Louisville has made headlines for its recruiting success, ability to bring in top-notch transfers and consecutive bowl appearances.
But the biggest headline the Cardinals should be making this offseason is for something far more mundane: coaching stability.
Louisville is the only Big East school that has not lost a head or assistant coach since the football season ended. The biggest shakeup happened during the year, when Mike Sanford was relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator and Shawn Watson stepped in. But even then, coach Charlie Strong simply elevated a qualified candidate he had on staff without much muss or fuss.
When Watson was officially named offensive coordinator last month, it was expected. Strong made one other move -- elevating grad assistant Sherrone Moore to tight ends coach. So essentially, the staff is the same one that Louisville had for nearly the entire 2011 season.
For a comparison, Cincinnati and USF are the other two Big East programs with head coaches going into their third seasons. Bearcats coach Butch Jones has lost two assistants -- co-defensive coordinator Tim Banks and secondary coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs; Skip Holtz lost defensive coordinator Mark Snyder and receivers coach Phil McGeoghan, his top recruiter. In addition, Holtz moved several of his assistants around to different positions.
It is a rarity today to find football staffs that remain intact for more than a handful of seasons. Successful programs lose assistants to either head-coaching jobs or better opportunities at more high-profile programs. Losing programs get rid of coaches in order to improve themselves.
So any time you can keep your staff together, it helps, from a continuity, chemistry and stability standpoint. The hottest name on the Louisville staff belongs to Strong, who has caught the attention of programs around the nation for getting Louisville back on the right track. But Strong recently signed a contract extension, and has indicated he only sees his future with the Cardinals. Local high school cornerback Ryan White, who just committed to Louisville for 2013, told the Courier-Journal the coaching staff was "building something special."
“I really didn’t think a lot about Louisville my freshman and sophomore year," he told the newspaper. "But I really liked what I saw last year with Louisville. I think they are on the rise and I wanted to be a part of that with their coaching staff. It’s only going to get better."
Any time you have a coach committed for the long term, you get your assistants, your players and recruits to buy in. Recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt told me last month:
"Obviously everyone wants to know security, are Coach Strong and our staff going to stay in place? We have great people on our staff. Coach Strong did an unbelievable job putting together the right group of people. Kids want to make sure we're in place. That's a lot of the negative recruiting part. Everybody expects Coach Strong to follow suit with what past coaches have done here, but we have to help them understand this is a place we enjoy. This is not a quick stopping place for us as a coaching staff."
None of this is to say the Louisville staff will remain together forever. Losing assistants has become a given at nearly every school across the country.
But it is quite an accomplishment for Louisville to keep the continuity going for another season.