I’ll admit it, my concentration has been blown. There are 12 minutes left in U of L’s game against West Virginia. WVU leads 28-14. It has, believe it or not, been a very respectable effort by U of L given some really difficult circumstances, particularly by center Eric Wood, who is playing perhaps the best game by a U of L offensive lineman you’re ever going to see. Truly inspired football.
But in a quiet press box lull, I start to hear ESPN announcers David Pasch and Andre Ware talking about, and this is a direct quote, how U of L coach Steve Kragthorpe had to “rebuild from the ground up.”
Kragthorpe took over a team that was ranked anywhere from No. 8 to No. 10 in the nation. He had a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback. He had a number of players who would go on to be NFL Draft picks. I’ve been over this before.
Let’s see if this sounds like a program that needed to be built from the ground up. On the day he hired Steve Kragthorpe, Jan. 9, 2007, U of L athletic director Tom Jurich gave his reason for moving so quickly.
“It was very important for me to continue to build on this momentum in this program and the continuity that is going on right now,” Jurich said.
A few days earlier, he said: “We’re going to move quickly hiring our next coach to keep our momentum going.”
Now, these aren’t the words of a “rebuilding from the ground up” situation. In fact, why continue momentum if the program is going in the wrong direction?
The summer before, on July 13, Jurich extended Petrino’s contract and said these things (click for audio, link corrected):
Bobby and I have one common goal, and that’s a national championship. We don’t take that very lightly. Are we there yet? Certainly not. Do we think we can get there? We do. This business is an arms race. And we want to continue. But I think a lot of people are starting to look at us as the king arm. Our facilities are in place. Our coaching staff is in place.
Our recruiting every year that Bobby has been here has gotten better and better and better. We’re on the top kids in the country. We’re landing some of the top kids in the country. But the great thing is it’s not who you’re landing, it’s what you do with them when you get here, and that’s where Bobby and his staff come into play. They develop them. They develop them into tremendous men and tremendous players.
He’s done a great job in the classroom. We continue to ascend in the classroom. He doesn’t just recruit good athletes, he puts character first. Knock on wood, because we are dealing with a bunch of teenagers here, but you very rarely read about our players in the wrong light in the newspaper or see it on the television, which is a complement to this program.
Now, I know that sometimes you praise your coach to boost your program. I know Jurich has said since that there were things going on then that he wasn’t aware of.
And frankly, I’ve written my opinion on this in a column and in general we try not to repeat ourselves once we’ve made our opinions clear. But whoever is prepping these national television commentators to go farther and farther in repainting the picture would be well-advised to stop.
I’m willing to accept that there were some internal issues that caused some problems and led to some attrition and transitional trouble. But this “rebuilding from the ground up” talk isn’t doing anyone any good.