So how will Charlie Strong respond when offers start coming in from other college football programs?
His name has already been mentioned in connection with vacancies at Penn State, Texas A&M and Mississippi. Openings also exist at Illinois, Arizona State and UCLA. Charlie Strong will be getting some feelers, if he hasn’t already.
University of Louisville fans have been through this before, much too often, usually coming out on the losing end. Howard Schnellenberger, John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino, coaches who said they loved this community, a great place to raise a family, each of them quickly making decisions to leave when so-called opportunity knocked for them.
Greg Scruggs: "It's not like this is a stop-and-go for anything. Coach Strong wants to make this his empire. Coach Strong wants his mark to be on this university."
Football coaches, it seems pretty obvious, are driven by a powerful urge to be members of the old guard, to be included in college football’s inner circle, the predictable, the traditional powers, largely state schools. They relish the speculation, the attention, the recognition, and all the dollars that go with the adulation. While they may enjoy their current positions, they rarely are able to resist the appeal of schools with better established tradition.
They all want to be the next Knute Rockne, whether they’ve seen old movies or not, all except Schnelly, who is happy being Schnelly, having created his own legendery mystique.
The opportunity of taking a program they have nurtured and developed to another level, possibly creating another national power, proving themselves capable of competing and winning anywhere never seems to occur to them. The idea of remaining loyal to a non-traditional power that took a chance on them doesn’t hold any sway of the typical coach. They will swear their undying love to a school and a community until they sign the new contract that takes them elsewhere.
Is Charlie Strong any different? He’s obviously a good teacher and an exceptional individual, qualities that Tom Jurich recognized early on by renegotiating the terms of his contract, raising his annual base pay from $1.6 million to $2.3 million and extending his contract by seven years. We believe Jurich would be willing to go back to the well in an effort to hold on to Strong, if he is given the opportunity.
Some want to believe that Strong has a special bond with U of L, which gave him his first head coaching opportunity after many other schools has chosen to bypass him. He was, indeed, grateful. That was Charlie Strong choking up, shedding real tears when he was announced as the new UofL coach in December 9, 2009 at the Brown & Williamson Club.
Defensive end Greg Scruggs was there that day, celebrating the new coach, and he was there a month or so ago when Jurich announced the pay increase and the contract extension, telling ESPN: “This is what Coach Strong wants to build up,” Scruggs said. “It’s not like this is a stop-and-go for anything. Coach Strong wants to make this his empire. Coach Strong wants his mark to be on this university.”
Charlie Strong, however, hails from the old guard, having tasted success at the highest level of the college football world and, if he is like the average Joe in the coaching fraternity, he most likely will take advantage of the opportunity to prove that he belongs at a perceived higher echelon.
We would like to believe he is different, and will likely know for certain very soon.