LOUISVILLE — Louisville football coach Steve Kragthorpe says he has no plans on leaving and wants to rebuild the team after its first losing season since 1997.
"I'm not a quitter," Kragthorpe said Friday. "I'm going to continue to fight. I'm going to continue to battle."
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Kragthorpe is 11-13 in two years at Louisville and hasn't come close to matching the success of Bobby Petrino, who led U of L to the Orange Bowl in 2006 before leaving for the Atlanta Falcons.
The Cardinals (5-7) began the season 5-2, including an upset of South Florida on Oct. 25. A five-game losing streak followed, culminating Thursday in a 63-14 loss to Rutgers. It was the team's worst loss in more than 20 years.
"I am very, very disappointed in the progress we've made the last two seasons," Kragthorpe said. "I know fans are disappointed. I know the administration is disappointed ... but I'm going to be here to fix it. I want to be here."
Kragthorpe brushed aside speculation that he'd resign moments after the loss to the Scarlet Knights. Louisville gave up 671 yards of total offense to Rutgers and trailed 49-0 at halftime to scuttle any long-shot bowl hopes.
Louisville took 62 players on the trip, including just 25 on its injury ravaged defense.
"I'm encouraged with where we're at right now," he said. "Obviously I'm discouraged we didn't get to the final point that we wanted to be this season. But I am encouraged with a lot of the players we have coming back that really performed at a high level this year."
Athletic Director Tom Jurich, who hired Kragthorpe less than 48 hours after Petrino bolted for the pros, has remained a steadfast supporter. However, Kragthorpe said there has been no talk of extending his contract, which runs through the 2011 season.
"I don't anticipate getting a contract extension. I don't deserve a contract extension right now," Kragthorpe said. "But I do deserve, I think, the opportunity to lead this football program."
Kragthorpe had hoped this would be his breakthrough year. The Cardinals put together a user-friendly schedule that featured eight home games and manageable road trips to Memphis and Syracuse.
Yet the season seemed to follow a similar pattern. Louisville would play well for long stretches during the game, only to self-destruct late. A late interception return for a touchdown let Connecticut escape with a win on Sept. 26. The Cardinals found a way to lose to Big East doormat Syracuse for the second straight year and led eventual conference champion Cincinnati by six late in the third quarter before collapsing.
"I think we're a couple of plays away from competing for a championship," he said.
Maybe, but next year's schedule will be far more difficult.
Louisville will travel to Kentucky, West Virginia, South Florida and unbeaten Utah in 2009.