Jurich’s Warning Wasted On The Rabid

Tom Jurich warned University of Louisville football fans three weeks before the season began that the next two seasons would be rebuilding years. Fans heard him, grumbled and complained while indicating they had actually listened and understood what he said.

The season began with the Cards having only nine players with starting experience in the opening lineup against Kentucky.  A youthful inexperienced group on players on both sides of the line. A green quarterback was calling signals, one who had started a few games a couple of years ago but played less than five minutes last season.

Through their first seven games, they showed signs of improvement, fans taking note of what appeared to be significant improvement in defense, the quarterback slowly growing into his starting position despite all his fumbles and interceptions. Then, amazingly, their team defeated the 14th ranked team in the country.

The fans figured that Jurich had simply been trying to lower expectations, that the Cards were already back on the fast track again, picking up a few votes in the national polls. Conference title expectations, visions of a bowl game, happy days were here again.

The Lady  Cards opened their
season with a 94-69 win in an
exhibition game. See Sonja’s report.

Wrong. The Syracuse debacle  left no doubt that much work remains to be done. Maybe Jurich knew what he was talking about when he said he just wanted to get through the rebuilding period.

Hello. Was anybody listening? The reaction of many fans to the unexpected loss had reached a crescendo on the message boards before the game was over and hasn’t let up since. They were among the many folks who traveled to Miami for an Orange Bowl less than two years ago. They had arrived only to be deserted by a vagabond coach whom this observer firmly believes hunted new jobs more vigorously than he recruited new players.

This particular group of fans refuse to believe another coach would have had a similar experience with Bobby Petrino’s leftovers. Any fan brave enough to admit he or she wants to see beyond the current frustration to better days down the road is instantly labeled a Kragthorpe apologist.

Can you imagine the reaction of potential recruits? They visit the school, like the coach, get to know the players, like the dormitory and campus. Out  of curiosity, they check the message boards. What they find are people calling for firings, some actually hoping the team loses more games to expedite terminations while urging other fans to stay away from games.

These same fans wonder why recruiting is a challenge, naively thinking they have no role in a recruit’s perception of the school. Not saying the chronic complainers are in any way responsible for the disappointing season. But they are not helping to make the two-year rebuilding process any easier either.

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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.

12 thoughts on “Jurich’s Warning Wasted On The Rabid

  • November 4, 2008 at 7:11 am

    LOL, you’re right, a quick glance at Krapthorpe’s recruiting efforts for this year and next assuage my fears that this will be anything other than a hiccup on the road to glory.

  • November 4, 2008 at 9:53 am

    It’s anything but a picnic out there. Actually Kragthorpe is about at the same place as his predecessors in the recruiting process, as far as numbers in the fold. What hurts is when local kids opt for Lexington, of all places.

  • November 4, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Even in rebuilding years, you don’t lose to Syracuse. One of the worst D1 teams in the Nation.

    That hurts recruiting more more than message boards.

  • November 4, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I think one of the most important factors here is that the kids seem to have bought in to Kragthorpe’s philosophy and methods. They like playing for him and want to help him succeed. They are loyal to him.

    If this is true, they should help in at least four ways:

    First, they will allow K and the staff to coach them. If they do, they will improve with experience and training. This means year-to-year improvement for players already on the team.

    Second, they will help him recruit. As a former Army NCO, I know that one of the toughest team-building challenges is overcoming barracks dissension. Peer leaders control the formation of internal support systems and the integration of new team members. Current players who like the coach will help deliver new recruits that they think can contribute, and integrate them more effectively.

    Third, they will be more likely to buy in to redshirting and spending five years at UL. The common denominator among successful college football programs is that everyone redshirts. Juniors and Seniors are bigger, stronger, and faster, coaches have to rely less on JUCO transfers, and they don’t have to recruit for specific positions. They can find the best athletes and develop them.

    And of course, loyal players are more likely to leave nothing on the field in a big game.

    I trained kids this age to be combat soldiers for over fifteen years, and I believe that Steve Kragthorpe is going about this the right way. He looks to achieve some modest success with a very green set of players, and despite last week’s loss I think we can all agree that the Cards have shown some improvement since the UK game.

