As the 2015 recruiting cycle was rapidly nearing its conclusion, the University of Louisville football program found itself not only working to secure one of the best recruiting classes in school history, but also to retain defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
During his first year with the Cardinals, Grantham built a defense that ranked among the nation's best, finishing the season ranked sixth in total defense, and drew the attention of ownership of the Oakland Raiders.
Grantham, who spent 11 years as an NFL assistant, most as defensive coordinator, interviewed with the Raiders a week prior to National Signing Day and was extended an offer to become the pro franchise's defensive coordinator.
Word spread quickly that the Cardinals may lose Grantham and concerns of U of L recruits looking elsewhere immediately rose. Before one could blink, opposing coaches began reaching out to numerous athletes that were poised to sign with Louisville a week later in an attempt to sway them towards their program.
“I would say that as soon as it hit Twitter they were on it,” Grantham said, sarcastically adding, “they are pretty nice about that.”
While other coaches jumped at the opportunity to use the Raiders offer against Louisville, Grantham was discussing the pros and cons of it with his family, head coach Bobby Petrino and athletic director Tom Jurich. Those discussions focused on the future and aspirations of the U of L program and the positives of living in the Louisville community and became the focus in his decision to stay with the Cardinals.
“Like I said last year, I came here to win a championship,” he said on National Signing Day. “I think when you look at that, the first thing you have to have is an athletic director and I think we have the best athletic director in the country here if you look at what he has done. We have a proven head coach who has won and we're going to win here. We won nine games here in the first year in this league and we can win a championship here. All that, from a career side, it was very exciting for me to stay. I think when you balance that with your family, in a sense that my wife really likes it here, my kids love it here, we feel very proud to be part of the Louisville community and raise a family here that it makes it a very difficult decision to leave.”
Grantham also continued to recruit while contemplating the next step in his career and was upfront and honest with each as he visited their homes and schools.
“I think the best way to do it is to explain to the kids that this opportunity came up and I'm going to evaluate it, look at it and let you know,” he explained. “By doing that, it gave us a full week to talk to recruits, gave us a recruiting weekend and a few days after that, so that way every kid that I was recruiting, I was going back into their homes that week, and I could explain to them the reasons that I thought about it.”
“The timing of it I felt was critical., so that everybody would know exactly where I stood, the reasons why I did it and the reasons why I wanted to stay and I think it can speaks volumes from that standpoint instead of waiting until now to do something.”
The offer from the Raiders provided opponents a small window opportunity to attempt to flip some U of L commitments, but Grantham's decision to decline the chance to return to the NFL shifted the recruiting advantage back towards the Cardinals coaching staff.
“They know that we run an NFL system and really there is nowhere in the country from an offensive standpoint or a defensive standpoint that you can develop more than here,” Grantham said. “This is a graduate school of coaching and you're going to get developed. At the same time, I think they understand they we are committed to being here and winning an ACC championship.”
Grantham's decision to stay also came with a substantial pay increase. Already placed the nation's top paid assistants when he first came to U of L, collecting nearly $1 million annually, the 48-year old Virginia native is now the third-highest paid coordinator in the country with a yearly base salary of $1.4 million.
“At the end of the day, my heart was here,” he said. “This is best place for me, the best place for my family and when you combine everything – your career, your family, the development of your family and the quality of life – this is the best place and this is where I wanted to be.”