Charlie Strong’s Future
By Jacob Shoor
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Charlie Strong has long waited for an opportunity to coach in the SEC, but with Louisville's move to the ACC, will he stay with the Cardinals?
Back in 2009, when many people were wandering why Charlie Strong had yet to recieve a head coaching job, an Alabama booster friend of mine quipped something about the only problem keeping Strong from being a head coach was the racing in his heart to be a head coach in the SEC.
By that time, I had heard, once in regard to an ACC opening and twice in regard to non-BCS league schools in the South, that preliminary talks with Strong had petered out rather quickly because it became clear that Strong's desire to be an SEC head coach was all powerful.
If you were the new AD at, say, BC, would you give your head coaching job to a long-time SEC coordinator widely known to be pining for an SEC head coaching gig? If you gave him the job and he left for the SEC after three years or so, wouldn't you feel that you had allowed that coach to walk over your school to fulfill his dream?
Louisville AD Tom Jurich took a chance on Strong when the Cardinals football program badly needed a boost, and it has paid off. The Cards are 10-2 and headed to a BCS bowl, but the real contest is probably underway. Three SEC jobs are open. If Strong has not gotten over his SEC-fixation, he is going to be positioning himself to land one of them. After all, how many times per decade are there three open SEC jobs where all three could become national title contenders within three years?
Tennessee averages more than 100,000 fans per game and has the second-most football history in the SEC. Those of you who know only the past dozen years or so will just have to take my word for it. Auburn won the national title two years ago and is perfectly situated to land major recruits from GA and FL every year. Arkansas might have been the third-best team in the country last year, and with Texas A&M in the SEC, will once again be able to recruit tons of Lone Star talent. Plus, Strong is an Arkansan by birth and education, right through his playing days at Central Arkansas.
If Strong still has SEC-eyes, any of those three jobs would meet his craving.
Louisville's move to the ACC means the Cards job has become more prestigious. That would be true even if Notre Dame were not a half member that will play all full members once every three years. Papa John's Cardinals Stadium is going to host Clemson and Florida State every other year and the Irish once every six years. Syracuse, which knocked the Cards from the undefeated ranks this year and tied for the Big East crown, will remain an annual foe. Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Pitt will rotate onto the schedule.
The planned expansion of the stadium from 55,000 to approximately 60,000 should proceed ahead of schedule.
And to top it off, the 2012 Cards team is very young, dominated by sophomores with a slew of freshmen playing major minutes. Louisville will be the nearly unanimous favorite to win the Big East in 2013, probably with a Top 15 preseason ranking. If everybody returns in 2014, Louisville in its first ACC campaign should be preseason Top 10 with a team overflowing with seniors and juniors that could play itself into the playoffs.
Decisions, decisions. Does Charlie Strong cash in his chips and go whole hog for his SEC dream, or does he remain in Louisville and work toward making the Cards an ACC and even national title contender?
One thing about which I am certain: if Strong leaves, Jurich will be prepared to replace him, and some lucky man is going to waltz into a great situation.