Sources: Strong gets new L’ville deal
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville coach Charlie Strong will receive a new eight-year contract through 2020 after turning down an offer from Tennessee, sources told ESPN.
“I knew this would be a big opportunity,” Strong said during a press conference at the Cardinals’ football stadium. “It was the best decision to stay here, continue to build a program and fulfill our dreams on the football field and in the classroom.”
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said Strong didn’t use the Tennessee offer as leverage for a new deal and that they only began taking about it an hour before Thursday’s news conference.
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The No. 22 Cardinals (10-2) won a share of the Big East Conference championship and a BCS berth in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, where they’ll face Florida.
Strong’s name had surfaced for openings at Tennessee and Auburn in the past week. The Tennessee offer was worth $3.5 million annually, sources said.
“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.
After failing to make a deal with Strong, Mike Gundy and Larry Fedora, Tennessee is now considering Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, among others, a source said Thursday.
Speculation linking Strong 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 has had four coaching stints with the Gators between 1983 and 2009 with other stops at Texas AM, Southern Illinois, Ole Miss, Notre Dame 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, Louisville 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.
Information from ESPN.com’s Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Brett McMurphy | email
College football reporter