Louisville football latest Power Five program to join KU in coaching search
A week after University of Kansas Athletic director Jeff Long officially began looking for David Beaty’s replacement, another potential competitor has entered the coaching search fray.
News broke Sunday morning that Louisville’s administration decided to fire football coach Bobby Petrino, effective immediately.
So any coach looking to move on from his current job or upgrade to a Power Five conference now has three programs to ponder.
Even before Long decided to fire Beaty, the football job at Maryland opened up, following a tumultuous year for former head coach D.J. Durkin. Now that Louisville is actively looking to make a hiring splash, too, it’s possible Long’s pool of candidates could overlap with those of athletic directors in both the Big Ten and ACC.
Louisville’s struggles this season — the Cardinals (2-8 overall, 0-7 ACC) have only defeated Indiana State and Western Kentucky — led to Petrino’s demise. However, the program overall has remained quite successful this past decade, even as it transitioned from the Big East to the American to the ACC.
This will mark the Cardinals’ first losing season since 2009, ending U of L’s streak of eight consecutive bowl appearances under, first, Charlie Strong and, then, Petrino.
In fact, the only significant lull for Louisville football in the past 20 years came and went relatively quickly, with three losing seasons under Steve Kragthorpe from 2007-09. Louisville has played in 17 bowl games since 1998, including the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Citrus Bowl.
So if you were a football coach fielding interest from Louisville Athletic Director Vince Tyra and KU’s Long, which program would look more attractive?
The Jayhawks (3-7, 1-6 Big 12) might be slightly better this season than the Cardinals, but KU football hasn’t won more than three games in a season since a former administration forced out head coach Mark Mangino following the 2009 season.
Then, there’s Maryland. Despite the public perception hit that the program took the past several months with reports of bullying and abuse under Durkin’s watch, it remains a viable landing spot for respected coaches. Maryland (5-5, 3-4 Big Ten) may reach a bowl this season. It would be the Terrapins’ fifth postseason appearance since the start of the 2010 season, a stretch during which the program is 47-63.
KU is now 18-88 in the post-Mangino era. Louisville, in that same span, is 73-41.
Long is running a confidential search, so it’s tough to decipher who is really on his short list and who isn’t. Still, it’s possible these job openings — and any that follow at other Power Five schools before he makes his hire — could limit Long’s options.
The other aspect of Petrino’s firing that’s at least worth mentioning, even if it doesn’t end up substantive, is that Long used to work with the now-available coach. When Long was at Arkansas, he hired Petrino, and the football coach led the Razorbacks to a 34-17 record from 2008-11, as Arkansas played in the Liberty Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl.
Long had to fire Petrino in 2012, though, after the coach’s motorcycle accident eventually revealed Petrino had hired his mistress to work for the program.
Although Petrino, 57, owns a 119-56 career coaching record between his two stints at Louisville (2003-06 and 2014-18), a one-year run at Western Kentucky and four years with Arkansas, it’s extremely improbable Long would consider a reunion at KU.
When Long announced Petrino’s firing in 2012, he said, "In short, Coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident."
The entire debacle at least played a part in Arkansas moving on from Long as its AD in November of 2017. He would have zero motivation to reconcile that ugly divorce.