With all the recent news regarding the football coaching situations at both Louisville and Kentucky I began to wonder; who were the most successful coaches at both schools. And for that matter, is there a pattern; well, I did a little research and discovered that the University of Louisville initially fielded a football team in 1912, with coach Lester Larson. Coaching only one season; Larson led the Cards to an 8-2 record, in terms of pure coaching win percentage this makes Larson the second most successful coach in Louisville history.
The most successful wouldn’t come until years later, when the oft controversial Bobby Petrino took the reigns of the team in 2003. Petrino coached for a total record of 41-9, and led the team to a bowl game every year of his tenure. Initially with a loss in the GMAC Bowl, followed by a Liberty Bowl victory in 2004, a Gator Bowl win in 2006, and a culmination in 2007 with a Louisville Orange bowl victory.
Coming in at third, everybody’s favorite now wacky commentator Lee Corso, who led Louisville to one bowl game tie in 1970; the Pasadena Bowl was played against Long Island State. Fourth is John L. Smith, with a 66% win percentage. Rounding out the top five for the Cards, is current coach Charlie Strong who currently has a percentage of 63%, however clearly that number can and more than likely will change one way or another as his tenure continues.
Meanwhile, Kentucky’s program is older, playing its inaugural season in 1892, when A.M. Miller was the first to grab the Wildcat reigns.
Not too long after that, all of Kentucky’s most successful coaches comes from the early 1900’s. The coach with the best percentage being Jack Wright, who coached only the 1903 season for the Cats, no doubt his numbers are skewed due to not coaching as many games as most of his peers but still, in terms of raw data nobody tops Wright’s percentage.
In at number two, Edwin Sweetland, who coached the 1909-1910 and 1912 seasons in Lexington. Number three goes to W.R. Bass who coached from 1898-1899, when the program was still in its infancy.
Closing out the list at number four is Fred Schacht, who led the team from 1904 to 1905. And at number five John J. Tigert who coached the Cats from 1915-1916.
Kentucky’s first bowl game wouldn’t come until years later, in 1947 when Kentucky would claim a win over Villanova in the Great Lakes Bowl.