LOUISVILLE (WAVE) – An honorable man with a strong conscience, Jeff Brohm soon will face a decision that will test him to the core of his being. Money will not be a factor, although the dollars will be huge. It will be all about him being honest with himself about what’s better for him and his family.
Whether he decides to remain the head coach at Purdue, where everyone has fallen in love with him, or takes the job at Louisville, his hometown university and alma mater, Brohm’s decision will make him a hero and a villain at the same time.
If he picks UofL, the jilted Purdue fan base will accuse him of being an ingrate, a traitor, and worse. If he decides to stay at Purdue, the UofL fan base will accuse him of being an ingrate, traitor, or worse.
It’s a no-win situation, but also a no-lose situation. Both schools will pay him big bucks. Both programs have good facilities. Both programs are capable of being competitive for league championships – Purdue in the Big Ten, UofL in the ACC. And every now and then, both are even capable of getting a spot in the College Football Playoff and perhaps even winning a national title.
Personally, I believe the Big Ten, top to bottom, is tougher than the ACC, especially now that Florida State has fallen on hard times. I see no reason why UofL shouldn’t consistently be no worse than third in the ACC, and I can’t say that for the Big Ten.
As far as living conditions are concerned, Louisville is a city and West Lafayette, Ind., is, well West Lafayette. Brohm knows Louisville as well as Mayor Greg Fischer and has even kept a home here. But he’s also a family guy who accepts his celebrity status as a necessary evil. In that regard, he’s much like men’s basketball coach Chris Mack and women’s coach Jeff Walz.
When Paul “Bear” Bryant won the 1957 national championship at Texas A&M and then bolted for Alabama, his only explanation was, “Mama called.” Indeed, he was the “other end” opposite the immortal Don Hutson on some championship teams in the early 1930s.
I think it’s safe to say that decision worked out pretty well for Bryant. Other coaches who had heeded Mama’s call and had success are Steve Spurrier (Florida), Jerry Claiborne (Kentucky), Johnny Majors (Tennessee), Kirby Smart (Georgia), Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech) and Ralph “Shug” Jordan (Auburn).
But there could be drawbacks to being the prodigal son. Will the fan base be more or less patient with him? Will old friends view him differently? Does familiarity really breed contempt? Will the expectations for him be suffocating?
But then there’s this: For a kid who grew up Catholic in Louisville, how cool would it be to lead the Cards on the field when Notre Dame plays its first-ever game in Louisville to begin the 2019 season?
Brohm knows he can’t be all things to all people. He must disappoint somebody and I’m sure, if he picks UofL, that facing his Purdue players, who showed how much they believed in him by how hard they played, will be one of the most emotionally draining things he will have ever done.
Brohm is no job-jumper, the way Bobby Petrino was until his sex scandal at Arkansas. He is a person who keeps his promises. That’s how his parents raised their children. Now he must let his conscience be his guide because your conscience, if you listen to it, will never let you down.
I will close on a personal note. I would like for Jeff to come home because his alma mater has been mired in ugly controversy and he could do much to help restore its image.
There’s also this: His dad, Oscar, and I used to get our paychecks from the same people. When I was working at the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times in the 1970s and 1980s, Oscar was the comptroller for WHAS Radio and TV. All the properties were owned by the Bingham family, and were located in the same downtown block.
That may be weak, I admit, but it’s all I have.
Billy Reed is a longtime sportswriter who contributes regular columns to WAVE3.com.