Louisville enters ACC with vacancy

Updated: January 6, 2014, 10:09 AM ET
By Max Olson | ESPN.com

Charlie Strong's move from Louisville to Texas comes with the full recommendation of his former boss.

In a Sunday news conference, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said Strong exceeded every expectation in his four years as head coach but could not turn down a chance to lead the Longhorns.

"I told him I gave him an A-plus-plus for the way he changed the culture here," Jurich said, "not only from the football standpoint of wins and losses but the type of kids he recruited, the type of coaching staff he assembled, what they did academically, we had very few problems off the field, I was very impressed with that.

"In my next hire, my ambition and intentions are to find somebody that will follow up and build on what Charlie's built already and only keep this going. We're so excited to move into the ACC. I want to make sure we keep that momentum going."

Strong wasn't going to take the job without first meeting face-to-face with Jurich, who flew home from a Colorado vacation on Saturday to convince his head coach to stay.

Jurich offered to meet any financial needs Strong had with a new deal, but the coach's move was not about finances. Going into their one-hour meeting in Strong's home late Saturday night, his mind was already made up.

"Texas, that's a premier, premier job," Jurich said. "So let's call it what it is. Let's don't try and hide from it. It's a premier job in a fabulous city and a great opportunity for him. Like I said, I just wish him the best."

In his four season at Louisville, Strong went 37-15 with two conference titles and an Allstate Sugar Bowl victory over No. 3 Florida last year.

Jurich offered him the job in Dec. 2009 without an interview, making Strong a head coach for the first time in his 27-year career. He's proud not only of Strong's record but how he achieved it.

"He did it the right way," Jurich said. "His results were fantastic, but he did it the right way. He didn't cut any corners."

Jurich said he expects Strong to take "a majority" of his Louisville coaching staff to Austin, Texas, but those plans aren't official yet.

"They have a lot of loyalty to Charlie, and that's his right," he said. "I definitely won't interfere with that."

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Timothy D. EasleyCharlie Strong took over a Louisville program coming off three straight non-winning seasons. The Cardinals have gone 37-15 in four years since.

Strong's buyout with Louisville was not discussed during Saturday's meeting, but Jurich expects the terms to be met. His contract calls for a buyout of $4.375 million in 2014.

Jurich said he's spent "four snowy days" working on his short list while on vacation in Colorado and has contacted ADs but no candidates thus far. While he didn't set a timeline, he hopes to find Strong's replacement in the next week.

When asked specifically if former Louisville coach and Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino would be a candidate, Jurich said he'll consider everybody for the opening.

"I want somebody that will look at this job now as a true destination job," Jurich said.

Some students have started campaigning for Petrino's return, hanging a banner from the Student Activities Center on Saturday, USA Today reported. Petrino had a 41-9 record over four seasons as coach of the Cardinals.

Strong previously had two stints as an assistant at Florida, first under Steve Spurrier and then as defensive coordinator for Urban Meyer's two national championship teams.

Strong is Texas' first black head football coach and inherits a program aching to return to its place among the nation's elite programs.

Brown's Longhorns won the 2005 season national championship and returned to the national championship game after the 2009 season. But the Longhorns fell to 5-7 in 2010 and have lost at least four games each of the past three seasons.

That drop-off, including an 18-17 mark in the Big 12 in the past four seasons, frustrated Texas fans, who demand much more from the wealthiest athletic program in the country, which sits in the middle of the most fertile high school recruiting grounds in the country.

Max Olson | email

Big 12 reporter

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