AP Interview: Kragthorpe eager to sell himself to Cardinals Print
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Wednesday, 01 August 2007 12:31
NCAAF Headline News

 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -The line is buried somewhere on Steve Kragthorpe's biography in the University of Louisville football media guide, squeezed between parentheses under the heading ``Education.''
``Master's degree in business administration,'' it reads.
Ask Kragthorpe how a guy with an MBA from Oregon State ends up coaching football instead, and he shrugs his shoulders and says he doesn't really see much difference between working for a shoe company and walking the sidelines in packed college stadiums during the fall.
``You've got to sell yourself,'' said Kragthorpe in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press. ``You've got to sell yourself and your program. I believe you've got to tailor your delivery so that the message is received. The delivery is more important than the message, because if you don't deliver it properly, the message will never be absorbed.''
Kragthorpe, 42, has delivered the message over and over again to his players and the community since he was hired to replace Bobby Petrino in January: the coach may have changed, the expectations for the defending Big East champions who begin practice Thursday have not.
Though Kragthorpe readily admits his coaching style may be a little more relaxed than the driven but not exactly touchy-feely Petrino - who went 41-9 in four seasons with the Cardinals before leaving to coach the NFL's Atlanta Falcons - Kragthorpe says please don't call him ``soft.''
``I try to create a positive environment, that's how I've always flourished in my life,'' he said. ``I'm going to do things the way I feel they need to be done and if that's going to be compared against somebody else, whether it's Bobby or John L. (Smith) or Bob Stoops or Urban Meyer or Pete Carroll, that's fine.''
Good thing, because Kragthorpe doesn't have a choice. With the return of Heisman Trophy candidate Brian Brohm and nearly all the offensive playmakers back on a team that went 12-1, won the Orange Bowl and finished sixth in the final poll, Kragthorpe will find himself firmly in the spotlight for the first time in his career.
It's a role he's been preparing for the past 20 years, one he thinks he's ready to accept after rescuing a reeling Tulsa program four years ago.
``I tell the guys all the time I'm a chameleon, I can adjust to my surroundings,'' he said.
The surroundings will be a bit different at Louisville than they were at Tulsa, though Kragthorpe just chuckles when asked about the pressure of repeating Petrino's success and the ultimate goals of his five-year plan.
``I don't have a five-year plan because I found out when I got there that if we didn't win they were dropping football in three years,'' he said. ``My five-year plan had to go to a three-year plan. You ever walked into a football stadium where they don't play football? It's an eerie feeling. I didn't want that to happen at Tulsa.''
It didn't. The Golden Hurricane - who were a combined 2-21 in the two years before Kragthorpe's arrival - went 29-21 in his four seasons and won the Conference USA title and the Liberty Bowl in 2005. But Kragthorpe hardly considers himself a miracle worker. He credits much of Tulsa's success to a simple change in attitude at a school that had long played in the shadows of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
``I think the biggest thing I tried to instill there was confidence,'' he said.
He won't have the same problems at Louisville. Petrino molded the Cardinals into one of the nation's hottest programs by devising game plans that lit up the scoreboard at Papa John's Stadium. The Cardinals - and their fans - expect the team to score. A lot.
Though he's spent almost his entire playing and coaching career on the offensive side of the ball, the only time Kragthorpe demurs is when asked if he thinks Louisville's offense can continue to dominate, saying only that ``our goal is to score one more point than the other team.''
Maybe, but there were murmurs in the crowd following Louisville's annual Red-White spring scrimmage when Brohm threw four interceptions. Afterward Kragthorpe said ``this thing isn't orchestrated for this offense to have success like it has in the past.''
Asked about those remarks again, and he simply says he was trying to create a competitive atmosphere by having the first-team offense go against the first-team defense and ``could not have written a better script.''
It's a script that's still just a few paragraphs into the first chapter of what Kragthorpe hopes will be a long book. Kragthorpe signed a five-year deal in January that will pay him about $1.1 million a year. The contract includes a $2 million buyout, a rider Kragthorpe suggested as a sign of loyalty to Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, a friend of Kragthorpe since the two were at Northern Arizona in the early 1990s.
``I hope this is my last job and I want it to be my last job,'' he said. ``But I'm going to have to do some things to make it my last job, but I don't view this as a last job where I'm just going to come in and put it on cruise control and head off into the sunset. I know I'm going to have to be a heck of a coach to stay at this program and stay in place for as long as I want to.''
 

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