Remember that old song, “Tulsa Time?” Don Williams had a hit from it as did Eric Clapton. I wonder if Steve Kragthrope hums that walking to and from his office at Louisville, reminiscing on the banner years of his coaching career? Maybe he changes the lyrics to borrowed time because if his record continues to slide, he will be walking out of Kentucky to pastures elsewhere.
Kragthorpe took over Louisville after Bobby Petrino bolted for the Atlanta Falcons job (after flirting with every other open job in the country for a few years. His record at Tulsa was impressive; in four years, the Golden Hurricane (cool points for a unique mascot) played in three bowl games, winning one, and took home the 2005 Conference USA Championship. Not too shabby for a program that could barely get a team on the field in previous incarnations.
Kragthorpe’s coaching skills are top notch. While coaching Drew Bledsoe in Buffalo, the quarterback had an incredibly productive year due in large part to Kragthorpe’s tutelage. He parlayed that success into the job at Tulsa and the success at Tulsa into the job at Louisville. No doubt the Cardinals thought they needed to replace one “offensive genius” with another. But the translation has not worked at all. In two seasons, Kragthorpe is 11-13 and 4-10 in the Big East Conference including a dismal conference record of 1-6 in 2008. That’s hardly the way to invigorate the team or the fan base.
Kragthorpe is a victim of the hype machine surrounding college football. Position coaches and coordinators experience any modicum of success and they are labeled “genius.” Next, they take a job at a small school, sometimes in a big conference, and they build the resume with a few choice wins, bowl appearances, and the legend grows. Then, a job at a “big” school opens, one where their skill set is either desired for change or to continue standards set by the previous coach, and this up and comer is suddenly thrust into the deep end of the cement pond.
Take a gander at FireKragthorpeNow.com if you want to read some of the extreme reactions to his tenure at Louisville. Most of this stuff is just banter and drivel, but even coaches who struggle can avoid this type of flaming if there is a promise for tomorrow. That is the problem at Louisville; tomorrow does not look much brighter than today.
Honestly, Kragthorpe did not inherit an easy job at Louisville. He had to replace a lot of talent that graduated when Petrino left town and it has not been an easy sell. Louisville has finished in the middle or near the bottom of the Big East Conference in recruiting rankings according to Rivals and there hasn’t been a single offensive skill player ranked higher than 3 stars committed to the Cardinals during his tenure. He’s also up against teams with better recruiting bases (and locks on those bases). Add that with a bit of inexperience in coaching at a program the size of Louisville in the Big East and it equals a big mess.
I do not expect Kragthorpe to make it past next season as the head coach at Louisville. Replacing a starting quarterback is never enviable and the team is just not up to snuff with the rest of the conference competition. However, he is smart, talented, and resourceful enough to take that experience, go back to a smaller place, win, and resurface somewhere down the road. I bet he gives up Papa John’s pizza when he leaves Louisville, too.Powered by Sidelines