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.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

25 thoughts on “Charlie Strong crawls out on a shaky coaching limb”
  1. Here is what I’ve noticed:

    There is definitely some posturing going on between him and Jurich. My guess is there is some behind close doors negotiating on a raise and neither one wants to show any weakness at this moment.

    Charlie has had to deal with rumors that he was leaving every single year, and maybe he is getting a little frustrated with this coming up every single year around this time, when he’s trying to plan for a bowl game. He very well could be entertaining offers from other big schools, and has not made the decision on if he is leaving or not. He may be trying to do the classy thing and wait till after the bowl game to make a decision with his family about if he indeed wants to leave or stay here forever.

    His comment about little sister in Lexington’s fans was probably an attempt to motivate a fan base the same way he motivates a football team, which sometimes doesn’t always come off the way you desire.

    “Hey if your most hated rival can show up why can’t you? Show them you are the better fan base…” etc.

    I’d say all this Charlie bashing isn’t helping either. I remember being at the Liberty Bowl when Auburn was trying to steal Petrino away, and the way the fans attacked him even though he ended up staying. Coaches know that they have a good gig here, and it’s a safe gig. The best thing we can do as a fan base is support the coach and the team in the BCS bowl game, and hopefully that will show him how dedicated the fans are to him and the team.

    1. Some very good insights, Dave, and some I hadn’t considered. If he stays, fans will probably forgive him for the UK insult but never forget it. Coaches can’t treat fans like they do football players. Fans will remember when times get tough, as they invariably do.

      Best thing would have been to upfront. Nothing wrong with considering other possibilities but he lost his handbook in addressing the issue.

      1. See this is what print media is missing! Solid discussion with the target audience over an issue! And good luck having that on the CJ’s webpage. Charlie you and your website are truly a Louisville Jewel.

    2. They only thing I think you say, that is a little misleading, is that fans attacked Petrino after he didn’t end up going to Auburn.

      If you remember correctly, he lied about ever interviewing for the Auburn job and then in the end they didn’t offer the job to him.

      He didn’t turn the Auburn job down, it was never offered. Had it been I am sure he would have left.

      1. I was at the Liberty Bowl when people were booing him in the stands cause they thought he was going, not after he turned it down publicly. We were all a little sore after the way John L. left so that was on everyone’s hearts and minds.

  2. I think there should be a cap on how much money a coach can make, and this happens every time we we are trying to get ready for a bowl game, the talk gets started that the coach is leaving. He a coach can not stand firm behind what he says then he or she is not much of a person.

    1. If he leaves it not because of money though, so the salary cap wont really matter. Remember we have the money to pay him and his staff whatever he wants in relation to other programs across the country.

  3. If he decides to leave so be it. Sorry but I don’t want some half a** coach that doesn’t want to be here! And comparing us to UK fans is a joke! How many fans were at the last UK football game?! GO Cards!

    1. Thanks, Rebecca. Charlie apparently was following the “announced” attendance figures for UK football games and missed the actual figures, which were pathetic.

  4. At the end of the day, I am, and always will be, a U of L fan – not a Charlie Strong fan. This isn’t to say that I don’t think he is a good coach, but my loyalty lies with the team, the athletic program, the school, the community. At this point it doesn’t seem like his heart is into our program, and what I really want is a coach that is. That is the sort of coach that builds a legacy, and that legacy will slowly but surely attract the fan base that Strong apparently believes materializes overnight.

    In my mind these three years have proven that Strong is a competent recruiter, and a pretty good coach. But is he a great coach? How can we know in three years? What would the last two seasons have been without Teddy? Would he have coached Stein to greatness? What would it have been if we had a more challenging OOC schedule? Why didn’t the defense seem to consistently improve? Proving greatness as a coach just takes more than three seasons.

