SOUTH BEND — After his college football playing days were over, Chip Long sent his resume to every NCAA Division-I school in hopes of getting a position on a football coaching staff. Only one called him back: Louisville.
On Monday, Long gets a chance to coach against the school that gave him his first big break when the No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to Louisville to take on the Cardinals.
Long, who’s in his third season as the Irish’s offensive coordinator, recalls the day he received the call from Louisville about a position opening — and the important life milestone he missed to take the job.
“Went out and interviewed with (then-Louisville) Coach (Bobby) Petrino, and two days later I got a call that told me that he needed me up there that day,” Long said. “Unfortunately, I was graduating (from the University of North Alabama) that day, so I missed my graduation.”
Long spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons as a graduate assistant at Louisville, working primarily with wide receivers and quarterbacks. The Birmingham, Ala., native was there for one of the more successful seasons in program history, as the Cardinals went 12-1 and won the 2006 Orange Bowl, 24-13, over Wake Forest. The Cardinals finished No. 5 in the final Associated Press rankings.
Petrino left to coach the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons after the 2006 season. Long spent another season at Louisville in 2007 before leaving for a graduate assistant position at Arkansas, where he was reunited with Petrino in 2008.
“It was a great experience being surrounded by so many good offensive minds (at Louisville),” Long said. “(Current Purdue head coach) Jeff Brohm was on that staff … it was a good way to be indoctrinated into the profession.”
Long has slowly moved his way up the coaching ladder. After two more years in Arkansas, he coached tight ends at Illinois for two seasons. He then spent four years at Arizona State, serving as the team’s recruiting coordinator, tight ends coach and offensive special teams coordinator.
He finally had a chance to be an offensive coordinator in 2016 at Memphis. Long only spent one season there before being hired at Notre Dame in 2017.
The things Long learned at Louisville helped shape his coaching style.
“When I first went to Arizona State, we incorporated a lot of the schematic offense from (Petrino) and what we had done in the past,” Long said. “The up-tempo style that kind of morphed together at Arizona State and Memphis and kind of what it is today, a lot of it is from that mindset.”
The third-year offensive coordinator still stays in touch with Petrino occasionally. Petrino was fired from Louisville last year after going 2-10. It was Petrino’s second stint coaching the Cardinals.
“(Petrino) checks in on me every once in a while, and I talk to him every once in a while,” Long said. “He asks about, you know, (my wife and I) recently had a daughter, so he’s always asking about her and what’s going on. Just all of the guys from that staff, I keep in touch with pretty good.”
This week will be the first time Long coaches against a school he used to work for. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly joked Wednesday he and Long haven’t talked much this week about his offensive coordinator’s return to where his coaching career started.
“We don’t wax philosophical about Chip’s stops along the way. I guess if we go back to North Alabama, maybe we’ll talk about that,” Kelly quipped. “Chip is not a big sentimentalist.”
Instead, Kelly and Long have decided to focus on something else: winning a football game.
“(Long) wants to take care of the football, run the football and score points,” Kelly said. “We talk more about that more than anything else.”
Notre Dame will get its first chance to score points Monday in Louisville.