Houston’s rising football program mirrors Louisville

via Jamie Rhodes / USA Today

The University of Houston has been pushing hard for their program to get into a Power 5 conference. There are several recent blueprints for the UH administration to follow: TCU, Utah, Rutgers, and Louisville. As mentioned yesterday, the Cardinals made the jump from Conference USA to the Big East/American after the 2004 season and joined the ACC in 2014. The Coogs made a similar jump from Conference USA to the American after 2012 and look to also make the jump to a Power 5 conference in the near future.

What’s interesting is the similarities between the two programs:

• Louisville hired John L. Smith in 1998 who turned the program around, going 41-21 in five years. Houston hired Art Briles in 2003 and he turned the Coogs around, going 34-28 in five years. John L. Smith left for Michigan State and Briles left for Baylor.

• Louisville hired Bobby Petrino in 2003 who went 41-9 in four years with the Cardinals before leaving to coach the Atlanta Falcons. Houston hired Kevin Sumlin in 2009 who went 35-17 in four years before leaving to coach the Texas A&M Aggies. The Cardinals got into the Big East during the Pertrino era and the Cougars accepted an invite to the Big East… er, American at the end of the Sumlin regime.

• Louisville replaced Bobby Petrino with Steve Kragthorpe who stumbled to a 15-21 record, only lasting three years with the Cardinals. Tony Levine replaced Kevin Sumlin and the team took a step back, going 21-17 and leading to Levine’s dismissal after three seasons.

• Louisville replaced Steve Kragthorpe with Florida coordinator Charlie Strong in 2010, widely respected as one of the best coordinators in the country. Houston replaced Tony Levine with Ohio State coordinator Tom Herman in 2015, also widely respected as one of the best coordinators in the country.


Charlie Strong would coach the Cardinals for four seasons, going 37-15 and guiding the team to a Sugar Bowl win and an ACC conference invitation. Time will tell if Coach Herman will have the same level of success with Houston. Let’s hope Coach Herman can continue the tradition of mirroring Louisville’s rising program and help the Coogs win a major bowl game and into a Power 5 conference.

Joseph Duarte of the Chronicle has more thoughts here.