Coming off an Orange Bowl championship with 14 returning starters, big things were expected from the Cardinals despite the loss of Bobby Petrino to the Atlanta Falcons. But Louisville, which started the season ranked in the Top 10, has stumbled out of the gate to a disappointing 3-3 start.
The first half of the 2007 season has been a nightmare for both Kragthorpe and Jurich. For the first time since 2002, the Cardinals lost to rival Kentucky. To make matters worse, Syracuse came into PJCS one week after Kentucky knocked off the Cards and ended Louisville's 20-game home winning streak – as a 37 point underdog. Last Friday, the Cardinals lost their second straight game at home, a 44-35 setback against struggling Utah; the first time since 1999 that the Cards have lost back-to-back games at home.
football coach Steve Kragthorpe.
"And like Rick said yesterday at the tipoff luncheon. When we get to the top of the mountain top he'll be a real breath of fresh air and sign a long term deal. This is where he wants to be. He will not sacrifice any of our players for the sake of the team. He's a very strong disciplinarian. He's not a screamer and yeller but he carries a very big stick. They're going to do it his way or they won't be here."
Kragthorpe, who guided Tulsa to three bowl games in four years, has taken considerable heat from Louisville fans this season. Does Jurich believe that criticism from fans toward Kragthorpe is unfair?
"I'm not saying that. Fans have the right to say what they want," Jurich said. "I know what I see in Steve. I probably see a lot different things in Steve that probably the normal fan doesn't. I know what kind of person he is and I know what kind of reputation he has around the country and I know his pedigree. I know there aren't a lot of people in America that could take over that Tulsa program and do what he did with that."
How does Jurich explain Kragthorpe's rough start in Louisville with a team that had expectations of repeating as Big East champs and returning to another BCS game?
"It's a transition time," Jurich said. "We had a lot of good times. The Orange Bowl was great. I don't think anybody ever anticipated losing a coach five days after the Orange Bowl. But it happened. Not everything in this world is going to be perfect and I'm always ready for the big obstacles. I want somebody with strong character in there and there's nobody that can rival his knowledge in football. All you have to do is start talking to people around the country and they'll all tell you the same thing."
Does Jurich believe it will be a quick fix for a program that had grown accustomed to winning, and winning big, the past four seasons?
"It's going to be a long term effort and we're going to fix it," he said.
On another front, Jurich said he intends to remain at U of L for the long haul. The rumor mill has been rampant in recent weeks concerning Jurich and Florida State, who is looking for a new AD. But U of L president Jim Ramsey announced Wednesday that he and Jurich would negotiate a pay raise – Jurich's second such raise in a year.
"I've always wanted to be here long term," Jurich said. "If I was going to leave it was going to leave it would have been a long time ago. I want to be here. I don't really react to any rumors about any other universities. It's been a great ten years and I look forward to the next ten years. My wife and family love it here and we want to hunker down and stay focused on this program. That's it."
Jurich declined when asked to say if Florida State had contacted him about their athletic director position.