UT search position weakens after Strong no
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Louisville head coach Charlie Strong has turned Tennessee down, according to http://VolQuest.com editor Brent Hubbs.
Louisville and the Vols were locked in a bidding war for Strong, the third-year Cardinals head coach, before Hubbs confirmed on Volquest a Sports Illustrated report that Strong had turned the Vols down.
The SI report, written by college football writer Pete Thamel, said Strong and Louisville were “finalizing a long-term extension that could be announced as early as (today).”
Thamel also wrote that the extension “ends Tennessee’s courtship of Strong, who had a brief meeting with Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek in Louisville.”
Strong met with his team Wednesday evening, in a team meeting originally scheduled to discuss Louisville’s Sugar Bowl preparations and travel plans, according to reports.
A seemingly indecisive Strong briefly attended the meeting, but dodged the Louisville media members that were camped outside the football complex.
Evening reports from Louisville said Strong didn’t tell his team his decision, but that he would meet again with them this morning.
Strong had an offer from Tennessee, but Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich reportedly worked a deal to extend Strong’s contract.
“It’s expected to be a significant commitment in both years and dollars,” Thamel wrote in the SI report, “and will put Strong in the top echelon of coaches in the ACC.”
The report backs up Jurich’s comments last month, in which he said he was willing to make Strong the highest paid coach in the country to keep him at Louisville.
Volquest reported that Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart, his wife and another Tennessee official flew to Louisville to meet with Strong and his wife Wednesday afternoon.
Hart flew to Louisville in a private jet registered to the Pilot Corporation. The jet was parked at McGhee-Tyson Airport Wednesday night.
CBS Sports college football columnist Bruce Feldman reported Wednesday morning that Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy had an offer from the Vols, but it was later reported by multiple outlets that Gundy would remain the head coach at his alma mater in Stillwater, Okla.
Strong, seemingly one of the final remaining names on Tennessee’s list of potential candidates, made $2.3 million at Louisville this year. According to Wednesday reports, Tennessee and Louisville were bidding for the coach in the range of $3.5 to $4 million.
Strong, in his third season at Louisville, his first stop as a head coach, is 24-14 and has his 10-2 Cardinals in the All State Sugar Bowl against his former team, Florida.
Strong cut his teeth in the Southeastern Conference, serving as the Gators defensive coordinator, interim head coach and assistant head coach from 2002-09.
With Strong seemingly turning down the Vols and chance to come back to the conference, the search could now turn to North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora as Tennessee regroups from two setbacks in the search that is now entering its 18th day and the critical time frame Hart outlined hours after announcing the firing of Derek Dooley.
Fedora was 8-4 this season at UNC, his first year with the Tar Heels. He led Southern Miss to a Conference USA championship in 2011.
Strong was the defensive coordinator and Fedora was the offensive coordinator on Florida’s 2004 coaching staff under head coach Ron Zook.
North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham issued a state early Wednesday he nor Fedora would “address rumors about individual jobs that are bound to happen each year.”
Fedora was 34-19 at Southern Miss, leading the team to four-straight bowl games, before being hired by North Carolina.
He led Southern Miss to a 12-2 record in 2011. Southern Miss finished 0-12 this season under head coach Ellis Johnson, who has since been fired.