    If Strong wants to measure U of L football fans, I wish he would revisit the N.Carolina game in his memory. I thought the last few minutes of that game hinged quite a bit on the overwhelming (extremely loud) support of the fans. As for BBN, I honestly can’t fairly assess how wonderful their football fans are. I have never met one.

    1. That North Carolina game was about as good as it gets, Sal. Just a sample of what UofL can be when it begins play in the Atlantic Coast Conference on a regular basis. I’ve never met a “wonderful” UK football fan either. Three-quarters of them are only interested in basketball.

  5. STOP all of this negative speculation… Charlie Strong is our coach right now and he’s already helped our program and community in too many ways to count. He’s trying to get our team ready for the Sugar Bowl and out recruiting at the same time. Charlie has challenged us to change the mentality surrounding the football program, so quit being a bunch of stepping stone fans and give him your support. You’re not going to force him to give you any guarantees, quit trying to run him off !!!! Charlie wants to be here !!!

    1. Charlie could end all the negative speculation by reaffirming his commitment to UofL and sparing us the drama and the criticism. I don’t know of anyone trying to run him off.

    2. I have been a U of L fan since I was a kid. I am tired of people & coaches that don’t do what they say they are going to do. If Charlie really waned to be here, then he would not even entertain the idea of another coaching job. He would honor his contract and at the end of that contract he would more than likely be taken care of well on the next one, if he would keep going in the direction the programis heading.

      Get off your soap box and understand that there is not one coach that honors their contract. It is all about the money. There is not honor or loyality among football coaches. They are all whores to the almighty dollar and they all would look you in the eye and lie right to your face. It is about time Tom gets someone in house that is good and can stick around longer than 3 years.

      Charlie is just another coaching whore. I hope that he does go to Tenn. He’ll be fired in 2 years b/c their program stinks, then he’ll crying again that no one ever gives him a chance. How about some loyality to the school that did just that Charlie?! Fullfill your obligations and contract that you have at U of L.

  6. Hey, Charlie has done a very good job of leading the kids, and moving our program forward. If he can get a better job, he’s earned it. No sour grapes here. I would take U of L football fans to task though because I sit in my seat and look across the stadium and see lots of empty seats. You, the fans, need to show up! You need to be there cheering whoever we are playing. We have a long way to go to become the Big Red Nation.

  7. According to Charlie, passion from the fans has frustrated him more than anything (his words).

    On the UK comment, he knew what he was saying…he started the comment with “not to throw any salt in the wound…”

    Young program, young fan base? “I don’t buy that. I just think when you’re passionate about something you go support it.” I guess Charlie isn’t passionate about U of L because he’s obviously NOT supporting the school, fans or team with his comments.

    Sounds like he’s “All About Charlie” and trying to make excuses for when he takes the UT or Auburn job.

    Louisville hired the 49-year-old assistant when no one else did. Sounds like All About Charlie is getting the big head.

    I was at the UCONN game cheering hard the whole way – seemed to me the fans had more interest and passion than the coaches – weren’t they watching Teddy run for his life the entire game only to get beat up and hurt?? Where’s Charlie’s passion? Give me a break.

    I say bring on Mark Helfrich, Oregon’s offensive coordinator, and move this program foward.

    All this All About Charlie talk is a distraction and annoying. Shut up and take an SEC job…or focus on the Sugar Bowl and the Cards future. Either way, “I don’t care what you think you’re entitled to.” – Col Jessup.

