Sports Outside the Beltway

Louisville Signs Tulsa’s Kragthorpe

Tulsa’s Jim Kragthorpe has agreed to replace Bobby Petrino as the head football coach at Louisville.

Louisville and Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe have agreed to terms on a five-year deal to become the next coach of the Cardinals, sources said Tuesday morning. The deal will pay Kragthorpe $1.1 million a year, according to an official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been completed.

Kragthorpe, who met with Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich on Tuesday in Tulsa, is expected to be introduced in Louisville on Tuesday afternoon. The Louisville Athletic Association’s board of directors was scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. ET and was expected to approve the hire.

Kragthorpe is 29-22 in four years at Tulsa after taking over a program that had lost 21 of its previous 22 games. The Golden Hurricane have been to three bowl games in Kragthorpe’s four years.

Louisville, which won the Big East and beat Wake Forest decisively in the Orange Bowl, acted quickly to replace Bobby Petrino, who left to coach the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

The football program is hosting prep players this weekend at a previously-planned recruiting event, and apparently already lost one prized recruit when quarterback Matt Simms — the brother of NFL quarterback Chris Simms and son of NFL great Phil Simms — reportedly said Monday he was withdrawing his oral commitment to Louisville.

While Cardinals running back Michael Bush announced he was entering the NFL draft on Tuesday, it remained to be seen if quarterback Brian Brohm could be persuaded to stay. Brohm, projected as a first-round draft pick by some experts, was expected to meet with Kragthorpe before deciding whether to return for his senior season or enter the draft.

Jurich and Kragthorpe have roots at Northern Arizona together. Jurich was the athletic director there in the late 1980s and early ’90s, and Kragthorpe was NAU’s quarterbacks coach from 1990-94.

Like Petrino, Kragthorpe has a track record as a strong quarterbacks coach and offensive tactician. He came to Tulsa after two years as the quarterbacks coach of the Buffalo Bills, and his Golden Hurricane teams have been prolific offensively.

While there’s always room for skepticism, as reports are wrong and coaches change their minds (witness Rich Rodriguez’ decision to stay at WVU rather than take the Bama job), but this looks like a done deal. Tulsa is a sports backwater and continuing to win there will be much harder than at Louisville.


Bobby Petrino Hired by Atlanta Falcons

Bobby Petrino was lured away from Louisville by the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino has accepted a five-year, $24 million offer from the Atlanta Falcons to become their new coach.

“Bobby Petrino did a great job here at Louisville,” Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. “I’m proud of what he accomplished. I just wish we could have kept him longer. He will do a great job for the Falcons.”’s Pat Forde first reported the hiring and contract details earlier Sunday night.

Petrino met with his Louisville players Sunday night to let them know he was going to Atlanta. The Falcons scheduled a formal announcement for Monday at 2 p.m. ET.

Petrino said he was leaving for what “I truly feel is the best job in the National Football League.”

“I am excited about the challenge that awaits me in Atlanta, and I’m equally excited about the potential that I see in this team. I look forward to getting to know the players,” he said in a Falcons statement.

“This is an exciting day for the Atlanta Falcons franchise,” Falcons owner and CEO Arthur Blank said in the Atlanta release. “Bobby Petrino is an extremely talented football coach who has done some tremendously innovative things as both an offensive coordinator and head coach, and he brings to us a record of success at the collegiate and professional levels. There is no question that he has a sharp mind, he is demanding and disciplined, and he is a motivator and developer of players. In short, he’s a difference maker who will bring a strong identity to the Falcons — one our team will buy into and take on as their own.”

The Cardinals were trying to come to terms with their coach’s departure.

“I’m in shock right now,” Louisville kicker Arthur Carmody told ESPN’s Joe Schad Sunday night. “We’re coming off a great Orange Bowl win and we were all thinking national championship. I didn’t think this would happen. He said he enjoyed college football. He’s a great coach and we’re going to miss him.”

Before the season, Petrino signed a 10-year, $25 million contract. Petrino had previously interviewed with Auburn, LSU, Notre Dame and the Oakland Raiders for other jobs, but announced in August that he would be at Louisville for the long haul.

