Louisville to KU: Life after a football fall

02/05/2013 3:28 PM

05/16/2014 8:41 PM

Watching Louisville put away Florida in the Sugar Bowl last night, I was reminded that this was the second BCS bowl victory for the Cardinals. They beat Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl after the 2006 season.

In between BCS bowls, there was a down stretch, and the Cardinals’ return to this level of success proves there can be life after a football rise and fall.

Kansas should take notice.

A year after Louisville’s first BCS title, the Jayhawks beat Virginia Tech on the same field to cap its greatest football season.

Like Louisville, KU’s football fortunes quickly reversed. Kansas’ fall was harder with the program currently lugging a 21-game losing streak in Big 12 games. And Kansas has had to labor in a more difficult conference.

But there are some striking similarities beyond their shared basketball-centric nature. Both made poor hires after the Orange Bowl triumphs: Bobby Petrino left Louisville to take the Falcons job a few days after the victory, and Steve Kragthorpe was hired from Tulsa. It seemed like a good move at the time, but Kragthorpe didn’t post a winning season in three years.

Mark Mangino led Kansas to a second bowl victory and was fired after a 5-7 record in 2009. His replacement, Turner Gill, was a disaster and was fired after two years.

Louisville found the right man in Charlie Strong, the Florida defensive coordinator who was overdue for a head coaching job. Three years have produced three bowl seasons, and despite overtures from bigger budget programs, Strong seems content to remain at Louisville for a while longer.

Incidentally, Strong’s representatives had inquired about the Kansas job after Mangino was fired, but it never got past some exploratory calls.

Kansas trusts it has made a similar hire with Charlie Weis, who just completed a 1-11 first year. Louisville’s down period wasn’t as bad as Kansas’, and the Jayhawks clearly face a more difficult uphill battle.

But there is life after a football fall. Louisville proved it.

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