Quite possibly Charlie Strong can’t put the rumors aside just yet because he doesn’t know whether he has everything he wants. When asked Monday if he would return to the University of Louisville next season, he replied, “I will say that at the right time.”
“The right time” presumably being when he knows for certain he has a firm job offer. If he weren’t considering another venue, Strong could end all the speculation right now, allowing the focus to shift to where belongs, on the Sugar Bowl.
Tennessee, Auburn and Arkansas [scratch the latter two, just filled] are looking for new coaches. Possibly none of them have decided that Charlie Strong is exactly the right fit, conceivably concluding that the job he has done at Louisville was as much a function of scheduling as it was coaching expertise. If he’s not already discussing the fine print, Strong is out on a shaky limb, having fallen for the media line that he’s a great coach and a hot commodity
The buzz around Louisville Monday evening was that Strong and Tennessee have agreed to terms. Maybe so, maybe not. As we’ve learned in college football, there are no certainties until someone steps in front of a microphone and says this is what’s going to happen.
Strong appears to be offering reasons to the UofL fan base as to why he would consider other jobs, using of all things, an analogy of University of Kentucky fans vs. UofL fans. A major blunder on his part, insulting a fan base that practically idolizes him. Big mistake. He will never live it down, whether he stays or goes.
Charlie doesn’t have the benefit of watching UofL fan interest blossom over the years, despite all the coaching migration. Average attendance has grown from 26,474 in 1988 to an impressive 49,848 this past season. Talk about an upward trajectory. But no, what Strong remembers is an early Saturday game, two days after Thanksgiving, students home for the weekend, the busiest travel weekend of the year, and a week after a humiliating blowout at Syracuse. He’s grumbling about few fans showing at 9:30 for Card March and “only” 45,618 fans at Papa John’s.
Unfortunately, history doesn’t seem have much meaning for some people these days. If Strong can’t appreciate where UofL has come from and where it could go with a coach who is as committed to the program as the fan base is committed to him, then maybe he’s not the right person for the job.
If he goes, he could overcome the odds and win a national championship. More than likely he is fired at an SEC school after two or three seasons. He’s going to get millions of dollars in either instance, the typical up and comer just wanting to prove himself. If Strong wants to prove himself, his accomplishments would be a lot more impressive at the University of Louisville.
The least likely scenario, it would seem, is that Strong is using the coaching controversy to improve his position at UofL, wanting to call Tom Jurich on his promise to match any offer. TJ has been reaffirming that for weeks, at one point confiding that he really believes Charlie Strong gets it, that UofL is a special place to coach.