Since Nick Saban left the college for the NFL (before reversing himself Monday) Petrino was probably the hottest prospect, since most think Pete Carroll has learned his lesson and will stay at USC for life. It’s understandable that a coach, especially one in the relative backwaters of Conference USA, would feel he had no choice but to take a stab at the Big Leagues.


Alabama Coaching Candidates Update

While Mal and the gang are still hoping to land Nick Saban, the list of candidates being bandied about in the press is ridiculously long. It seems that only Rich Rodriguez, Steve Spurrier, Barry Switzer, and myself have been eliminated from consideration at this point.


Did Alabama Sabotage UAB Hire of Jimbo Fisher?

Ben Cook of Lindy’s Sports writes about a far-fetched scenario in the Alabama head coaching search:

Everything came out in the open last week when the UAB Blazers of Conference USA were ready to hire LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher as their head coach. All that remained was ironing out the details. It was to be for $600,000 a year, most of which was going to be covered by some influential UAB supporters. But then the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama system (which includes the University of Alabama, UAB and UAH) stepped in and said that UAB could not hire Fisher. They claimed it was because of financial considerations, but that excuse doesn’t hold water since the bulk of Fisher’s salary was going to be covered by boosters.

Apparently, the Board of Trustees realized UAB was about to hire the most coveted assistant coach in the country. They realized It also could mean that UAB might wind up with a better coach than Alabama, and the idea panicked the Board of Trustees. They decided that couldn’t happen, so they stepped in and overstepped the boundaries of a Board. They took the hiring of UAB’s coach right out of UAB’s hands. Not only did they not allow UAB to hire Fisher, they then imposed their own handpicked candidate on UAB. They strongly suggested Neil Callaway, Georgia’s offensive coordinator, was the acceptable choice for UAB.

The Board will deny the Callaway link, but after the Fisher debacle there is no other explanation for UAB turning to Callaway, a former Alabama player with no head coaching experience that no other school on the planet was looking to hire. Fisher had no head coaching experience either, but he has been coveted by schools before and will be again; Callaway has not. Fisher is thought to be the next Bob Stoops waiting to happen; Callaway is not.There is one other possible explanation. The Alabama job is still open and there are plenty in Tuscaloosa who believe Nick Saban is going to leave the Miami Dolphins after Miami’s season ends. If Saban were to actually take the UA job, perhaps he would bring his old offensive coordinator from LSU with him, and that would be Jimbo Fisher. Then, in four of five years when Saban got the inevitable itch to move on, it would be an easy move to elevate Fisher to the head coaching job at Alabama, which could be what the UA Board of Trustees wants all along.That way they could achieve two goals–they could get one of the hottest coaches in the country at Alabama and simultaneously knock the pins out from under the UAB football program, making sure it continued to struggle along until perhaps just giving up the ghost and dropping football. That would delight the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

It’s rather bizarre, to be sure, but Alabama football is a pretty strange phenomenon.


Georgia OC Neil Callaway Takes UAB Job

Georgia offensive coordinator Neil Callaway will be the next head football coach at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

UAB has hired Georgia offensive coordinator Neil Callaway as its football coach, several sources close to the situation confirmed Saturday night. The school will announce Callaway’s hiring at a news conference at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. Callaway signed a five-year contract with UAB; financial terms weren’t immediately available.

Callaway will coach Georgia’s offensive line against Virginia Tech in the Dec. 30 Chick-Fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Callaway, 51, played for legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant from 1974-77 and also worked as an assistant at Alabama and Auburn.

Callaway replaces Watson Brown, who resigned last week to become coach at Division I-AA Tennessee Tech. Brown, the brother of Texas football coach Mack Brown, had a 62-75 record in 12 seasons as UAB’s coach. The Blazers finished 3-9, 2-6 in Conference USA this season.

I have not followed UAB football since leaving the state four years ago and thought it was silly for them to start a I-A football program at a commuter college in a small state that already had two major programs. Troy made it four a few years later.

That said, it’s odd to me that Watson Brown would leave a I-A program that he inaugurated and which has had more success than most thought possible for a I-AA school.

In the 11 years since Watson Brown arrived at UAB as the head football coach, he has seen amazing growth in Blazer football.

Starting with UAB’s jump from Division I-AA to I-A status in 1996 to the Blazers becoming a football member of Conference USA to their stature as a contender for conference championships, Brown, as the program’s chief architect, has guided UAB football to rapid success. Not bad for a football program that fielded its first team in 1991 at the Division III level.

