Louisville coach Charlie Strong came into the program 18 months ago as a breath of fresh air for a team that had endured 3 years of smog under Steve Kragthorpe.`Attitudes changed, wins came, and the Cards returned to a bowl game. Top recruits decided Louisville was the place for them and groundwork was laid for a successful program. Louisville fans are infatuated with Strong. He can do no wrong.
Then came the Yahoo! Sports report on the Miami football program last week which implicated assistant coach and star recruiter Clint Hurtt in a larger-than-life cheating scandal while he was recruiting coordinator for the Hurricanes. Although no charges have been levied against Hurtt in his time with the Cards, Coach Strong is faced with his toughest decision thus far in his time as head coach: whether or not to retain Hurtt on his staff.
Hurtt’s misgivings at the U were small in the grand scheme of things when it comes to the massive pile of dirt going down in Miami, but improper nonetheless. He took a few recruits to the mansion of booster Nelvin Shapiro (the center of the scandal) and accepted 2 interest-free loans of $2500 from the man set to spend 20 years in prison for a $930 million ponzi scheme. Both accusations are illegal by NCAA standards and backed up by multiple eyewitness accounts and paper trails. I think it is safe to say that Hurtt won’t spend a lot of time attempting to vindicate himself of the allegations in the Yahoo! story.
Coach Strong has been known not to give up on someone for past transgressions. Just last month, starting cornerback Daruis Ashley was charged with his second DUI, an offense that most would greet with a shown door. However, instead of abandoning Ashley in a time of need, Strong suspended him for a year and the /Louisville native will rejoin the team with good behavior next season. If no new information surfaces in the Hurtt matter, I don’t see Strong simply cutting ties with a model employee over something that didn’t even happen while representing the red and black.
Having said that, all T’s need to be crossed and I’s dotted when deciding whether to retain Hurtt as a coach. For all the pipelines he has opened and studs he’s signed, it’s not worth drawing the ire of the almighty NCAA. Ideally, Hurtt will be up front with both Tom Jurich and NCAA investigators who have asked to speak with him, so he can put that part of his life behind him and continue to build the Cardinal program with Strong.
Recruiting, along with an increase in performance on the field, has been what has driven so much excitement to the football program thus far under Strong. Hurtt has been a main cog in process as recruiting coordinator being responsible for big-time recruits like QB Teddy Bridgewater and WRs Michaelee Harris and Eli Rogers defecting Miami for the Bluegrass state. Speculation is rampant that Hurtt may be using the same tactics from his Miami day at Louisville. Although it is just speculation, even the thought of that can not sit well with Strong and Jurich. The last thing a program on the rise needs is a fresh recruiting scandal to end the honeymoon.
All that speculation is just that…speculation. Under Strong, Louisville has signed top-notch kids from all over the south (not just Miami area) that they weren’t in on before and have no ties to Hurtt. A lot of this vague speculation comes from fans of teams who will be perennial doormats or radio hosts/bloggers who have no idea what they’re talking about and are dying for attention to be shifted away from their program’s shadiness. This report involved 72+ current or former Miami players and a multitude of other recruits and coaches. Hurtt was not the epicenter of this scandal even though some would lead you to believe he was. Also, the name “Louisville” was not mentioned in the report, despite the focus locally.
Knowing Tom Jurich over the years, I’m sure he and Coach Strong are working with both Hurtt and NCAA investigators to gather details and make a decision on Hurtt’s future. For all we know, a decision has already been made. What we do know is the Charlie strong and his AD will have to think long and hard before they decide on the future of a coach who was named national recruiter of the year in his inaugural season withe the Cards. A rushed choice based on accounts by a convicted felon in an internet report will not happen.
Were Hurtt’s transgressions isolated to his time at Miami? Is the black-eye laid on him by Yahoo! too much for Strong/Jurich to overlook? These are questions that need to be answered soon, so both sides can move on and focus on the season at hand.
In my opinion, if this is the end of the allegations, Hurtt has done far more for the university in his 18 months than has been taken away because of this report. Charlie Strong has always been forgiving of players. His coaches should be no different. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hurtt received a slap on the wrist from Jurich/Strong in the form of cutbacks on contact for a year just ton save face with the public/NCAA.
However, if this is just the tip of the iceberg with Hurtt and the NCAA, a change needs to be made. It would be a shame to see him go, but it would have to happen.
I’m sure we haven’t heard the end of this saga. Stay tuned for updates.