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January 11, 2014

DODD: Have you heard all the U of L jokes?

Porcini’s —  Table for 4! A red U of L T-shirt with the Louisville sign serving as the L, in Adultery. Yes, as a lifelong U of L fan I am hearing the barbs and Bobby Petrino-U of L jokes. They surely will not go away soon. UK fans will be having a heyday at the Cards’ expense. It’s all a part of the sports’ world where the hiring or the firing (or resignation) of a successful athletic coach gets the same press as a news story about anything really important that happens in the world.

There is really only one reason Petrino was hired back as Louisville’s football coach. That’s his past winning record of 41 wins versus 9 losses.

I used to go to U of L football games when I could pay general admission prices and sneak down to the front row before the end of the game. There was never a 41-9 stretch of football games back then. It would have been closer to 9-41.

However, I am still sure of one thing. For any young coach that is hired at U of L the job is still considered a stepping stone position. The program has grown exponentially in the last couple of decades. However, there is still not a young, ambitious coach anywhere who would stay at Louisville when a Texas football program would offer them more than twice the salary and a legitimate shot at winning a national title.

I first of all have nothing but gratitude for Charlie Strong. He brought us Teddy Bridgewater and made U of L a program that was mentioned in the discussion of college football. For my money Teddy was the most talented and exciting player I have ever watched. Perhaps he might be the first quarterback from U of L that will make it in the NFL as an impact player since John Unitas. Someday there might be two statues.

Perhaps Petrino will still be the same coach-them-and-leave-them disloyal coach as before. Of one thing I am sure. The only thing that will matter for however long he stays at U of L will be the won-loss record. In sports the stories of redemption and forgiveness are plentiful. In every case the reason those stories are told has to do with success on the field. No matter how principled we can claim to be I can assure you that if Petrino goes 41-9 over the next few years Jurich will add to his legend as an athletic director.

I am reminded of an old, supposedly true story I read about a coach at the University of Texas who was at the opening kick-off banquet following a national championship season. As he was introduced to a standing ovation and was about to speak, a voice was heard loud and clear from somewhere in the room, “We love you, coach!”

The reigning national champion coach asked of the crowd, “Yeah, but will you still love me if we go 1-9 this season?”

The voice from the back of the room responded, “Yeah, and we’ll miss you, too!”

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