The University of Louisville didn’t just want native son Jeff Brohm to return home and be the Cardinals’ football coach, it needed Jeff Brohm to return home and the be the Cardinals’ football coach.
And Thursday, inside the packed Angel’s Envy Bourbon Club at U of L’s Cardinal Stadium, which included more than few members of the extended Brohm family, that is exactly what happened as the 51-year-old coach officially left his post at Purdue and returned to his hometown to take over his alma mater’s football program.
With the Louisville fan base having soured on Scott Satterfield’s football program after four seasons, and with its men’s basketball team off to a horrendous start, Brohm’s return is a stroke of timely good fortune.
“He is exactly who we need at this moment in Louisville,” said U of L interim president Dr. Lori Gonzalez by way of introduction.
A standout quarterback at Louisville’s Trinity High School, Brohm starred for the late Howard Schnellenberger at U of L, played seven years in the NFL and spent several seasons as an assistant coach for Bobby Petrino and Steve Kragthorpe at Louisville, as well as a few other stops, before becoming head coach at Western Kentucky in 2014.
After a 30-10 record in three seasons in Bowling Green, including 22-5 the last two, Brohm was hired by Purdue in 2017. The Boilermakers were 31-67 the previous eight seasons. In Brohm’s six, Purdue went 36-34 overall, including 26-25 in the Big Ten. It earned four bowl appearances and a berth in this year’s Big Ten championship game, in which the Boilers lost 43-22 to No. 2-ranked Michigan.
Purdue’s offenses were annually ranked among the nation’s leaders in passing yardage — 11th in 2018; 12th in 2019; 16th in 2020; fifth in 2021; 17th in 2022.
Louisville had tried to bring Brohm home once before. The year was 2018. Petrino had been fired during a 2-10 season. The bat signal was sent out to the school’s favorite son. The two sides talked. Ultimately, having spent just one season at Purdue, Brohm said Wednesday “he couldn’t look at himself in the mirror” if he departed West Lafayette so soon.
This time was different. Four years different. Monday morning, Brohm had just dropped his teenage son off at school when Brady hit his father with a text message.
“Have you seen Twitter?” read the text. When Brohm responded that he had not, his son replied, “You might want to look at Twitter.”
The social media app was full of the unexpected news that Satterfield had accepted the Cincinnati job. OK, Brohm thought, here we go. And he was right. A little more than 72 hours later he was back home enjoying a standing ovation.
“Josh Heird had a plan,” Gonzalez said of U of L’s athletics director. “And he executed that plan to perfection.”
“I’ve been in this position as AD for 366 days, and you’ve made my life harder for 365 of those,” joked Heird to Brohm.
Indeed, this was the coach the fan base both wanted and needed. And Brohm’s words Thursday did nothing to dampen its enthusiasm.
“Without question this is a humbling experience,” said the coach. “Purdue will always be my home away from home, but this is home.”
Brohm said his offense would be aggressive and risk-taking. After throwing the ball around at Western Kentucky, the Big Ten had taught him that he needed a good defense and “to run the ball on occasion.”
He said the best teams he played on at Louisville were built around players from the state and the city, but stressed that his staff would recruit nationally, as well.
Most of all, Brohm promised dedication and work ethic.
“As my family knows, I like being around my family,” he said, nodding toward wife Jennifer, daughter Brooke and Brady. “But I don’t have a lot of other hobbies. I like football. And I also like to win.”
When a fan in attendance called out, “Beat Kentucky,” Brohm quickly replied, “That’s right.”
“I’ll finish with the one thing I normally like to say,” said Louisville’s new coach. “Let’s play football.”