The Louisville football program is still a disaster

I tried yesterday to concoct a post that fully expressed my anger and frustration with all things Louisville football, but the sad truth is I've grown too numb to make that kind of concerted effort. I'm tired of talking about Louisville football, I'm tired of thinking about Louisville football and I'm really tired of watching Louisville football.

This season has been everything most of us feared it would be, so instead of going into detail about the state of a program which has now lost eight straight to the trio of Kentucky, Connecticut and Syracuse, here's this recycled post from February. There's nothing below that isn't more true or more disheartening eight months later.

On Monday, Louisville head football coach Steve Kragthorpe made the announcement that offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm would be leaving the staff and that Kragthorpe himself would be taking over the play-calling duties in 2009.

Brohm wasn't technically fired, he was offered "non-coaching role" with the program, an offer the man Nick Saban had wanted to call his plays at Alabama politely declined. Instead, Brohm will direct the quarterbacks under former Cardinal head coach Howard Schnellenberger at Florida Atlantic.

You often hear that the Brohm family is Louisville football, but I think it's more appropriate to say that the Brohm family represents success for a program that has been known more for failure over the course of its existence.

Jeff Brohm's story of Cardinal football success might be the most complete.

As an 18-year-old, the eventual Kentucky High School Football Player of the Decade for the 1980s spurned scholarship offers from Notre Dame and USC to stay home and try and help build a winning tradition at the place where his father once took snaps. Brohm served as a backup on the 1990 team that won the Fiesta Bowl before starring as a three-year starter and capturing team MVP honors in 1992 and 1993.

Jeff solidified his status as a Louisville football legend by leading the Cards to a Liberty Bowl victory over Michigan State, despite playing the game with two steel pins and one steel plate in the index finger of his throwing hand. He would later find even more success as U of L's quarterback coach, helping his little brother, Brian, win an Orange Bowl and guide Louisville to an 11-1 record and the most successful season in program history.

If the Cardinal football program were a piece of literature being studied by a high school English class, this is the part where the teacher would explain to the students the symbolism of Brohm's duties being overtaken by Kragthorpe, a man who would likely represent the parallel downfall of the American economy, or something of the like.

I'm not here to speculate on why or how this happened - because aside from broad, simple generalizations, I really don't have a clue - I'm just here to state the obvious fact most of us would rather ignore: the Louisville football program under the direction of Steve Kragthorpe is an abomination. It's a luxury ship headed straight for an iceberg, and it's being captained by a man who won't stop talking about how the iceberg got where it is and why it might move, because he has no idea how to turn the wheel to the left.

The sheer calamity that has been the last 25 months is mind-boggling when you try to take it in at once.

Since Steve Kragthorpe took over in January of 2007, 20 players have left the program for reasons other than graduation or career-ending medical conditions.

The list of defectees, at last check, looks like this:

Lamar Myles (declared for NFL draft)
Mario Urrutia (declared for NFL draft)
Lamar Alston (dismissed)
Rod Council (dismissed)
Marcus Gordon (transferred)
Jonathan Holston (dismissed)
JaJuan Spillman (dismissed)
George Stripling (dismissed)
Willie Williams (dismissed)
Anthony Allen (transfer)
Jeremy Baker (transfer)
Aundre Henderson (quit)
Tyler Wimsatt (dismissed)
Craig James (quit)
Dale Martin (transferred)
James McKinney (dismissed)
Josh Miller (transferred)
C.J. Millenbaugh (transferred)
Matt Simms (transferred)
Latarrius Thomas (transferred)

Over that same time span, Kragthorpe has lost or sent packing 12 assistant coaches.

That list includes:

Charlie Stubbs
Jeff Brohm
Tony Alford
Mike Cassity
Keith Patterson
Reggie Johnson
Mike Nelson
Mike Mallory
Ron English
Ted Roof
Bill Miller
Eric Lewis

In his brief tenure, Kragthorpe has fired two offensive coordinators and a defensive coordinator, and has seen another pair of defensive coordinators accept positions elsewhere. Generally, the firing of a major coordinator hints at a desperate head coach. The firing of three major coordinators and the departure of two more all in just two seasons hints at things I don't even want to begin to think about.

Of course, this would all be forgiven and treated as a non-issue if the team were winning.

It isn't.

Kragthorpe walked into a program which had won 68 games in the last seven seasons, been to nine straight bowl games, finished sixth in the nation in 2004 and 2006, and was returning 17 starters and an All-American quarterback from a team that had just gone 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. Under his watch, the Cardinals have won 11 games and lost 13, failed to make a postseason appearance, compiled a record of 4-10 in the Big East, and gone a combined 0-6 against the once-dominated trio of Kentucky, Connecticut and Syracuse.

When Louisville fails to win five games in 2009 - which it will - it will be the first time the program has produced less wins than the year before in three consecutive seasons since the 1973-1975 stretch. I wasn't there, but I hear Cardinal football wasn't exactly booming back then.

The facts are painful enough, but watching and listening to a man who is so clearly flailing in the water without a life jacket is excruciating.

You can't say you're accepting full blame in one breath and then talk about lack of defensive depth and character issues left behind by the previous administration in the next. Expressing your devotion to giving an offensive coordinator free reign is nullified when you admit that you felt the need to call 20% of the plays during the previous season. And dancing around questions and speaking in tired cliches is no way to win over a fan base grown accustomed to more wins than losses.

And that's basically what this all boils down to, Steve Kragthorpe has lost more than he's won in nearly every major facet of his job: games, fans, trust, in-state recruits, out-of-state recruits, etc.

The worst part about all of this is that it's not going to be fixed any time soon. "Louisville football" won't elicit the old images of top 15 preseason rankings, conference championships and home field dominance until all of our lives are significantly different.

The tailgating will still be fun, we'll all cheer like hell for the guys wearing our colors, and eventually we'll celebrate our return to a minor bowl game with a funny name with all the unspoiled vigor we did in 1999, but in the back of our minds we'll all know that it didn't have to be like this. We'll all know that there was no excuse for a fall from grace this sudden and this absolute.

I'm aware that talking about this will do nothing to remedy the situation, but neither will ignoring or denying it. The fact of the matter is that the Louisville football program is bad and getting worse, and there's no acceptable reason for why that's the case.

Coming to grips with that isn't fun, but it's healthy.

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