"Where have you gone, Denny Crum? A city turns its lonely eyes to you."
Denny Crum boarded a plane to Los Angeles in 1975 and again in 1980. He was not supposed to come back either time. Strangely enough, he did come back. In the process, he built one of the seven most successful programs in college basketball history from the ground up.
Charlie Strong was supposed to be the football program’s answer to Denny Crum. Here was a man who was repeatedly passed over for head coaching positions for the most deplorable of reasons. After years of being overlooked by cowardly athletic directors, he was finally given the chance he so richly deserved at the University of Louisville. In four years, he took a program in absolute disarray to national relevance. By spurning the almighty Southeastern Conference, he gave Louisville fans the spark of hope that maybe, just maybe, this was the coach who would dedicate his life to the program. Perhaps this was the coach who had bonded with the city like Denny Crum before him; the man who would listen when the elite programs came calling, but would ultimately side with his heart over the bright lights and greener pastures.
It was not to be. No one can fault Charlie Strong for leaving. No one can be unappreciative for what Charlie Strong helped build. But, no one can defend the manner in which he chose to leave. Failing to meet with the players, the young men who have given their all for the city, was beyond classless. If you follow these young men through social media, you know exactly how they feel about how Charlie Strong handled his departure.
Bobby Petrino is a snake; the man himself would probably admit it. At the same time, you cannot fault a snake for acting in its nature. That is the simple reality of why losing Charlie Strong hurts so much more than losing Bobby Petrino. Charlie Strong was supposed to be different.
All of this brings us to one inescapable conclusion. There will not be another Denny Crum. No one man will dedicate his life to the city’s football team. Charlie Strong was this program’s chance, and now that chance is gone. Now, comes the painful question that must be asked. If college football is a soulless business, why not hire a soulless business man? The "grand experiments" of the bloated and corrupt industry of college football have failed, and Joe Paterno himself was revealed to be a criminal at worst and criminally negligent at best.
For all of the joy and success of the Teddy Bridgewater era, the fact remains that the program did not come close to the unprecedented heights it enjoyed during the Petrino era. In 2004, UL was one dropped interception away from defeating #2 Miami at Miami and potentially playing for a national title out of Conference USA. As memory serves, the team finished 11-1 and #6 in the Country that year. In 2006, UL literally controlled its own national championship destiny going into the Rutgers game, and that was without Heisman hopeful Michael Bush. This time, the city’s team would finish 12-1 and again #6 in the Country.
As our fearless leader Mike Rutherford so eloquently pointed out this past weekend, Louisville is a stepping-stone program. Therefore, if the football incarnation of Denny Crum is not walking through that metaphorical door, why continue to fight the reality of our situation? If we are a "stepping- stone," why not bring in the ultimate vagabond himself? Bobby Petrino is not the coach that Louisville deserves. But, God help us, Bobby Petrino is the coach that Louisville needs.