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Tavern talk: Louisville has the cash for Gruden

Powerful alumni, local business leaders make a deal possible. Michael Lombardi

Print This October 15, 2009, 05:29 PM EST

Last night we reported that the University of Louisville had former Tampa Bay head coach Jon “Love You Bro” Gruden high on their list of potential coaches if (or when) they fire current head coach Steve Kragthorpe. Our report is accurate—and today we received a few calls from former Louisville players and current NFL players that know their school is dying to get Gruden to be their coach. Is it wishful thinking? If you know anything about the University of Louisville and its powerful alumni, you know anything is possible because they have the one thing everyone wants—MONEY.

Louisville is a big-time college sports town, the town loves football and some of the best high school football in the country is played in the city. The school has a very loyal, wealthy alumni base. And along with their wealthy local business leaders, they can move mountains when they set their mind and wallets to any problem. Being a BCS school affords the program the opportunity to win a national championship in football. All they need to do is get the right coach, the right players and they can easily accomplish this goal (As you can tell they are not hoping—they have a plan).

College football is not as it was twenty years ago. Smaller schools, because of the BCS, can compete on the highest level, thus increasing their brand recognition by winning football games. Louisville already has brand recognition from their basketball program, and before Bobby Petrino left for the Atlanta Falcons they were in the running for a BCS game every year. Their facilities are second to none, they have a beautiful stadium with 42,000 seats that are all chair backs and have the ability to expand to 80,000 anytime soon. This school thinks big time, because they are big time.

Therefore, the fundamental question is can they compete for Gruden? My answer is yes. To get Gruden to coach in college will take a lot of money and an administration that will not interfere with his ability to coach or recruit players. He needs to go to a school that only knows how to say one word—yes. Is Notre Dame a better spot? Yes, on the surface, because of the name and amazing tradition. But there are obstacles to overcome at Notre Dame that do not exist at Louisville. What about Virginia? Same as Notre Dame—great school, but it comes with restrictions. Florida State might be a great spot, but there seems to be some questions of who is actually in control.

Pete Carroll proved you can be very happy moving from pro football to college football, as you can control many more things in college—assuming you go to the right place. Ditto for Nick Saban at Alabama. College football programs are not cost cutting as they seem to be doing in the NFL, especially the teams that want to get to a BCS game. The rewards far outweigh any reason to save money on a coach. The NFL, meanwhile, seems to be on a mission to reduce the cost of the head coach as that investment comes directly from the owner’s pocketbook.

Here is what Jon “Love You Bro” Gruden had to say on Mike & Mike in the Morning today about his name being floated for jobs…

“I'm really respectful of the people that have those jobs," he said. "I got a job. I just got fired from a job. I'm trying to hang on to the one I've got, man. I'm gonna stick to my guns here and do my job, and don't believe everything that's out there. Just do the best you can, finish the job that you have and that's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna work hard and try to do better at the broadcast this Monday night."

This won’t be the first time Gruden’s name comes up for a college job. However, I can assure you this: the Louisville job will pique his interest, and when he listens to their recruiting calls he will be impressed—assuming he has not been impressed already.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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