Meet Steve Kragthorpe, former head coach at the University of Tulsa.
"I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be here and I want to be a part of the Louisville family," Kragthorpe said. "This fulfills a dream of mine to work with Tom Jurich and this really is a destination (job) for me. My family and I are very excited to be here and we feel this is a place that we've come to stay."
Kragthorpe, considered one of the top up-and-coming coaches in college football, informed his players at Tulsa in an emotional meeting Tuesday morning that he would be leaving to accept Jurich's offer to become the Louisville coach. "Obviously, everyone is sad and disappointed," Tulsa linebacker Chris Chamberlain told the Tulsa World. "It was a hard decision for Coach K, but it was the best decision for him."
"Steve Kragthorpe is one of the brightest young coaches in the country and he's probably the (Louisville) coach at least four times in the last four years," Jurich said. "Nobody knows how many jobs he's turned down the past (few years). You can't find anything negative about Steve Kragthorpe. Steve turned Tulsa completely around because he got their kids to believe in him. That's the kind of coach that I wanted."
Kragthorpe completely turned around a moribund Tulsa program that had lost 21 of 22 games prior to his arrival. In just four years, Kragthorpe went 29-22, took Tulsa to three bowl appearances and won the 2005 Conference USA title, including a win in the Liberty Bowl.
"I run a players-first program," Kragthorpe said. "I take pride in developing relationships with my players."
Now, Kragthorpe must immediately turn his attention to three important fronts at Louisville, hiring a new staff, shoring up U of L's recruiting efforts and trying to persuade junior quarterback Brian Brohm to return for his senior season.
Four of Petrino's assistants were in attendance for Kragthorpe's press conference, defensive coordinator Mike Cassity, quarterbacks coach Jeff Brohm, running backs coach Greg Nord and linebackers coach Reggie Johnson. They are the only assistants from Petrino's staff that could join Kragthorpe's team at U of L.
"I have a tremendous to-do listand putting together a staff is paramount on that list," Kragthorpe said. "I'll get that done tomorrow morning. I'm going to hire the best staff I can."
On the recruiting front, Kragthorpe's most immediate concern will be to solidify the verbal commitments of New Jersey quarterback Matt Simms and Illinois running back Dale Martin. Both Simms and Martin are reconsidering their decisions, though Brohm's retention at U of L could sway Simms to remain a Cardinal.
The Cardinals also have an important recruiting weekend on tap. They're expected to host several talented prospects on official visits, including four-star North Carolina running back Ryan Houston.
"I feel like if the new coach assures him that he wants to use a big back in his system Ryan will keep his scheduled visit to Louisville this weekend," Butler High coach Mike Newsome said Tuesday afternoon.
Several recruits have already reaffirmed their commitments to Louisville, including Kentucky Mr. Football Doug Beaumont, Ohio offensive lineman Mark Wetterer, Kentucky defensive lineman Zach Kiernan and Ohio kicker Brandon Walker. Ohio wide receiver Josh Chichester, a 2006 signee, told InsideTheVille.com that he'll enroll at U of L Thursday.
"I've got a good handle on Louisville's current recruiting prospects and commits," Kragthorpe said. "I'm confident we can put together a great recruiting class. I believe I can recruit anywhere in the nation."
Perhaps Kragthorpe's biggest recruiting target is Brohm, who led Louisville to the 2006 Big East championship and a 24-13 victory over Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl last week.
Kragthorpe spoke on the phone with Brohm Monday night on the phone and said he'll meet again with the star quarterback again Wednesday.
"One of my strengths is working with offensive players," Kragthorpe said. "He's a tremendous person and a greta leader and I want him to be a part of this football program."