It’s hard to argue that the University of Louisville football program hasn’t been a stepping-stone for a long time now. Every head coach that has success while in the position has been quickly hired away by a bigger, more well established football powerhouse. John L Smith, Bobby Petrino, and, the most recent, Charlie Strong are just a few names that come to mind. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; a lot of universities would love to have the success that UofL has had over the years, even if it means taking on the title of being a stepping-stone.
With that being said, the idea of being a stepping-stone doesn’t sit well with Tom Jurich. Jurich didn’t wait long after the departure of Strong to voice his opinion on the subject, stating below how he feels about the term:
“I think it’s a great program. A lot of positive energy around it and I think it’s a program that has really made it on the map. We’re going to do everything we can to sustain that. Stepping stone is a word that gets thrown round a lot. There is a lot of school’s that would dream to be a stepping stone spot. They’d love to.”
It’s understandable for an AD to have high expectations for his program. While it may be ludicrous for Tom to suggest that UofL is a destination job, you can’t really fault him for striving for the best.
So when Jurich set out to find his new head coach a couple days ago one would think that he would go after a coach who would look at UofL as more than just a place to stop by en route to success. In comes Bobby Petrino. In theory, Bobby Petrino could potentially view UofL as a destination. If there’s any place further down than rock bottom, Bobby Petrino is there right now. After having to settle for the WKU position last year, a job at an ACC-bound UofL, which just came off of a 12-1 season, seems like a godsend. With his age, and everything he has been through at this point, one could see Petrino staying at UofL if he has success, despite how much his past would suggest otherwise.
So perfect situation, right? Tommy gets his highly successful head coach, Petrino gets his 2nd 3rd 4th chance, and UofL fans can keep flashing their L’s at me; everyone wins. The only problem: By going out and hiring Bobby Petrino, Tom Jurich is saying the exact opposite about his program. Being a destination job isn’t just about having a coach that stays a long time. To be a destination, UofL needs to have coaches salivating at the idea of leading its program. To be a destination, coaches need to hope that one day they could be good enough to get that job offer from Tom.
Hiring Petrino does the exact opposite. As mentioned before, UofL will never be in a better position than it is now. Charlie Strong proved over the last 4 years that you could win at UofL without cutting corners. By hiring Bobby Petrino, UofL is saying that it will do whatever it takes to win. By allowing Bobby Petrino to ink his name on that contract the University of Louisville is showing how desperate it is. How can Tom ever make the case that UofL is a destination for coaches when he takes a coach that nobody else wants to hire?
While it’s easy to hate him, UK fans wouldn’t have such hatred towards Tom if he just admitted what he was doing. Even with everything that has happened, Tom still makes the case that he is striving to make UofL a destination, even though his actions suggest otherwise.