In the world of roundabout compliments, attempted theft is always going to be king. Few things say, "hey you've got something really fantastic that I hope you're fully appreciating" more than someone trying to snatch said item for themselves.
Louisville fans are all too familiar with the phenomenon, especially when it comes to their most prized possession. There hasn't been one high-profile athletic director position opening in the last five years which hasn't resulted in the name Tom Jurich being tossed around as a potential replacement. It's flattering in one light, but terrifying in another, as the resulting rumors (regardless of how baseless they are) force UofL supporters to at least briefly imagine life without someone who has become as directly identifiable with Louisville athletics as the Cardinal bird mascot.
The most recent potential suitor for Jurich was Texas, the college athletics equivalent of pre-marriage Clooney; the program that was supposed to be able snag whoever they wanted, whenever they wanted. It would have made sense for Jurich to at least listen what UT had to say after it tossed wacky Steve Patterson to the curb. After all, this is an athletic program that spends and makes more money than any other in the United States, which wields as much power as any athletic program in the United States, and which has its own television network.
Just like he did in 2013, Jurich publicly shot down any rumors of being whisked away to the Longhorn State before they could fully take on a life of their own.
"I don't like to get into a situation where my name is out there," Jurich said on 93.9 The Ville last week. "I don't look for other jobs. I don't want to be a candidate. I don't know how my name got in there. I'm not interested in moving, and I don't want to move. I've always said that the grass is extremely green in Louisville, and I feel comfortable saying this is the best job in college athletics. What is there not to like about my job?"
This isn't the first time that Jurich has referenced the "grass is greener" idiom when talking about his job or the University of Louisville in general. Though he would never make mention of it publicly, it's been impossible for Jurich to not take notice of what has happened to those former UofL employees who have let curiosity get the better of them and ventured over the fence to see what life was like on the other side.
First there was John L. Smith, who infamously remarked on his way out the door that Louisville fans needed to understand their place on the food chain, and then promptly fell flat on his face at Michigan State and Arkansas. He's now in his third season at Division-II Fort Lewis College, where he's compiled a 7-15 record so far.
After turning down Tennessee in 2012, Charlie Strong stated that it was Howard Schnellenberger -- who left Louisville for Oklahoma in 1995 and was promptly fired after one 5-5-1 season -- telling him that he'd never have a better job than the one at UofL which played a large part in convincing him to stay ... at least for one more season. While the jury is still out on the Strong era at Texas, he has currently lost three more games than he's won at a program which doesn't have a whole lot of patience.
The phenomenon makes the jump from the gridiron to the diamond in the form of Lelo Prado, who left Louisville baseball for South Florida following the 2006 season. While Dan McDonnell was busy taking the Cardinals to three College World Series appearances, Prado was unable to get the Bulls into the NCAA Tournament before stepping down in 2014.
None of this is to say that Jurich wouldn't have more success after jumping the fence than his past coaches, because every indication is that he would. It's just to say that sometimes recognizing what you already have is the biggest key for having success in the future. Jurich has consistently made it apparent that he knows what he's done, he knows what he has, and he has a pretty good idea of what he could potentially have down the road.
Louisville isn't just Tom Jurich's home, it's the home of the Jurich family. Don't expect that to change anytime soon.
A version of this column appears in the current issue of The Voice-Tribune