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Surprise! Jeff Brohm’s staying at Purdue, so who’s next for Louisville?

Hometown guy Brohm spurned the Cardinals, so here’s who might be next on the list.

Purdue v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Louisville is not hiring Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm, despite weeks of speculation and a lot of people feeling almost certain the Cardinals would bring back the alum and former assistant.

“This has been a very difficult and emotional decision for me and my family,” Brohm said in a statement Wednesday. “We are extremely happy at Purdue and thankful for the opportunity to lead this program. After intense and thorough discussion, I believe it is important to finish the building process we have begun and honor the commitment I made to our football program, players, and recruits. While going home was very appealing and meaningful to me, the timing was not ideal. I believe that remaining at Purdue is the right thing to do, and I am excited for the challenges ahead.”

Brohm is a former U of L quarterback who got his start in coaching with an arena-league team in Louisville before joining Bobby Petrino’s staff as QBs coach in 2003. He stayed on staff for a couple of years after Petrino left and Steve Kragthorpe took over, before bouncing around on a journey that made him WKU’s head coach in 2014.

Three years and two Conference USA titles later, he started his Purdue rebuild. Had he made another move now, he would’ve replaced his ex-boss Petrino.

Instead, Brohm’s staying put, which is just amazing for Purdue. He’s just finished his second regular season in West Lafayette, where he’s turned arguably the saddest Big Ten program into a back-to-back bowl team. In October, Purdue’s stunning, comprehensive blowout of Ohio State became one of the most memorable moments of the season.

Louisville might still hire a good coach. Nightmares don’t last forever! But this is a serious blow for now, because Brohm felt like such a certain success.

Brohm was long expected in coaching circles to take this job, but the industry didn’t view it as a sure thing in recent days. Still, that he’s not going is surprising to a lot of people, because it seemed like such an ideal fit and because Brohm’s as close to a sure-thing winner as there is, given his track record in far more difficult environments.

Names to know now include Troy’s Neal Brown, Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, and Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. That’s all according to SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey and Richard Johnson days prior. Any of them could turn out to be a strong pick, and so could coaches not on that list. Brohm leaving Louisville at the altar doesn’t doom the Cardinals to hiring some bad candidate to follow Petrino.

But, yeah, nobody brings Brohm’s recent history and local ties.

1. Every offense Brohm touches turns to gold, or at least relative gold.

In 2013, WKU was 29th in the country in yards per play.

Brohm showed up, and the Hilltoppers finished fifth, third, and then first.

In 2016, Purdue was 112th in yards per play.

Brohm showed up, and the Boilers placed 67th and then 15th.

In 2018, Louisville was 97th in yards per play. The Cards could’ve used Brohm’s magic as much as anyone, but they won’t get it.

2. Brohm’s an effective recruiter and could’ve helped Louisville right the ship there, after recruiting recently slipped.

Louisville has the 14th-ranked 2019 class out of 14 ACC teams, per the 247Sports Composite. Hiring Brohm would’ve made things much better on short notice for this year, then helped a lot in the years to come.

At Purdue, Brohm’s built his good offense by maximizing a bunch of two- and three-stars’ potential. But he’s only had to do that because Purdue has typically recruited at the bottom of its conference (and the Power 5 in general), going years at a time without signing a single four-star. But since Brohm got the train rolling in the right direction, four-stars have been verbally committing in much higher numbers.

He’s especially good at recruiting Kentucky. In the class of 2018, nobody signed better talent from that state than ... Brohm’s Purdue, which capitalized on relationships he built during his three-year run at WKU. Louisville would’ve gotten those relationships.

3. Brohm would’ve thrilled Louisville fans and donors, who have had all kind of recent reasons to feel disaffected. Instead, he’ll give Purdue more credibility as a stable program on the rise.

Brohm is a successful former Louisville QB, a successful former Louisville assistant, and, indeed, a successful Louisville native. His shellacking of Ohio State mere weeks ago made a lot of Louisville fans salivate. How couldn’t it? That’s a guy who could beat Clemson.

Programs don’t usually thrive when the people who give them money and go to their games aren’t interested. When teams go 2-10, they’re at risk of putting off those groups. Brohm would’ve been a quick boost, but now he won’t be.

If Louisville fans need to feel better, there’s no such thing as the perfect hire, and while Brohm would’ve been a home run overall, let’s nitpick.

At the intro presser, when the new coach is talking about specific local high schools and campus memories, it always seems like it’ll work out, but it can be a dangerous game. Kirby Smart, Mike Gundy, Pat Fitzgerald, and Mark Richt are coaches who improved their alma maters, but it’s just as easy to list coaches who ended up fired by their former schools.

Scott Frost can still win big at Nebraska, but for now, he’s at least the latest example of familiarity not making for automatic success. He also shows how bringing back a son of the program ratchets up the hype. Sometimes that can create unrealistic expectations. If Brohm can meet them, all’s well that ends well. If he can’t, then things’ll get messy.

  • The Big Ten West just got won by Northwestern. The ACC Atlantic includes Clemson, and it’s not like Florida State will be this bad forever. Brohm would have gone to a tougher division.

Louisville fans will still rightfully be sad, though, and Purdue fans now have every reason to be stoked.

Brohm’s demonstrated he’s really good at what he does. He’ll keep doing it at a school he’s clearly come to love instead of going back to one he already did.