AP Source: Louisville expected to hire Strong
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – Louisville is expected to hire Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong as its new football coach, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.
Strong would replace Steve Kragthorpe, who was fired on Nov. 28 following three disappointing seasons.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal is not yet final. The hiring must be approved by the Louisville Athletic Association’s board of directors, which is scheduled to meet Wednesday.
Strong and Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich spoke several times this week about the opening. The two met in Florida on Sunday and talked by phone on Monday. Jurich also received a phone call last week from former NFL coach Tony Dungy in support of Strong.
If hired Strong, 49, will be tasked with returning the Cardinals to prominence. Louisville went just 15-21 during Kragthorpe’s three-year tenure, including a 4-8 mark this season.
His hire would likely energize a fan base that grew disenchanted with Kragthorpe as the program steadily slid from the heights of 2006, when the Cardinals won the Big East and the Orange Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 6 in the final poll.
A crowd of just over 23,000 turned out for last month’s season finale against Rutgers, a decline the program knows must stop with Cardinal Stadium expanding to 55,000 seats in time for next year’s opener against rival Kentucky.
Strong has become a hot commodity in recent years while molding the Gators into one of the nation’s top defenses under head coach Urban Meyer. Florida ranked in the top 20 nationally in 10 statistical categories last season while winning its second national title in three years.
The Gators have been just as good this fall, finishing third in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring defense and fourth in total defense this season as Florida won its first 12 games before falling to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game last Saturday.
He’ll have plenty of work to do at Louisville, where the defense’s precipitous fall has fueled the Cardinals’ descent into the Big East cellar.
Louisville ranked 67th nationally in both total defense and scoring defense this year, significant improvements from 2007 and 2008 but still only good enough for seventh in the eight-team Big East.
Unlike Kragthorpe’s hire, which came less than 48 hours after Bobby Petrino opted to leave for the NFL, Jurich took his time while searching for the coach charged with bringing Louisville back to national relevance.
Though Strong was considered Jurich’s top choice all along, Louisville waited until Florida was done with its regular season before reaching out. Jurich also spoke briefly with former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer about the position last week.
Strong’s deep recruiting ties to the South would be welcomed at Louisville. Kragthorpe and his staff largely abandoned recruiting in the area in favor of looking for players from the west and southwest.
Strong was in Little Rock, Ark., on Tuesday during the presentation of the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant. Strong was one of five finalists for the award, which went to Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.