UAB has progressed steadily through its 10 seasons of competition at the NCAA Division I-A level. The Blazers have been bowl-eligible three times in the past six seasons and in 2004 attained their previously elusive first bowl invitation with a trip to Honolulu to play in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl.

Granted that Brown was born and raised in Tennessee and played his college ball at Vandy, he has coached all over the country since his graduate assistant tenure ended in 1973.

That said, Callaway is a good hire. Georgia is a big-time program and brings instant credibility.


Candidates for Alabama Football Coach has compiled a list of leading candidates to replace Mike Shula as head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football program.

Frank Beamer Name – Frank Beamer
Age – 60
Current position – Virgina Tech 1987-present
Overall record – 146-79-2
Career highlights – 9 coach of the year awards / 4 conf titles

Jim Grobe Name – Jim Grobe
Age – 54
Current position – Wake Forest 2001-present
Overall record – 34-33

Career highlights – 1 acc title game

Paul Johnson Name – Paul Johnson

Age – 49
Current position – Navy 2002-present

Overall record – 28-21
Career highlights – 3 bowl games / coach of the year

Houston Nutt Name – Houston Nutt

Age – 49

Current position – Arkansas 1998-present
Overall record – 63-47
Career highlights – 1998 coach of the year / 6 bowl games / 2 sec divison titles

Bobby Petrino Name – Bobby Petrino

Age – 45
Current position – Louisville 2003-present
Overall record – 39-9
Career highlights – 1 bowl win / Conference USA title / highest ranking in school history

Rich Rodriguez Name – Rich Rodriguez
Age – 43
Current position – West Virgina 2001-present
Overall record – 45-22

Career highlights – 3 shares of Big East title / BCS bowl / Highest rank in school history

Nick Saban Name – Nick Saban
Age – 55
Current position – Miami Dolphins 2005-present

Overall record (college) 91-40-1
Career highlights – 9 bowls / 1 national title

Greg Schiano Name – Greg Schiano
Age – 40

Current position – Rutgers 2000-present
Overall record – 19-39
Career highlights – 1 bowl game / Highest rank in school history

Steve Spurrier Name – Steve Spurrier

Age – 61
Current position – South Carolina 2005-present
Overall record – 156-52-2
Career highlights – 1 national title / 7 conf titles

Jeff Tedford Name – Jeff Tedford

Age – 45
Current position – California 2002-present
Overall record – 33-17

Career highlights – 3 bowl games / pac 10 coach of the year

I think we can safely rule out Saban–this would be a step down for him–and it’s also pretty unlikely Spurrier would be interested. Both have publicly denied any interest in the job:

Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, who won a national championship at LSU in 2003, would fit that criteria. But he flatly denied any interest in the Crimson Tide job while speaking to reporters in Miami following Monday’s practice. “No, I haven’t,” Saban said when asked if he had been contacted by Alabama. “I don’t care to be. I don’t want to be. I have a job to do here. My focus is on our players, this team, us getting better and us playing good, winning football here.

“I had a good college job, so why would I have left that if I would be interested in another college job?”

In fact, Saban said Alabama should not have dismissed Shula, who was 26-23 in four seasons at Alabama. “I’m not interested in any other circumstances or situations anyplace else,” Saban said. “Mike Shula is a good guy. He’s a friend. I hate to see anybody not be able to maintain. I think he’s done a good job there and should have been given an opportunity to stay there.”

Another popular candidate with fans, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, issued a Saban-like statement Monday distancing himself from the Tide search. The statement was released by the USC sports information office, which also said Spurrier was on a recruiting trip in Florida. “I have no intention of leaving South Carolina,” said Spurrier, who guided Florida to the 1996 national championship. “It’s always flattering when a South Carolina coach is rumored for these big-time programs. This one will die down in two or three days, too.”

Beyond Saban and Spurrier, possible candidates include Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, Navy coach Paul Johnson, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer.

I can’t imagine Beamer would be interested, either. Virginia Tech has been a more successful program than Alabama of late and he has built a legacy there.

Petrino and Johnson, especially, seem like good possibilities. They’re young guys, proven winners, and Alabama would be a legitimate step up the ladder.


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