LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - Most, if not all, the buzz about the next head football coach at the University of Louisville is centered on hometown hero and current Purdue coach Jeff Brohm.
By now, anyone who cares knows the details about why Brohm, 47, is such a natural fit - his lifelong ties to Louisville, both the city and university, his qualifications as a successful head coach and his status as the preferred golden boy of the Cardinal fan base.
UofL will certainly invest as much money and effort as it can muster into convincing Brohm to succeed Bobby Petrino. But, as UofL athletics director Vince Tyra pointed out Sunday afternoon, there's no guarantee Brohm will respond positively to the courtship. He may prefer to remain with the Boilermakers, where he has turned a doormat Big Ten program into an up-and-coming team in just two seasons.
Former UofL coach Howard Schnellenberger, who recruited Brohm in 1990, told Jody Demling of Cardinal Authority that he thinks his former quarterback faces a tough decision.
"There's a lot of reasons for him to come home, but there's a lot of reasons for him to stay and finish the job there," says Schnellenberger, who now lives in Boca Raton, Fla. "I'd love for him to come home, but he's made me proud and he's made Louisville proud whatever he does."
Brohm was openly wooed by Tennessee last year and sources tell me his agent has been called recently by the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Southern Cal.
Naturally, there are a number of other attractive candidates who Tyra could focus on if his efforts to lure Brohm fail. In no particular order, here are capsule summaries of some of the coaches who have been mentioned by various sources both nationally and locally:
Jeff Fickell, Cincinnati head coach--Fickell, 45, coached defenses at Ohio State from 2012-16, including serving as interim coach between Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, when he was 6-7. He has the Bearcats at 9-1 and in contention for the American Athletic Conference championship. UC ranks seventh in the FBS in total defense (279.8 ypg) and is respectable on offense at No. 33 (447.8 ypg).
Bill Clark, UAB head coach--Clark, 50, quickly rebuilt UAB into a winner from scratch after the school's two-year hiatus from football, compiling a 17-6 record so far and earning several national coach of the year awards after going 8-5 in UAB's return last season. This year the Blazers are 9-1 and lead Conference USA's West Division with a 7-0 record. Like Fickell, Clark is defensive-minded -- UAB is third in total defense (260.8 ypg) and fourth in scoring defense (13.2 ppg).
Ryan Day, Ohio State offensive coordinator--Although he is only 39 years old, Day has been a coach at the college or NFL level for 16 years. He drew praise for the way he handled his three-game stint as acting head coach at the start of the season while Meyer was suspended. Day is in his second season with the Buckeyes, who have averaged over 500 yards per game both years.
Mike Norvell, Memphis head coach--If UofL wants an offensive coach, Norvell might be its guy. His versatile offense has been in the top five in yards per play the last two seasons and his first two teams tied for 15th and second in the FBS in points per game. This year the Tigers rank sixth nationally in both total offense (531.9 ypg) and scoring (44.6 ppg), but their defense is weak (sound familiar?), which is the reason they are only 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the AAC.
Neal Brown, Troy head coach--Brown, 38, has as many wins over ranked teams at Troy as UofL has over the last five years (one) and the Trojans defeated Nebraska 24-19 in Lincoln this season. He has Kentucky ties as a former star wide receiver at Boyle County High School. In his third season, 2017, Troy upset #25 LSU 24-21, snapping the Tigers' 46-game non-conference home winning streak. The Trojans are 19-4 over the past two seasons, including 8-2 this year (6-0 in the Sun Belt Conference). Brown was previously offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and UK.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach--Campbell, 38, has built the Cyclones into a Top-25 program in just three years after coaching Toledo to a 35-15 record over five seasons. Iowa State is currently 6-3, including 5-2 in the Big 12, with upsets over Oklahoma State and West Virginia, the Mountaineers' only defeat. Last year the Cyclones upset top-10 teams Oklahoma and TCU.
Other coaches who have been mentioned as possible candidates include Syracuse coach Dino Babers; Seth Littrell, head coach at North Texas; Chip Long, Notre Dame's offensive coordinator; Scott Sattterfield, head coach at Appalachian State; Jason Candel, head coach at Toledo; Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic head coach; and Joe Whitt Jr., a former UofL assistant who is passing game coordinator for the Green Bay Packers.
If Brohm turns down the Louisville job, it could be one of the above. Or none of them. Stay tuned.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college basketball and football for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.