Strong chooses Louisville over Tennessee to ‘finish the job’
Posted: Friday, December 7, 2012 10:47 am
By GARY GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Charlie Strong is staying at Louisville.
The football coach said he turned down an offer from Tennessee and will stay with the Cardinals.
“It became clear to me that it was best to stay in Louisville,” Strong said at a press conference at the stadium on Thursday morning. “We haven’t finished the job yet.”
The No. 22 Cardinals (10-2) won a share of the Big East Conference championship and a BCS berth in the Sugar Bowl, where they’ll face Florida.
A press conference with Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich was scheduled for later today.
Strong’s name had surfaced for openings at Tennessee and Auburn in the past week.
“They made an offer and I said I’d think about it and talk about it with my family,” he said about the Tennessee offer that came Tuesday.
Speculation linking him to the Auburn job triggered a denial as he prepared the Cardinals for their title-deciding game at Rutgers last Thursday.
Auburn hired former Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn on Tuesday, a day after Strong was mentioned as Tennessee’s top target. On Monday, Strong held a bizarre news conference in which he managed to stir up more speculation about his future.
He also criticized the Cardinals’ fan base for their attendance at football games.
Strong, 52, came to Louisville after serving as defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer on Florida’s 2006 and 2008 national championship teams. He coached four times with the Gators between 1983 and 2009 and worked elsewhere in the Southeastern Conference at Mississippi and South Carolina.
Though coaching Tennessee would have helped Strong realize a dream of coaching in the SEC, he decided to stay at the school that gave him his first head coaching job. Strong is 24-14 in three seasons at Louisville.
“You look at those jobs, but I have a great job here,” Strong said. “I have a great person that I work for, and I think that’s what it comes down to. When you talk to an athletic director it’s more about not only your job, but it’s about your family and caring about your family. When they ask about your daughters, that’s when you know they care more about you as a person.”
All along, Jurich expressed confidence in keeping Strong. He vowed to beat any offer made to his coach. He gave Strong a seven-year contract last year that paid him $2.3 million per season.
Strong will carry the Cardinals into their move to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014.
Last week’s move from the Big East to the ACC was considered a major factor in his decision to remain with the program.
Strong would have become Tennessee’s first black head football coach and the fifth in SEC history.
According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel UT athletic director David Hart, who was in New York for former Vols coach Phillip Fulmer’s Hall of Fame induction on Tuesday, may have met with other candidates at the Waldorf-Astoria this week, but that could not be confirmed.
Reports that North Carolina coach Larry Fedora interviewed Tuesday were disputed by a UNC source, according to The News-Observer.
Tennessee is seeking a replacement for Derek Dooley, who was fired Nov. 18 after three losing seasons.
The school has reportedly pursued former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders head coach and current ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden and current Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy for the vacancy.
The next UT coach will be the school’s 23rd and the third since Fulmer was fired in 2008.
Published in The Messenger 12.6.12