    These kids (Anderson, Heyman, Beuamont, others) look a lot like the nucleaus of a very good football team. As they improve, we have a chance to form something special, if we can get on board with the idea that this is a work in progress, and doing it right takes time.

  • November 5, 2008 at 8:06 am

    With so many peaks and valleys in this football season already this year, it’s hard to fathom that there could be many more…but the real truth is that each and every one of these next four games will be a mini soap opera and roller coaster ride of themselves. It would be unforgiveable and heart breaking to see this team “phone another one in” like they did against Syracuse…or were those just crafted words to cover the scenario that our guys just got whipped by a team with nothing to lose on Saturday? In Jurich We Trust, if you have the need to believe, but one could also borrow the phrase coined to
    the state of Missouri…”show me”

  • November 5, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Mr. Springer,

    In my opinion Kragthorpe has not done anything up to this point to show us that he is capable of building a successful program at UL. So, what you are asking us to do is to have blind faith that Kragthorpe can get it done at UL. That is very difficult for most fans. But if we accept this situation as is I think it is fair to say that there should be goal line. A reasonable measure of success that must be achieved for Kragthorpe to be considered worthy of keeping his job. What is that measure of success? How long does Kragthorpe have to prove that he can produce a winning team at UL? 2 years? 3 years? As long as it takes? Show me the finish line and tell me what he has to get done. Otherwise all we hear are excuses and moving targets.

    Or are you satisfied with his record up to this point? Do you think that what he has accomplished up to this point is an acceptable level of sustainable success at UL?

  • November 5, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    I like the upbeat tone of your blog….we have no choice as fans but to ride this season out. TRUE Cardinal fans won’t jump ship and whether we believe Koach is the right person or not (I do NOT) we’ll have to see what happens and be supportive to our kids and the program. After all, as I tell mmy husband about me…..I’m his date. Until TJ makes a decision, Koach is our date. End of story. Go CARDS!

  • November 5, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    CardInAustin: No way satisfied with the performance. That Syracuse loss still stings.

  • November 5, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Linda, I’m not sure either. Like you say, it’s Tom’s decision and we have to trust him.

  • November 5, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    It’s not a two yr re-build it is three (two more yrs after the 2006 debacle). 6-6 with at least 8 kids that were invited to NFL camps or drafted??????

    TJ has told the fans repeatedly that our opinion doesn’t matter – so why do you tell us it does??

    And finally why are we re-building??? Bad apples/discipline problems – Brian Brohm just this week said that there was no big discipline problem. Neither TJ nor SK mentioned any problems, until after the lack of on the field performance. Many in the national media termed the UofL HC position as one of the most attractive in the country with 21 players returning from n O bowl victory with starting experience. the fact that SK only had 9 players left with starting experience was his doing, not a lack of talent when he arrived. As for a QB with no PT last season, again SK’s choice -he alone decided that the starter for this year would get no PT last season (the same concern persists this season – Simms who may only be a backup next year has gotten 2-3 snaps/handoffs this season – so next year you come back with the same “no experience” excuse??

    Name one aspect of SK’s job performance to date, that leads you to believe that he can re-build what he tore apart?

  • November 6, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Anonymous: I would point out three aspects of SK’s performance that suggests he can build a great program at Louisville.

    His players–the ones who have to sacrifice–have bought into his system. They like him, play for him, and want him to succeed. This makes them coachable, it makes them give extra effort, and it makes them peer recruiters.

    He has expanded the recruiting base beyond Male, St. X, Cincinnati, and southern Florida. Louisville can get some very good players from its own backyard–and Kragthorpe has shown that he can keep some good ones home. But we can’t build a team with players from Male and St. X. Petrino went to Florida with some success. But the competetion is heavy there for a relatively small–if enthusiastic–high school football community. Kragthorpe recruits in Texas–one of his commits is a star from Dallas. A lot of schools recruit in Texas, too, but that state (along with Arkansas and Olkahoma) is much larger and even more enthusiastic.

    Finally, he hired Ron English. No need to elaborate here.

    The Lousivlle football program will not become a consistent winner by changing coaches every year or two until we stumble into a bowl game. TJ chose someone, and we should have faith that after showing some (inconsistent) improvement this year, he will make a significant step forward next year. If he does not, we should perhaps revisit the question at that time.

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