"I would rather fail spectacularly than succeed minimally." - Lex Luthor
Tom Jurich bet the house. With the return of Bobby Petrino to the University of Louisville, the most successful athletic director in the country put it all on the line. Point Blank. Period (If I may quote an absent friend).
On Monday, I wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek article arguing for the return of Bobby Petrino. Honestly, I am not entirely sure I wanted Coach Petrino back at the time I wrote it. The article was born from years of frustration with the seeming impossibility of keeping a successful football coach for any extended period of time. That frustration culminated with the manner in which Charlie Strong horribly mishandled his departure. The article that followed was a bit of self-indulgent cynicism; I never actually imagined that Bobby Petrino would return as the city's football coach.
Coach Petrino's re-hiring was all but an inevitability by Wednesday morning. Throughout the course of the day, I realized that Louisville Football had arrived at an unique moment in its history. The program has experienced sustained success before. It has enjoyed national prominence on occasion, major bowl victories, and top-ten poll finishes. What the program has never contemplated before though, is literally wagering all of its accumulated goodwill on the ultimate risk-reward gambit.
Imagine if things were to go as badly as possible. Suppose Coach Petrino became embroiled in another scandal, the players lost discipline, and the rest of the nation collectively and smugly scoffed at Louisville's naivete. That would most certainly be unfortunate. But, at the end of the day, Tom Jurich would still be the best athletic director in the country, and Louisville would still have outstanding facilities and a continued commitment to football success. Jurich would hire another up-and-coming coordinator and after a few years of struggle, the program would eventually flirt with the top 25 again.
That is the worst case scenario. Mediocrity and rebuilding are things Louisville football has experienced before. But what about what Louisville hasn't experienced? What about the promised collision course, first spoken of nearly thirty years ago? The closest the program has ever come to fulfilling Howard's prophecy was spear-headed in 2006 by a man who literally had one foot out the door his entire tenure at UL. Suppose that same man were to find himself humbled, driven, and committed like never before in his professional life? That, my friends, is the best case scenario.
Tom Jurich had a choice. He could hire a hungry coordinator or he could wager everything Charlie Strong helped build by trusting a man with nothing left to lose. Frank Miller once said that "a man with nothing left to lose is truly a man without fear." Tom Jurich recognized that. He chose to risk disaster in the pursuit of excellence rather than win 8-9 games a year and taste the top ten of the coach's poll perhaps once or twice a generation. Tom Jurich has made his choice. I have made my choice. Now make yours.