Time spent at a university, with coaches, associates, friends and fans all pulling toward common goals should never be taken lightly and should mean a great deal to all individuals involved.
Fortunately at the University of Louisville, we have an individual like Charlie Strong, a college football coach, a person who takes these values seriously. A person one can trust when he states that he appreciates his athletic director or embraces the school and the community. Rare, indeed, in the college football world, which has been turned upside down in recent years by continuing scandal, recruiting violations, conference realignment scrambling and greed.
Especially at U of L, which has seen more than its share of football coaches using their position primarily to better themselves, using the program as a stepping stone, merely a means to achieve what they perceive to be bigger and better things. One coach, in particular, was set to take the program to a higher level but put himself first, moving to an SEC school, failing to appreciate what he had here.
Despite Bobby Petrino’s success, using people and schools that way rarely works out as planned. Just ask Howard Schnellenberger, fired after one season at Oklahoma, or John L. Smith, who, after four seasons at Michigan State and latching on with Petrino for a couple of years at Arkansas, has landed at Weber State.
Having pursued a head coaching job for 26 years, Charlie Strong was finally given that opportunity at U of L on Dec. 7, 2009. At one point in that introductory press conference, he came close to admitting his frustration, almost wondering out loud if it would ever happen. With his wife and two daughters standing nearby, Strong expressed his appreciation to Tom Jurich, athletic director, and James Ramsey, U of L president, for making his dream come true. Then came the choking up, the near tears, several seconds of silence, and then a broad smile.
Strong knew that Louisville was taking a chance with him, but that comes with any new coach. He also knew that other schools had turned him down for other reasons. But it was U of L that was putting its program in his hands. He was grateful, and he wasn’t going to forget.
The success he’s had during his first two seasons is nothing less than phenomenal, indicating that Charlie Strong is an exceptional head coach. He’s the right man for the job in many more ways than winning on the field, a role model in a day when good role models are difficult to find. We believe Strong recognizes that he has a chance to build an elite program.
We also believe through his actions and continued commitment to U of L that he has an opportunity to create a lasting legacy for himself in a way that few football coaches would recognize, much less undertake, others choosing to rely on an existing brand and tradition to exalt themselves. We’ve dreamed of having the football program in the hands of someone like Charlie Strong for decades, and we believe we have him.