Sidelines with John Clay

Is the Louisville football coaching job a good job?

Since Bobby Petrino woke to a pink slip last Sunday morning, the University of Louisville has been in the market for a new football coach.

As expected, former U of L quarterback and current Purdue coach Jeff Brohm is reportedly at the top of Athletic Director Vince Tyra’s wish list. And as expected, Brohm has declined to comment on whether he would return home to take over the Cardinals.

The recent events have broached the following question: Is the Louisville football head coaching job a good job?

I asked five of my media friends in Louisville that very question.

Drew Deener, host of the Deener Show on ESPN 680-AM and 93.9 the Ville:

“I think it is for someone who is on the way up in their career. People get mad when it has been referred to as a “steppingstone” job. But every person who has done that has left the program in better shape than they found it. That’s why Jeff Brohm is a perfect candidate. He’s on his way up and he would be able to stay as long as he wanted. And from a financial standpoint, given how much money football and basketball make combined, you can get paid at an elite level.”

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Tim Sullivan, sports columnist at the Courier-Journal:

“When Tom Jurich ran Louisville athletics, he claimed the U of L football job was one of the 10 best in the country. That wasn’t true then, isn’t true now, but it does have several strong selling points that would make it attractive to ladder-climbing coaches.

“The facilities are good, and recently upgraded. The salaries are competitive and likely to rise as U of L seeks to recapture its season-ticket holders and donor base with an impact hire. Membership in a Power Five conference means a plausible route to the college football championship. The lack of a major-league sports presence in Louisville makes you the biggest deal in town until basketball begins.

“The drawbacks include the state of Kentucky’s historically thin recruiting base, the ongoing turmoil of an athletic department awaiting another Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, and the recent progress made down the road in Lexington.

“Unless you’re Jeff Brohm, Louisville is probably no one’s idea of a destination job in football. But it has been a strong springboard in the recent past, and it might be again if a new coach can take advantage of its assets.”

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Mike Rutherford, founder/manager of Card Chronicle:

“For starters, I think history shows you can win at the highest level at Louisville. The Cardinals have finished in the nation’s top 10 twice in the last 15 years, they beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl in 2013, and were in the thick of the College Football Playoff race as recently as two years ago. Being in the ACC Atlantic provides a showcase game against Clemson every year, and could provide two if Florida State returns to form. Money also shouldn’t be an issue for the program moving forward. While U of L might be a bit financially strapped at the moment, help is on the way in the form of the money from the new Adidas contract and the ACC Network, which launches in 2019.”

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Mark Ennis, host of The Drive on 93.9 in Louisville:

“Louisville is a good job. In fact, I think it’s a very good job. Louisville has an indoor facility, a brand new expanded football facility, and an expanded and upgraded stadium that seats 60,000.

“Yes, it’s in a division with Clemson and Florida State, but that’s a positive too. Unlike in previous years and leagues, the schedule and conference affiliation will always be good enough to get you into the College Football Playoff in those occasional years where they win 10-plus games. Add in the revenue from the coming ACC Network and the continued willingness to spend, you should have everything you need to compete.

“I’d add that being the only thing in town (for now) and the above average “want to” of Louisville fans for the program to (over)achieve, makes it a very good job. It’s not a top 25 job in the country, but it’s not far from that, either.”

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Jason Anderson, program director and sports talk show host at ESPN 680:

“The main point people have when deciding between Purdue and Louisville is the path to the national championship. While people point to the West being easier for Purdue to win their division they still have to play Ohio State/Michigan/Michigan State/Penn State in the Big Ten championship game to win the conference.

“So in a sense you’re saying you have to beat one of those teams as opposed to having to play Clemson every year. Except Purdue doesn’t beat Wisconsin. They’ve lost 12 straight. And with the nine-game schedule they will play at least one of OSU/Michigan/Michigan State/PSU every year. And this year they’re playing two of them. So that “easier path to the championship” now includes Wisconsin, their cross-division games and then the Big Ten championship game.

“All the while the ACC has taken steps back over the years and it’s essentially Clemson and everybody else. The hurdle for Louisville, and everyone else in the conference, is beating Clemson. Not the winner of the Atlantic.

“If the debate is winning the conference, is it easier to do that playing Purdue’s schedule and then the Big Ten championship game or playing Clemson and then the winner of the Coastal? I choose the latter. Louisville also gets Clemson every other year at home.

“Plus, I look at the facilities, the proven willingness to support the programs with money and taking care of the coaches along with the renovations being done that to me says Louisville is the better job. And that’s not including the path to the NFL that Louisville has proven is better. The Boilermakers have three first-round draft picks since 1988. Louisville has seven first-rounders in the last four drafts.

“Louisville is still the better program no matter what the division make-up is between the two.”

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