LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich says he will move quickly to pick his next football coach, and he hopes the new hire will stay for the long term.
Jurich is keeping his options open for the "100 or 200" candidates he joked have shown interest in replacing Charlie Strong, who told the AD on Saturday night that he's leaving for Texas. Jurich didn't mention potential candidates Sunday but said "everybody is in play" - even Western Kentucky's Bobby Petrino, a former Cardinals coach.
Losing Strong four days after star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said he would enter the NFL draft wasn't what Jurich expected with Louisville joining top-ranked Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference next year. But he believes the pending move will make for a stronger field of candidates.
"As we're (going to) the ACC and it's very strong, it's going to be an added benefit for us," said Jurich, adding that Louisville is a go-to coaching job rather than a steppingstone.
"This is a program that's really made it on the map, so we want to make sure we do everything we can to sustain that."
Jurich was quick to credit Strong for turning Louisville into a destination during his four years at the school. He went 37-15 in his first head coaching job, including 3-1 in bowl games and a BCS bowl victory over Florida in last year's Sugar Bowl.
Louisville's success has lifted the school's profile among recruits - whom coaches can begin contacting Jan. 15, with national signing day Feb. 15 - and especially coaches.
Jurich provided no timetable for replacing Strong but has a history of moving rapidly in hiring. One name that has been mentioned as a potential candidate is Duke's David Cutcliffe, a two-time ACC Coach of the Year who led the 10-4 Blue Devils to the conference title game and a second straight bowl appearance.
Jurich also said Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson would be considered if he applies. He even floated the possibility of considering the controversial Petrino, who went 41-9 at Louisville from 2003-06 but frequently entertained possibilities of going elsewhere.
Petrino is coming off an 8-4 finish in his first season at WKU after his April 2012 firing by Arkansas for misleading school officials about a motorcycle accident involving his mistress.
"It's a wide-open job; there's no preconceived notions right now," Jurich said. "I want to go quick. Time should be of the essence. I want to get the right person, I'll tell you that. ...
"I'll consider everybody. Everybody is in play."
As Jurich begins the process of sorting through a potentially large pool of coaching candidates, the question is which Cardinals players will stick around.
Besides Bridgewater, wide receiver Damian Copeland and safety Calvin Pryor have announced their intentions of entering the NFL draft. But deep-threat receiver DeVante Parker and leading rusher Dominique Brown have said they plan to return, as does sacks leader Lorenzo Mauldin.
Poised to replace Bridgewater is Will Gardner, who showed flashes of his potential in completing 8 of 12 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns as a backup. Redshirt junior offensive lineman Jake Smith wouldn't be shocked if more players leave. That sometimes happens with coaching changes, but he said the main thing for the returning Cardinals is to unite behind Jurich's choice to lead the program.
"At this point we have to really emphasize sticking together and moving forward," Smith said. "It's a players' program. So, how the players respond and react is how well we are going to do next year.
"A lot of older guys like Dominique Brown and others are going to have to really try to bring the team together."