AP PHOTO/TIMOTHY D. EASLEY
This was inevitable, guys. With a Sugar Bowl win, Heisman candidate, and a path to an undefeated season that makes the 1998 Tulane team’s look like the Bataan death march by comparison, the Cards are media darlings right now. Case in point: today’s piece on Grantland, arbiter of all things hip and sports-related.
It’s a good article – if a little hard to stomach given the subject matter – but it speaks to how far those guys have come since the days of Kragthorpe (I know, gag). More importantly though, if nothing else, it also shows just how important the Stoops hire was. Strong had been a near unstoppable force on the recruiting trail his first few years on the job – from the two Browns, to Bridgewater, to Quick – and the fact that Stoops and Co. were able to cut off his momentum as quickly as they did is somehow even more impressive when viewed through the lens of articles like this one.
While the piece doesn’t address the Cats or Stoops by name, the last paragraph shows what I’m talking about:
The irony of Strong’s strategy to make Louisville the nation’s first second choice is that the more it works, the less necessary it becomes. With a BCS bowl victory last season, a Heisman contender this season, and a spot in the ACC next season, Louisville is starting to get a look from top recruits the first time around. Case in point: In January, five-star receiver and Louisville native James Quick chose the Cardinals over Ohio State, becoming the highest-ranked commit in school history. That Louisville was Quick’s first choice shows just how far Charlie Strong has brought the program. That there was any chance Quick might go somewhere else, despite growing up a Cardinal fan with a father who played football at Louisville, shows how far it still has to go.
Louisville football is having a moment. They’re a top 10 program with a great quarterback, a good coach, and a lot of wind at their back. But they’re still Louisville. They still play in the AAC/ACC. And they’re still capable of missing out on the likes of Jason Hatcher to their 2-10 in-state rivals.
That said, like the article implies, a few more blue chip recruits and another big bowl win and that stuff suddenly doesn’t matter anymore. They’d be up with the big boys for good. Which is why the timing of the Stoops hire was so key.