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Strong juggling Florida, Louisville jobs

NEW ORLEANS -- When Urban Meyer announced on Saturday he would be stepping down from Florida, there was some thought maybe Charlie Strong made a bad decision.

Strong was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for the Gators before taking the head coaching job at Louisville. Would he have been given a shot to take over Florida with Meyer gone?

It's all moot now, as Meyer changed his mind and will now take a leave of absence. Strong says he never thought about trying to wiggle out of his Louisville agreement after the news broke this weekend.

"You never know if I stayed here what would have happened," he said. "So I just don't look at it like that."

Strong is happy to be a head coach, even if he's not quite done with his other job. During the day, he coaches the Florida defense at practice and then watches film. When he has free time at night, he calls recruits for Louisville. (It's a dead period in recruiting, which means coaches can contact a prospect by phone once a week.) He's also in the process of putting together his staff.

"I've got to get Louisville going," he said.

Strong will hold a big recruiting weekend at Louisville beginning Jan. 8, and he says he hopes to have about 70 percent of his staff in place by then. He has already hired Mike Sanford as offensive coordinator. Strong will work with the defense but says he will hire a defensive coordinator.

He has already had some early success on the recruiting trail, and with Florida's coaching situation in flux there may be an opportunity to poach some prospects the Gators were in on. But Strong said he'll stay away from any Florida commitments.

"In this state, you know what guys are Florida guys, which are Florida State guys or Miami guys," he said. "But there are still a lot of guys out there who haven't made a decision or are really kind of sitting on the fence. So those are the guys you go recruit.

"And then we say, 'Look, we're in a BCS conference.' And if you look at it, Florida is playing Cincinnati. So if you want to go play in a BCS game, you're going to end up playing a Florida or an Alabama or USC. So that's what you try to recruit to."

Strong said he felt like he owed it to Florida to coach in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and that Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich wanted him to stay on for this game. It won't hurt that Strong is getting an up-close look at the two-time defending champions from the Big East, his new league.

"They have a scheme and they have a program that's been set in place," he said. "I'm fortunate to go coach in that league. You look at West Virginia, South Florida, Connecticut ... there are some teams in that league that are really good. For them to go undefeated in that league speaks volumes."