Kragthorpe: 'I didn't win enough to stay'

Steve Kragthorpe said his farewell to the Louisville community during his final press conference at UofL Monday afternoon. After three seasons as the UofL coach, Kragthorpe was fired Saturday after his team finished the 2009 with a 4-8 record.

It was a turbulent three years for Kragthorpe, who went 15-21 and won just five Big East games. Kragthorpe took over a program in 2007 that had played in nine straight bowls but he failed to guide the Cardinals to the post-season during his time at UofL.

"I appreciate the opportunity I was given here," Kragthorpe said. "I'm sorry that I didn't win more football games. Ultimately that's the way you're judged as a football coach is how many games you win and how many games you lose. I didn't win enough games to get to stay here and that's the only regret that I have."

Kragthorpe will meet with the Louisville players for the final time Monday afternoon.

"The hardest part about leaving here is leaving the players," said Kragthorpe. "I'll miss them. They're like [my] sons. I think they're going to be very successful. I feel like we're close. I think this is a team that can win eight or nine games next year based on the group coming back and the recruiting class coming in. It's a team that was close and I know close doesn't get it. I'll tell those guys how much I appreciate them and that I'll always be a resource for them."

As Louisville's season went downhill, pressure for Kragthorpe to step down grew steadily. Kragthorpe said he never considered resigning as an option.

"I know a lot of people wanted me to resign and I didn't resign for two reasons. One, I've never quit anything and I'm not going to start now," Kragthorpe said. "And the second thing is a lot of my assistants contracts were tied into whether I resigned or not. Had I resigned it would have affected them. I'm willing to be fired to help them."

Kragthorpe, who replaced the most successful coach in UofL history, Bobby Petrino, never got much of a honeymoon with Cardinal fans. UofL AD Tom Jurich said Saturday Kragthorpe was never a good fit from day one. Kragthorpe pointed to his 0-3 record against rival Kentucky, two of which the Cardinals blew fourth quarter leads, and his very first game against Murray State as reasons why he didn't succeed at UofL.

Steve Kragthorpe said good-bye to UofL Monday afternoon.
"The way we lost those games will stick in my jaw a little bit," Kragthorpe said of the '07 and '09 losses against Kentucky. "And then in the first game I knew it was going to be a challenge when we were up 73-10 and I was getting booed and they're saying things to my wife about female body parts."

Still, Kragthorpe said he didn't think he was treated unfairly by Louisville fans and media.

"I don't think anybody was unfair to me it's just the nature of college football," said Kragthorpe. "Nothing is fair. The media has been great to me and the fans have been great to me. It's just the nature of college football. I don't think the fans expectations are too high here."

Asked if he had any advice for next Louisville's next coach, Kragthorpe said, "Have fun and enjoy it. It's a great town, great people, great city to live in. Whoever the next head coach is will be successful and they'll love it here. There's a great support staff and great people to work for. You can't work for a better guy than Dr. Ramsey and Tom Jurich."

Kragthorpe had two years remaining on his contract and will collect a hefty sum from UofL. He'll get over $2 million in salary owed him for the final two years of the contract, and could also receive loyalty and other bonuses specified in his contract. Monday, Kragthorpe was asked if he felt he "deserved" all that money.

"I signed a contract when I got here and I'll be given what the contract states," said Kragthorpe. "The terms of the contract are what they are and I know Tom's going to honor my contract. So I deserve every penny of that because I gave up a lot to come here. I gave up more money than I'll get."

Kragthorpe won't spend much time in Louisville. His son, Brad, will start at quarterback for Trinity in the state championship game Saturday night against Louisville St. Xavier. The next day, Kragthorpe said he's going to take his family back to Tulsa.

"We'll be here for another week and then we'll move back to Tulsa," Kragthorpe said. "We'll leave Sunday to head back there and then see what direction we'll go. I've already been offered three jobs, one as a BCS offensive coordinator. I don't know if I'll take it or not. We're excited to get back there."

While the search for Louisville's next coach moves forward, Kragthorpe said he doesn't regret coming to UofL.

"We leave here with no regrets, a lot of friends, a lot of great memories, a lot of good times and a lot of challenging times," Kragthorpe said. "But it's been good for me and my family. I don't leave here bitter, I leave here better. I will always be a Louisville fan and cheer for Louisville."

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