depth of emotions Louisville fans have for their football program. Rather, he acted as if the program was his, the province of the people in the football complex, that fans were over-demanding and unrealistic in their expectations. Fans are that way everywhere but a coach has to learn to deal with those things.

Veteran observers recognized those characteristics in fans, urging patience, knowing that Petrino was not perfect, far from it, but Kragthorpe was unable to show any signs of progress.

The slide that began when Kragthorpe took over the program had just gathered too much momentum and there was no way to control or contain the damage without dismissing the man responsible for the mess.

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Charlie Springer

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

28 thoughts on “Kragthorpe Failure Was Inevitable

  • November 28, 2009 at 11:13 am

    There is much celebrating in our home on this cold, crisp, new coach searching morning.

  • November 28, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I am sitting in my Louisville Football t-shirt that I vowed not to wear until SK was gone and wearing a Cardinal Bird Santa hat drinking a Bud Light at 10:17 in the morning my time. WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    CHANGE IS NIGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • November 28, 2009 at 11:56 am

    The deed is done. Now we can start moving forward again. Louisville football will return to the map. Count on it.

  • November 28, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Thank you Tom Jurich for doing the right thing for the Louisville football family and the Kragthorpe family.

  • November 28, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    And, you…dear visitor, certainly don’t understand the proud tradition involved with UofL football.

    No raining on this parade, though! HE’s gone, we’re excited and the healing begins today.

  • November 28, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Finally, something to look forward to with the football program. The nightmare has finally ended.

  • November 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Jurich didn’t waste much time. Time to get the right guy in here and move on.

  • November 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Thank you Tom Jurich! I know it was a hard thing but it was the right thing to do.

  • November 28, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Good riddance. Too bad it couldn’t have happened sooner.

  • November 28, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    A brand new day is coming soon. Wow, I thought the season would never end.

  • November 28, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    This guy just never got it. He was in the wrong place at the right time.

  • November 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Where do I order tickets for the expanded part of the stadium?

  • November 28, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    We searched the CJ this morning hoping to get a hint as to when it might happen…my sister calls me from Florida and says calmly…..uh, do you know they fired SK? We turned on the telly to catch TJ’s presser. I can’t believe the nightmare is over….now – is anybody ready for some football???????? YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

  • November 28, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I don’t think a search is underway. I don’t think Jurich would have fired Kragthorpe unless he already had the replacement in hand. My guess is that the new coach hasn’t finished his season, and asked for the sake of his players that his name not be made public until he has.

    Jurich stayed in Florida after the USF game. I believe he stayed to talk to someone.

  • November 28, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    I sure hope Jurich takes his time and selects a quality coach worthy of our program and potential. He should consider Tommy Bowden as well as the others mentioned. Just don’t select someone who is clearly out of his league as Kragthorpe was.

  • November 28, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Oh, Happy Day!!!
    I agree that Jurich more than likely has someone already in place, likely not a head coach, that still has regular season games to play. Of course he didn’t mention anything about conference championship or National title games… So we may get a solid presser next week.
    I think tuesday sounds about right. Have monday to let fans get all the residual Krag toxins out of their system, and then get ready to start fresh with a new coach the next day.

  • November 28, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    There will be Christmas and holiday season in the Harmon household this year. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tom Jurich.

  • November 28, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    My son asked for this as his 18th birthday present! Thank you Mr. Jurich, he was thrilled when I called him in to look at the computer and say happy birthday!

    • November 28, 2009 at 2:31 pm

      Hey Linda2… feels like EVERY U of L fan’s birthday……hope your son has a great one. Go CARDS!

  • November 28, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Time to celebrate, party, go crazy.

  • November 28, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    OK, the plug has been pulled. Yay.

    Rick Pitino seems to be doing all right following a legend — just sayin’….

  • November 28, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    In the end, it became obvious that he was the wrong man for the job. But many of the so-called fans made it almost impossible for him to succeed. They disparaged his coaching, his staff, his family, his religion, his players, his recruits. It’s good to know we those kind of people in our ranks so we are careful to avoid them in our associations and at games. There are some bad people among us. But there are some extremely good ones as well so be careful who your friends are. Three are crazies everywhere, even among at the University of Louisville. Happy holidays.

    • November 29, 2009 at 4:08 pm

      I never touched on his religion or his family but from early, really early, in his first year I knew he was way over his head. I knew his coaching staff had numerous weaknesses. I knew his recruits were several cuts below what whe had been getting the past four or so years. If saying they weren’t up to standards (and they certainly weren’t) makes me so-called fan and a bad person, one that no should be around, well than I’ll just say sorry but I was certainly correct. And that counts for something in the end.

  • November 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    It is about time Tom Jurich opened his eyes, clearly Kragthorpe was OUT OF HIS LEAGUE. Let’s get on with repairing the damage that Tom Jurich allowed to happen on HIS watch. Please mend the damage done to the universtiy of Louisville football programs fan base, Brohms and Nords. Mr. Jurich you allowed this to happen and some of us will not forgive your lack of respect for tradition, anyone remember Denny Crum? In any event go after a proven coach that will be capable of restoring this program, unfortunately the new coach faces a formidible task. Now I can look forward to U of L football again!!

  • November 28, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Since mid morning, the phone calls have come. Celebration over the change. Speculation on the replacement. Personal stories of happiness and relief over the move. I was sitting on the couch when the crawl ran under GameDay on ESPN. Kragthorpe out….and honestly I couldn’t tell you what the rest read…all I know is that Nov. 28th, 2009 is a great day in the history of Cardinal football.

    Now, the waiting for the announcement of the replacement. As Sonja said earlier this morning….

    Ding Dong the witch is dead.

  • November 28, 2009 at 8:46 pm


    if it was so inevitable
    u sure gave us who actually saw that it was inevitable from that first game
    a real load of grief

    glad u saw the light in season 2 1/4 …

    • November 28, 2009 at 9:42 pm

      Frank, I’d like to think Jurich knows what he’s doing. I’ll side with him every time. It’s much more fun to play the devil’s advocate anyway.

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