Strong's Texas interview has U of L fans, media stirring


by Joe Arnold

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 11:44 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 3 at 11:42 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Despite Texas media reports that University of Louisville football coach Charlie Strong emerged favorably from an interview for the University of Texas head coaching vacancy, U of L fans are expressing confidence that Strong will remain in Louisville.

"It seems to be all about the money," said John Lennie as he shopped for Cardinal Merchandise at the Neutral Zone store in Middletown.  "But I hope he stays.  It's been fabulous for our team."

"I'm not concerned," added Nedry Vega-Velez. "I think he's a stand up guy.  He's got the program going in the right direction."

The fans were clearly listening to Strong's message 13 months ago when he announced his decision to remain at Louisville after interviewing for the top football job at Tennessee.

"You can buy a person a lot but you can't buy his heart," Strong quoted inspirational speaker Stephen Covey on December 6, 2012.  "His heart is where his enthusiasm is, where his loyalty is.  My enthusiasm and heart are with the University of Louisville."

After Strong rejected Tennessee, Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich said he was ready to compete for Strong when other teams inevitably came calling.

"If that's what we have to do, we will fight everybody tooth and nail to keep him," Jurich pledged in 2012.

Unlike Strong's 2012 interview with Tennessee, the Texas interview happened without Jurich's permission.

"The Texas AD did call Tom on Tuesday and Tom returned his call within 20 minutes of that call," explained Louisville Sports Information Director Kenny Klein tells WHAS11, "but there was no message or conversation at that time about granting permission for an interview."

"Tom returned his call, received no call back and there was no request for permission in the original message," Klein added. 

"Neither Coach Strong or Tom Jurich are speaking about the matter," he said.

The developments have dominated the airwaves on Louisville sports radio.

"Turning down Tennessee is one thing," said ESPN 680 morning show host Drew Deener, "but Texas is a different animal."

"I will be surprised if they offer him," Deener added.  "But if they do, I think he will take them up on it."

"I think it's 50/50," countered fellow radio host Bob Valvano.  "If he gets offered it, I think he will really consider it but I don't think it's a lock that he's going to go."

The Texas position is considered one of, if not the top college football job.

"It's one of those jobs that if they call, you don't at least take the phone call," Valvano said.

"I don't think Charlie is a very good fit at Texas," Deener said.  "I think Charlie has the benefit here of having a guy in Tom Jurich who lets him just coach, and 'Listen, just be the coach.'  And in Texas, you're not just the coach, that's just one on a list of ten things. you're almost the governor, an ambassador."

"You've got to be the guy in front of the Longhorn Network," Deener continued.  "I think his best fit is here but it's a lot of money and it's one of the premiere programs in the country."

Deener cautioned that even if Strong and Texas do not reach an agreement, the Louisville coach could still be lured by other programs.

"It could always lead to dominoes," Deener said.  "If the Florida State job is open, then who hires that job?"

Penn State's head coaching slot is also newly vacant Deener added.

"What makes it frustrating for fans is that everybody has reasons to not be public with what is going on," Valvano said.

Strong does not want to create insecurity among recruits, Texas does not want to embarrassed by Strong rejecting an offer and Jurich is "very respectful" of the process, Valvano explained.

Meanwhile, U of L fans are anxiously optimistic.

"I would be surprised if he left," Vega-Velez said.

Among the Charlie Strong t-shirts and other Cardinal merchandise at the Neutral Zone, elementary school student Brandon Osborne clutched his U of L gear, as U of L fans try to cling to their head coach.

"I think that he should stay with Louisville," Osborne said.  "I think he is a pretty good coach, I guess."