Forum Spin Doctor
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Steve Kragthorpe's whirlwind journey left him a little confused.
Moments after being introduced as Louisville's head coach, Kragthorpe was midway through an answer about how he'll approach recruiting when the day's dizzying events finally caught up with him.
"We're going to try and find the best players that fit the University of Tulsa," Kragthorpe said Tuesday, before catching himself. "University of Tulsa? University of Louisville. I haven't slept in two days."
Yup, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich didn't waste any time in luring Kragthorpe away from Tulsa. The hiring came less than 48 hours after Bobby Petrino resigned to become head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
"We might have just concluded the shortest search in the history of the NCAA," Jurich joked.
The process was less of a search and more of a mission for Jurich, whose relationship with Kragthorpe dates to 1990, when Jurich was the athletic director at Northern Arizona and Kragthorpe was hired as quarterbacks coach.
After four successful years under the relentless but ultimately restless Petrino, Jurich wanted some stability. And with national signing day less than a month away, Jurich knew he didn't have time to form a search committee and go through a formal interview process.
"It was very important for me to continue to build on this momentum we have in this program and the continuity that is going on right now," Jurich said. "I wanted a person who could lead this program for many, many years to come and would look at this program as a destination. I certainly found the guy."
Kragthorpe, 41, signed a five-year, $1.1-million deal that runs through the 2012 season, the first of what he hopes will be several contracts he signs with the Cardinals.
"I don't want to be a guy that moves around, I want to be a guy that stays in one place," he said.
Kragthorpe takes over a Louisville program that flourished under Petrino. The Cardinals went 12-1 this season, won the Big East and the Orange Bowl and finished sixth in the final Associated Press poll.
It's a long way from Kragthorpe's first days at Tulsa four years ago, when he took over a program that had won just two games in the two years before he arrived.
But after posting a 29-22 record in four seasons - including three bowl appearances and the Conference USA championship in 2005 - Kragthorpe knew he was at a crossroads. Though he'd turned down numerous job offers in the past, he didn't hesitate when Jurich called.
"I feel like I'm in the middle of a great dream right now and I don't want to wake up," Kragthorpe said.
If he can find a way to convince junior quarterback Brian Brohm to stay with the Cardinals instead of entering the NFL draft, Kragthorpe might not have to wake up for awhile.
Brohm hasn't spoken to the media since winning the Orange Bowl MVP last week and has until Jan. 15 to decide whether to return for his senior season. Kragthorpe intends to do his best to assure Brohm that the high-flying offense that made the Cardinals so successful under Petrino didn't end when Petrino headed to Atlanta.
The two have already spoken several times, and Brohm stood quietly off to the side while Kragthorpe addressed the media.
"Obviously I want Brian to be part of this football program," Kragthorpe said. "The first statement that people make about Brian is what a wonderful person he is. That's a Steve Kragthorpe kind of guy."
Brohm's decision could rest on whether any of the current staff remains with the program next year. Older brother Jeff Brohm was the team's quarterbacks coach under Petrino. Kragthorpe plans to meet with current assistants on Wednesday before choosing his staff.
Kragthorpe's hiring, however, wasn't fast enough to persuade running back Michael Bush to stay with the Cardinals. Bush said Tuesday that he was going to enter the NFL draft rather than accept a medical redshirt after breaking his right leg against Kentucky in September.
For the players that remain, Kragthorpe's easygoing personality is proving to be a stark contrast to the button-downed Petrino.
"He gives off a really good vibe," said defensive tackle Adrian Grady. "I felt a lot more comfortable around him than the first time I met the other guy that was here."
It's a feeling Kragthorpe hope translates to fans who felt jilted by Petrino's sudden departure.
"There's no question that we feel like this is a place that we've come to stay," he said.