Should U of L hold Brown’s Ken­tucky past against him?

Lexington Herald-Leader (Sunday) - - Sports -

was telling po­ten­tial Ken­tucky re­cruits, Brown ref­er­enced the crowd es­ti­mated above 50,000 that at­tended the first Stoops-era UK spring game.

“I’m talk­ing about, ‘Hey, our fan base is one of the best, if not the best in col­lege sports,’ be­cause there’s no NBA team, there’s no Ma­jor League Base­ball team, there’s no NFL team. So UK ath­let­ics is it,” Brown said then. “The other team (Louisville) doesn’t want to hear that, but it’s it. We’re the show in town, in the state.”

Is Louisville right to dis­card an oth­er­wise ap­peal­ing coach­ing can­di­date for, es­sen­tially, rea­sons of ri­valry and hurt feel­ings?

In a ra­tio­nal world, the an­swer would be no.

Col­lege foot­ball his­tory is filled with coaches who led ri­vals of their col­lege alma maters to great heights.

Auburn grad Vince Doo­ley coached Ge­or­gia to 201 wins and 20 bowl games.

Ge­or­gia alum Pat Dye took Auburn to nine bowl games.

Ore­gon State grad­u­ate Rich Brooks el­e­vated Ore­gon from col­lege foot­ball’s base­ment to a Rose Bowl ap­pear­ance.

For all the kvetch­ing among some U of L back­ers about po­ten­tially hir­ing “a UK guy” as Cards head foot­ball coach, Louisville sports his­tory is filled with grad­u­ates of the Uni­ver­sity of Ken­tucky who have made ma­jor con­tri­bu­tions to Car­di­nals ath­let­ics.

Howard Sch­nel­len­berger, “the fa­ther” of the modern U of L foot­ball pro­gram, was a stand­out foot­ball end at UK from 1952-55.

Harry Jones, the man who led the search that brought ath­let­ics direc­tor Tom Jurich to Louisville, was a Ken­tucky foot­ball let­ter­man in 1950-52.

Dur­ing Petrino’s highly suc­cess­ful ini­tial run as U of L foot­ball coach (2003-06), three of his key as­sis­tants had deep ties to the Uni­ver­sity of Ken­tucky. Greg Nord and Mike Cas­sity were ex-UK foot­ball play­ers; Mike Sum­mers was (and still is) the son-in-law of Joe B. Hall.

Paul Rogers, the long­time Louisville ra­dio play-by-play an­nouncer, is a Ken­tucky alum­nus.

So is cur­rent U of L AD Tyra, who was a base­ball pitcher for the Wild­cats from 1985-88.

With Brohm out of Louisville’s coach­ing pic­ture, Brown would “know the lay of the land” at U of L bet­ter than any other re­al­is­tic can­di­date the school can cur­rently hire.

Alas, an el­e­ment of the Louisville fan base doesn’t want to hear that.

Fact is, U of L back­ers have en­dured as tu­mul­tuous a past few years as any school’s fans have ever ex­pe­ri­enced.

It has been filled with scan­dal and em­bar­rass­ing head­lines. The tur­moil, cou­pled with the falls from grace of U of L sports icons Jurich, Petrino and men’s bas­ket­ball coach Rick Pitino, have left psy­chic wounds.

In coach­ing searches, where one went to col­lege should be far less im­por­tant than the skill set and char­ac­ter traits one would bring to the job.

Yet the one thing Louisville needs above all in its ma­jor sports hires presently is the abil­ity to unify its frac­tured fan base.

It seems that at least some per­cent­age of Louisville fans would start out a Neal Brown coach­ing era at U of L dug in against sup­port­ing “the UK guy.”

When Brown gets a Power Five head coach­ing op­por­tu­nity, and he will, he de­serves bet­ter than that.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230

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