Louisville head football coach Charlie Strong appeared as a guest on the Jim Rome Show this afternoon, and among the issues brought up was the ongoing rumor of the coach leaving for Arkansas after this season. The move has been suggested by everyone from hopeful UK fans to well-regarded sports media professionals like ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and CBS’ Bruce Feldman. Strong said last season after the ridiculous Texas A&M rumor that he is not going to address the media every time a rumor about him leaving surfaces. Thus, the local media has been respectful and quiet about the Arkansas murmurs, despite the anxiety amongst much of the Cardinal fan base, but Jim Rome is not the type to shy away from any questions or rumors. This is the man that asked NBA commissioner David Stern if he directly fixed the 2012 NBA Draft. He did not hold anything back in his interview with Strong either, ignoring the coach’s wishes to not be asked about coaching rumors when he asked him, “What if Arkansas calls?” Strong’s answer is something that will sit very well with Louisville fans. He responded by saying, “ You don’t just walk away when you’re building a program. I have backing here, my family loves it here, I recruited players here. I tell these kids to be here, and then I leave? I am not cut like that. I am happy where I am…The AD and President here (Louisville) gave me my first opportunity. I owe it to them to uphold (my contract).”
So there you have it, folks. Another rumor put to rest. Of course, you and I both know that this will never be put to rest until Arkansas hires a coach not named John L. Smith. Only then will the fan base be truly satisfied…momentarily, at least. That is, until the next coaching rumor surfaces and fans go into panic mode buying into every message board rumor that comes up. That is just the nature of Louisville football fans. When a fan base is stabbed in the back like it has been with John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino, they tend to get a little paranoid when they get a successful coach. There are going to be fans (several, in fact) who heard the interview or read a recap and say things like, “What would you expect him to say? That he’s going to leave?” or, “That’s what all coaches say. It’s just coach-speak.” or even, “Petrino said he was happy here and his this is where his family wanted to be, too.” First, let us address the Petrino comparison: it is a stupid one. Why? Because they are nowhere near the same men (I will use the word “man” loosely with Petrino). Petrino was/is an incredible coach, but also a snake in the grass who followed the same code of ethics and morality as a drug dealer who sets up shop outside an elementary school. Maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point. Petrino would look for any interview he could find during his four years at Louisville. Strong has shown nothing but loyalty and appreciatoin to Louisville and Tom Jurich. He was shot down so many times before and Louisville finally gave him his shot. He possesses the humble gratitude of having the opportunity to coach at Louisville while Petrino merely saw it as a stepping throne he was entitled to. Big difference, people.
As for those claiming he is just saying what any coaches would say or is using the infamous “coach-speak,” slow down for just a minute and listen to what Adam Lefkoe of WHAS has to say about that:
For those that are saying Strong’s loyalty speech is generated ”Coach Speak” look at his pressers. He can’t pull B.S. off, honest to a fault
— Adam Lefkoe (@AdamLefkoe) October 3, 2012
Lefkoe is about as balanced as they come in the local media and is not the type to spin this. No one should need Lefkoe to tell them this, though, as this has been known about Strong for some time. While it has improved since he has arrived at Louisville, his public speaking skills are not exactly dynamic. After a loss, and sometimes even after a win, he will give short, one- or two-word answers to the media post-game. In his exclusive interview with LSL, former Louisville player Darius Ashley referred to the coach as “socially awkward.” As Lefkoe said, the coach does not appear to be the type who could lie through his teeth and make it appear genuine.
Strong restructured his contract last year that will make him Louisville’s coach through June 30, 2018 and increased his salary from $1.6 million to $2.3 million. Now, if a school like South Carolina or Florida comes calling in the future, two schools Strong spent significant time coaching, fans have a right to be a little nervous. It would also help if the Big 12 came calling. However, the coach showed once again today that he values loyalty far more than many in the media, opposing fans, and even Louisville’s own fans are willing to believe. Strong has done nothing in his time here that suggests he will not be true to his word, and it appears he will continue to cause shivers down the spine of every UK fan (like this classy gentleman) for the forseeable future.
Here is a link to the interview for anyone wanting to listen.