When the Vegas odds came out that Charlie Strong was the 2-1 favorite to land the head coaching job at Texas, I laughed. I said there was no way that would happen. He may leave someday, but Texas is not the place for him. He had turned down Tennessee, we were heading into the ACC, and we had all the momentum in the world. Charlie wasn’t going anywhere…
Well Charlie went. I was shocked, mad, upset, disappointed, felt betrayed once again by a head coach that said he wanted to be here. I wrote all about how I felt soon after it happened. Soon after, Bobby Petrino was hired, and a new chapter was beginning. We would head into the ACC with Bobby, a fresh start for everyone. Things still stung a little bit, because I was just curious how Strong would have done with his guys heading into the new league.
More than 6 months later, things are a little easier for me now. I am 100% excited for Bobby Petrino to lead us into the ACC and do some damage. And on the Charlie Strong side of things, I am fine with his decision. He took one of the top jobs in the country. Louisville is not a traditional powerhouse or football school, and you could tell that’s what he wanted. So he got it, and it was too good to pass up. What made it hurt was buying into the thought that we had found “our guy.” He was going to stay here forever and build us up because he loved it here.
Coaches leave. It happens. He wasn’t born and raised in Louisville, so his roots aren’t here. After being passed over time and time again for head coaching jobs, he had parlayed his first job into a shot at the Texas job in only 4 years. Pretty hard to say no to that.
I had been thinking about this for a while, but reading this new Sports Illustrated piece on him made me finally type it all out. It reminded me that regardless of how you think he handled the whole situation, he really isn’t a bad guy and the players always seem to love playing for him. It also talks about how hard he had it growing up. So to now have the opportunity to be the head coach at a place like Texas is pretty special. Also with coaches all over the place on ESPN lately, I saw clips from a Texas practice the other day. They showed Strong and Vance Bedford talking on the practice field, and I was just like “Man those guys were great here.” But then I remembered what situation we are in now, and I thought “We are fine, so good luck to them.”
I know that some people won’t even acknowledge that Charlie Strong was here. They will say “Charlie who?” And you are entitled to feel however you want to and stay mad. But the UofL football program had pretty much hit rock bottom. Strong came in and saved it. Without that, we probably aren’t in the ACC right now. Even with Tom Jurich and every other sport being good, the ACC doesn’t take a school with bad football. So if you want to take the naive approach and act like he doesn’t exist, go ahead. My attitude now is kind of like “Thanks Charlie, Bobby will take it from here.”
That leads me to my next thought. The fact that it is Bobby Petrino taking over helps ease the mind a little bit and get over it. I know we are in good hands and will pick up right where we left off. If we got a coach that wasn’t very good and we struggled and had a very bad season, and then Texas had a great season, that would hurt. Obviously, we don’t know how this season will play out for either team, but I believe we are fine for the foreseeable future. Knowing that, I do hope that Charlie Strong does well at Texas. I didn’t think I would be able to say that back in January. I won’t be bitter about it and hope that he fails. I also want him to shove it in all the big booster’s faces at Texas that don’t think he can do it, especially Red McCombs, a “mega-booster” who said that Strong would make “a great position coach, maybe coordinator” but not a head coach.
Again, people may not want to hear a thing about Charlie Strong anymore. And if you are one of those people, then you probably stopped reading this long ago anyway. But years from now when you look back on UofL football coaches in our history, Strong is a major one. He took over a bad program and helped get us into a great conference. Imagine being Cincinnati or UConn right now and having games this season (and the next few seasons at least) against Tulane, SMU, Memphis….
I will be one of those fans that keeps up with the scoreboard when Texas plays this season. I won’t be really cheering hard either way, just keeping up and hoping they do well. I am comfortable with Louisville’s situation, so that allows me to now be OK with what Charlie Strong did. I was mad at the decision he made at first, but I have gotten over it.
Like I said before, thank you Charlie. Bobby will take it from here.