NEW ORLEANS -- The moment Charlie Strong decided he wasn't taking his talents to Knoxville, Tenn., many people around the college football world were stunned by his decision to spurn the SEC and remain at Louisville.
He'd be making more money and would have a heck of a better chance at competing for a national championship in the sport's best conference.
But Strong, who has now completed three seasons as the Cardinals' head coach, chose a different path.
Loyalties aside, Strong wanted to win big games and take Louisville on a special journey. Part of him stayed for moments like Wednesday, when he was showered with red and black confetti before hoisting the Allstate Sugar Bowl trophy over his head and roaring like a lion toward a throng of Louisville fans after defeating No. 3 Florida, 33-23.
But he also did it because he wanted to go the distance for his players, who pushed him just as much as he pushed them. "It's not so much me. … I told our players I love them so much and I respect them so much and the reason why I did not go take that job, because I know I have a football team that is behind me 100 percent," Strong said.
"I'm in the position I'm in right now because of what they did, and I told them that. I said, 'Guys, people are calling me just because of what you've done -- nothing I've done.'"
For Edward Aschoff's full column, click here.