    CHARLIE: “Well, you want the passion from the fans and you want the support. And I tell you what, this has frustrated me more than anything — and we have great fans here — but when we came here on Senior Day, the Connecticut game, we get off the bus and I don’t care what time Card March is, if it is 8:00 in the morning then it is 8:00 in the morning; but no one came out and for it to be Senior Day, — we had a few people out there, I mean we had the real fans out there and I’m not trying to say we didn’t have anyone but you would like to see more fans come out. And I know I heard it’s new — well, it’s not new. But I mean, when you support your program, you support your program. You want that. And we have fans that do support their program — and not to throw any salt on the wound but kentucky (fans) can travel as the big blue nation and they go take over. We should have that same passion here and go take over when we go travel. And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. But someone told me we were such a young program and we have a young fan base and that doesn’t happen. But I don’t buy that. I just think that when you are passionate about something, you go support it. And it doesn’t matter who we play — if it’s Connecticut, if it’s Pittsburgh, if it’s Syracuse, you come to support your team. You come to watch Teddy play. You come to watch Stein play. You come to watch Preston Brown play. You come to support your team. It doesn’t matter who is on the other side. Just look at the other conferences and I don’t think it is any different. Those fans come out to support their program not who they are playing against.”

  8. Another person commented (Sal) and touched on something that runs kind of parallel to my way of thinking. Since pretty much Strong’s first or second game as coach here, I started questioning his actual coaching ability. X’s & O’s? Sorry, but based on Charlie’s sometimes strategy of coaching by the seat of his pants, I’ve come to believe that although he is a great recruiter, I don’t believe Strong is a great coach. The initial, constant attempts this year at 2 point conversions, when it was obvious to everyone but Charlie that it wasn’t working anymore, the oftentimes dangerous attempts (most of which ended in failures) at first downs when it would be the prudent, no, the smart thing to either punt or kick the field goal and take the three, the fake punts that were poor choices of options at best, etc., etc.

    I like Charlie, but lets not give him more credit then he’s due. He coaches football like he played football, with a lot of emotion, and in my opinion that’s a mistake that great coaches don’t make. He’s been very capable of getting good talent here, and between that and the schedule he played this year and some other factors that I don’t believe revolved around his great coaching ability, he’s 10-2, he’s going to the Sugar Bowl, and he has a job paying him a bunch of $$$, that he can probably keep as long as he wants. Let’s see if he proves my assessment of his ability wrong (emotion rules over intellect), let’s see if he stays!

    1. Great comments, Duane. My sentiments exactly. Charlie’s philosophy has been pretty basic, “Go out there and make a play,” “Make a tackle” He has never impressed me as a teacher, either. Reportedly Tom has narrowed his choices down to two people — Bobby Petrino and another individual that fans will like immediately.

  9. One comment that Charlie Strong made that makes me think that he is staying was that he stated (paraphrasing) there must be a culture at the University of Louisville where this program is not thru destination but a ending one.

    Among all else said, this leads me to believe that this is a media ploy to drum up more free air time mentioning the University of Louisville. It very well may allow his contract to be renegotiated in the process, oh well, so be it. More free air time is a plus in recruiting and anything else to further the brand.

    Last, it would seem odd to leave an experienced 11-1 or even a 12-0 team behind for next year. Because this team is so young, if strong left, they’d follow with slew of transfer requests. I just don’t see that happening. If it does, Jurich better bring in someone with just as much hype than Strong. That’s a fact. Maybe bring in Butch Jones or like one of the other commenters stated, bring Petrino back, even though I don’t think that will ever happen.

    Just my 2 cents.

  10. One thing to understand about coaches is that they will never care about the program they are coaching as much as the fans do. Charlie Strong has no connections to the Louisville program other than it is his job right now and he wants it to succeed due to his direction. Right now he has other options and will leave if he feels that those options will allow him to meet his career aspirations, whatever they might be. What he was saying about the fans is that at schools like Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, etc, it does not matter if it was a holiday weekend at 9:00 a.m. Those schools would have had thousands at their respective player marches. The crowds at the games would have been rabid, assuming they had 9-2 records. I have always heard that fans at SEC and other schools in small towns get big crowds because there is nothing else to do. I tend to lean that they get large crowds because there is nothing else the fans want to do. That is what Strong wants for Louisville. He is saying that if Louisville wants to keep their coaches they have to be a respected program and rapid fan support is a major part of that. Louisville has made great strides in attendance, but has a way to go before we have a fan base that attends games because it is the only thing they want to do.

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