LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville began and ended its season in similar fashion, losing big to a ranked school that found it easy to score 50 points against the Cardinals.
Such defeats came regularly this season and resulted in the firing of Bobby Petrino two weeks ago after a 2-8 start. Two more losses followed under interim replacement Lorenzo Ward, and the task for athletic director Vince Tyra with the regular season over is interviewing candidates.
Ward excluded himself from the discussion after Saturday night’s 56-10 loss to archrival Kentucky, now ranked No. 16. The current coaching staff met with Tyra on Sunday and will remain intact until a successor is named.
“Vince is on top of hiring a new coach,” Ward said, “and I’m sure that they (the players) feel 100 percent that he will do what’s best for the program.”
Tyra told Louisville’s Courier Journal last week that he has “five to six” candidates in mind but did not disclose names. One mentioned most often is second-year Purdue coach Jeff Brohm, a Louisville native and former Cardinals quarterback who became an assistant under Petrino.
Though Brohm has deep ties to the community and the school, he seems happy coaching a Boilermakers squad bound for its second consecutive bowl game.
“I want Louisville to do what’s best for them,” Brohm said after Purdue beat Indiana 28-21 on Saturday. “I’m a fan. But right now I’m the coach at Purdue and this is where I want to be and I like it here.”
Former Louisville coach Howard Schnellenberger attended the Kentucky game but said he hasn’t talked to his former QB about the job. He believes the program has something to sell to any candidate but agreed that Brohm has Purdue headed upward in the Big Ten Conference.
“He’s going to be hard-pressed to leave where he is now to go anywhere,” Schnellenberger added.
Louisville’s eventual choice has a massive job reversing the culture and fortunes of a program that quickly collapsed following the January departure of 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson for the NFL draft.
The Cardinals were on the cusp of a berth in the College Football Playoff with Jackson just two years ago before he went on to become the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner and the award’s youngest recipient. Louisville went 8-5 last season before Jackson turned pro, but the offense-minded Petrino insisted that unit might be even better with onetime backup Jawon Pass taking over.
Pass ended up being shuffled in and out of the lineup, and the sophomore missed the season finale with an ankle injury. Malik Cunningham started and scored Louisville’s lone touchdown against the No. 17 Wildcats with a 75-yard run, but he eventually left with an ankle injury. His score offered only brief excitement to another shellacking that included 12 penalties for 134 yards.
The rout bookended a season that began with a 51-14 loss to No. 1 and defending national champion Alabama. In between, Louisville yielded at least 50 points seven times, including its final five. The Cardinals also failed to beat a Power Five school and went 0-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Nearly every phase requires a rebuild, and the question is whether Louisville will lure Brohm home or entice another head coach or rising assistant to do the job. Cardinals sophomore linebacker C.J. Avery would simply prefer someone to hold players accountable for their performance and conduct.
“A big thing with us is discipline, and we really need to work on that,” he said. “The new coach, whoever it is, he’s going to get us right on that.”
AP freelance writer Steve Bittenbender contributed to this report.