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The Louisville Cardinals Football team represents the University of Louisville in the sport of American football. The Cardinals compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the American Athletic Conference. The team is currently coached by Charlie Strong.
The University of Louisville began playing football in 1912 where the Cardinals went 3-1. Louisville had played several years at club level and teams were mostly composed with medical students. Beginning in 1914 the Cardinals joined the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) and they would participate in Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC). Due to financial difficulty Louisville didn't not participate 1917–1921 seasons.
When the Cardinals did rejoin football they came back into the SIAA which was going through reorganization losing most major state schools and thus became a small college conference. The Cardinals would face mostly Kentucky state schools such as Eastern Kentucky, Murray State, Western Kentucky, and Morehead State, along with private state schools like Centre, Transylvania, Kentucky Wesleyan, and Georgetown College.
Tom King would be the first coach to attempt to build a program at Louisville. King played college football at Notre Dame (1915–1916) under Coach Palmer and future legend Knute Rockne. King was an undersized end for the Irish and he was known for his athleticism and speed, before he came to the football team for punt returns he was on the track team and basketball team where he was named captain in 1916. His experience at Notre Dame gave him ideas on developing a spread wing offensive so his undersized players could be better utilized. He often recruited players like him have the ability to out run their opponent.
His first standout out was Fred Koster, at only 160 pounds and not big enough to play at Male High School, Koster would draw national attention to Louisville 1926 by setting the scoreboard on fire with racking up 68 points in his first 2 games of the season. In only 6 games Koster would score 18 touchdowns, 10 extra points, and 2 field goals and would go on to finish second in scoring for college football with 124 points. Koster was an all-around athlete and was a letterman 16 times, 4 times in each baseball, basketball, football, and track. Koster was a standout forward for the basketball team leading the team in scoring 2 years. In baseball Koster would go on to play for 10 years professionally one being for the Phillies and would see time with the Louisville Colonels and St. Paul's Saints in the American Association.
Tom King had the program going in the right direction until he decided to play Detroit for $10,000. Knute Rockne who was head coach at Notre Dame and a fellow grad called up King and ask if he would take the Detroit game because Rockne felt his team wasn't up to it. When King asked what was in it for Louisville Rockne replied $10,000, which was a substantial sum of money in 1928 for an athletics department. Louisville started the season with a 72-0 win over Eastern Kentucky but when they traveled to Detroit they were hammered with injuries wouldn't win another game or score for the rest of the season, as Detroit would go undefeated and claim a share of the national title.