LOUISVILLE, Ky. – On a night when Louisville's football team lost ground in the national title race, it became apparent the school would keep its prized athletic director, Tom Jurich.
Jurich's name has been mentioned prominently as a successor to outgoing Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds. But multiple sources told Yahoo Sports Thursday night that Jurich is committed to Louisville and is not a candidate for that job or any other AD job.
"He wants to stay with [Louisville president] Jim Ramsey," a source said.
Jurich has guided the school's athletic programs to an unprecedented period of success, winning the national championship in men's basketball, playing in the national title game in women's basketball, upsetting Florida in the 2013 Sugar Bowl and advancing to the College World Series in baseball. Most importantly for the long-term future of the program, Louisville has earned a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference starting July 1, 2014.
In addition to those coups, Jurich has football coach Charlie Strong and basketball coach Rick Pitino signed to long-term contracts. Sources said that is a major factor in Jurich's commitment to Louisville.
"If he left, how could he look them in the eye after convincing them to stay?" a source said.
Jurich declined comment to Yahoo Sports Thursday night after watching his No. 8 football team beat Rutgers, 24-10.
With Jurich off the board, there is speculation Texas would look within the Big 12 conference. West Virginia AD Oliver Luck's name has been mentioned. Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione could be an attractive candidate, but changing sides in that rivalry would be dicey politically.
Obviously, the first job for whoever is the new Texas AD would be deciding the fate of embattled football coach Mack Brown, and potentially hiring his successor. That situation may gain some clarity as early as Saturday. If the Longhorns lose to Oklahoma for the fourth straight year it may signal the end of Brown's highly successful tenure in Austin. If Texas pulls the upset, it would alter the mood around the program but still may not secure Brown's future.
While Jurich is out of the running at Texas, his football team is in all likelihood out of the running for the national title. Louisville already faced an uphill battle due to a weak schedule, but the Cardinals' improvement to 6-0 Thursday night lacked the necessary style points to win over a skeptical nation.
This was the equivalent of spilling soup on your shirt and running out of gas on a first date.
Given the gift of a Thursday night stage, Louisville needed to beat Rutgers handily and impressively. It did neither.
After racing to a 17-0 lead, Louisville went into hang-on mode for much of the rest of the night. Although the Cardinals outgained the 4-2 Scarlet Knights by 221 yards, repeated busts in scoring territory kept the game close well into the fourth quarter. There was a blocked field goal, a missed field goal and a fumble on a blind-side sack by Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, among other misfires.
"We left about 17 points on the field," Bridgewater said. "We should have easily scored 40 points."
Bridgewater said Louisville's message Thursday night was that, "We're one of the best teams in college football." That message was lost in translation.
The Cardinals' overlooked defense made a statement of its own with eight sacks and four interceptions of besieged Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova. The weaknesses Nova exposed on film were exploited in person.
"We saw on film that he was kind of scared every time he got pressured," said defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin, who had a sack and three tackles. "We knew he wasn't a good in-pocket quarterback. He watched the rush instead of watching his receivers."
But Louisville's normally fluid and explosive offense sputtered for long stretches after its fast start.
Bridgewater, whose accuracy is among his primary attributes, uncharacteristically missed several open receivers. Two of them could have been touchdowns: one to Damian Copeland on the sideline that Bridgewater threw two yards out of bounds, and one bomb to Michaelee Harris that Bridgewater overthrew by several yards.
"I know he's human," Copeland said.
Despite those misses, Bridgewater had his fourth 300-yard passing game of the season. And an off night for the junior means completing only two-thirds of his passes, instead of his season average of more than 70 percent.
Still, that might be enough to significantly hinder his Heisman candidacy. If that's grading on a high curve, well, it takes greatness to win the Heisman – and usually greatness against high-level competition.
Louisville still has not trailed this season. And a two-touchdown victory over a conference rival, when the last two meetings were decided by a total of five points, is worth embracing. But the opportunity to prove the Cardinals belong in the BCS championship game debate was lost.
"I know what the talk is going to be out there tomorrow," said center Jake Smith. "… The national perception might be different than mine, but they're not the people out there playing Rutgers. We are."
Whatever status Louisville lost in the short term, it will gain in the long term by retaining Tom Jurich as its athletic director.