Steve Kragthorpe begins his third season as head coach at the University of Louisville with a fire and a desire to get the Cardinals back to the top of the BIG EAST Conference.
Through hard work and a passion to succeed, Kragthorpe and his staff have instilled a passion in his team and a new-found attitude as the head coach enters his third campaign as the Cardinals' bench boss.
In 2008, Kragthorpe looked like his team was about to turn the corner and make noise in the BIG EAST Conference. He took an inexperienced and young team and raced out to an impressive 5-2 record with big wins over Kansas State and 14th-ranked South Florida at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
It looked like the Cardinals were ready to turn the corner, but a key injury to wide receiver Scott Long seemed to ground the Cardinals, and Louisville closed out the year on a five-game losing streak. Louisville did have the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year in Victor Anderson, who rushed for 1,047 yards and eight scores and also saw Eric Wood earn All-BIG EAST accolades for the third straight season.
The 2007 season was certainly not what Kragthorpe expected when he took over the program, but Kragthorpe is determined to bring the Cardinals back to the top of the BIG EAST Conference.
Kragthorpe's first season in Louisville was full of ups-and-downs. Despite a couple of early losses, the Cardinals defeated 15th-ranked Cincinnati last season, 28-24, at Nippert Stadium for Kragthorpe's first signature win, and battled back from a 38-24 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Rutgers, 41-38, in the regular-season finale. Offensively, the Cardinals finished sixth in the country in total offense, fourth in passing offense and 18th in scoring. Quarterback Brian Brohm set the school record for touchdown passes in a season with 30, while throwing for 4,024 yards.
The former head coach at Tulsa University and the architect of one of the nation's most heralded rebuilding efforts, was named the 20th head football coach at the University of Louisville at a press conference on Jan. 9, 2007 in the press lounge at U of L's Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Prior to taking over at Louisville, Kragthorpe was named as the Golden Hurricane head coach on December 18, 2002.
Kragthorpe turned around the Tulsa program immediately. Prior to his arrival, Tulsa was a combined 2-21 in 2001 and 2002. However, it didn't take Kragthorpe long to turn around the Golden Hurricane program, compiling an impressive 29-22 record and guiding Tulsa to bowl games in three of the last four seasons.
In just four seasons at Tulsa, Kragthorpe took the Golden Hurricane to three bowls: Humanitarian, Liberty and Armed Forces Bowl. His teams won more games in his first three years than Tulsa had won in the preceding seven seasons combined, capturing Tulsa's first conference championship since 1985 and putting the Tulsa football program back on the map of national prominence.
Known as one of the best offensive minds in the country, Kragthorpe's teams have scored 30 or more points 29 times, 40 points on 10 occasions and 50 points three times. His 2006 squad was second in Conference USA in total offense and scoring. In 2005, Kragthorpe guided Tulsa to its third winning season in four years, going 8-5 and advancing to the Armed Forces Bowl before falling to Utah, 25-13.
The 2005 campaign was Tulsa's first year as a member of Conference USA. Kragthorpe proceeded to lead the Golden Hurricane to the C-USA West Division title with a 6-2 record and capturing a victory in the inaugural Conference USA Football Championship Game with a 44-27 win over Central Florida. Tulsa represented C-USA in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and left with a 31-24 victory over Fresno State, finishing the season with an overall 9-4 record.
In his first season in 2003, Kragthorpe was faced with the difficult task of attempting to reconstruct a football program that had just two victories over the previous two seasons. During that first year, Kragthorpe led that Tulsa team to an 8-5 overall record and the school's first bowl game in 12 years. The Golden Hurricane finished in a tie for second in the Western Athletic Conference with a 6-2 record and played in the Humanitarian Bowl.
His leadership helped produce the NCAA's biggest turnaround that year. The eight victories were the most at the school since 1991 and for that, Kragthorpe was voted the WAC Coach of the Year. He was also one of six semifinalists for the Eddie Robinson/FWAA Coach of the Year Award as selected by the Football Writers Association of America. Kragthorpe was selected as the FWAA/Scripps First-Year Coach of the Year award winner, an honor given to the nation's top first-year head coach.
He was also a finalist for the Paul "Bear" Bryant and Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Awards and finished in a third-place tie with Oklahoma's Bob Stoops in the voting for the Associated Press' National Coach of the Year. Kragthorpe came to Tulsa from the Buffalo Bills and 15 total years of coaching expertise, including 13 years on the college level, two years as a graduate assistant coach and 11 years as a full-time assistant, and two years of professional football.
Before coming to Tulsa, Kragthorpe spent the previous two seasons (2001-02) as quarterback coach with the NFL's Buffalo Bills.In 2001, he tutored Rob Johnson and in the 2002 season he coached All-Pro Drew Bledsoe. Kragthorpe also coached Alex Van Pelt in his two years with the Bills. Prior to his brief stint in the NFL, Kragthorpe worked four years (1997-00) as an assistant coach at Texas A&M, including the final three seasons as offensive coordinator. He also coached the wide receivers from 1997-99, before becoming the quarterback coach for the 2000 season.
The 1998 team, his first as offensive coordinator, posted an 11-3 overall record and a 7-1 conference mark to win the Big 12 South Division and the overall Big 12 Championship.
Kragthorpe entered the coaching profession in 1988 as a graduate assistant coach on his father's Oregon State staff. The younger Kragthorpe assisted with coaching the quarterbacks and receivers.
In 1990, Kragthorpe became the quarterback coach at Northern Arizona and remained in that position until being elevated to offensive coordinator for the next two seasons. While at NAU, he coached quarterback Jeff Lewis, who spent five years in the NFL as a reserve quarterback for the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.
Following his four-year tenure at NAU, Kragthorpe became the offensive coordinator at North Texas in 1994, spending two seasons with the Mean Green. At North Texas, he oversaw an offense that led the conference in total offense. While there, he coached quarterback Mitch Maher who broke single-season school records for passing yards and total offense. After two seasons, Kragthorpe then moved to Boston College where he spent the 1996 season as quarterback coach, coaching current NFL signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck.
Playing collegiately at Eastern New Mexico (1983-84), Kragthorpe quarterbacked for two seasons before transferring to West Texas State. He started 11 games as a senior and completed 179-of-344 passes for 1,980 yards and nine TDs.
Kragthorpe earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from West Texas State in 1988. He also received his master's degree in business administration, while serving as a graduate assistant coach at Oregon State in 1988 and '89. Kragthorpe, 43, and his wife, Cynthia, have three sons: Chris, Brad and Nik.