John Clay: Pros and cons of Louisville's Strong leaving for Texas

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 4, 2014 

Cue The Clash. Should he stay? Or should he go? He's got to let us know. But when?

Louisville football coach Charlie Strong has an offer to be the Texas football coach. Salary is reportedly $25 million over five years. Premature reports Friday night said that Strong was changing his address to Austin.

At a 9 a.m. staff meeting Saturday, Strong told assistants he was undecided. Reports surfaced of negotiation sticking points. The status of assistant coach Clint Hurtt is one. He faces an NCAA show-cause order concerning future employment. Strong's more than $4.3 million buyout could be another matter of contention.

Or maybe Strong is truly torn. Texas has obvious advantages, but Louisville is not without its charm.

Staying at Louisville, the pros:

• Tom Jurich leads the list. After Strong was passed over by numerous schools, the Louisville athletics director gave the Florida defensive coordinator his first chance to run a program. Jurich backed Hurtt after the assistant was ruled to have committed NCAA violations at Miami. Many regard Jurich as the best in the business. Bosses are important.

• Louisville is moving to the ACC. No more Big East. No more American Athletic Conference. Florida State is on future schedules. Notre Dame. Clemson. U of L has worked hard to gain membership in a top conference. Why bail on that now?

Staying at Louisville, the cons:

• No Teddy Bridgewater. The star quarterback is departing for the NFL Draft where he could be the No. 1 pick. Louisville has a promising replacement in sophomore-to-be Will Gardner, but quarterbacks like Bridgewater don't come around that often.

• Basketball is No. 1. Louisville football has made great strides from Howard Schnellenberger to John L. Smith to Bobby Petrino to Strong. But Strong has complained about empty seats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. A poor home schedule played a role in that this past season. But basketball rules.

Going to Texas, the pros:

• Money, money and more money. The school is silly with cash. Louisville isn't likely to match Texas' contract offer and can't match the Longhorns' facilities and statewide pull. They do everything big in Texas, including donations.

• Texas recruiting. The state is big and so is the recruiting area. Mack Brown made his name by cherry-picking the state's top talent and there is no reason Strong can't do the same. Basketball plays second fiddle.

Going to Texas, the cons:

• The media monster. Strong isn't crazy about dealing with things outside of football. That means media. That means boosters. Texas has its own television network and a slew of media obligations. It also has backs that need patting, hands that need greasing — not Strong's comfort zone.

• Expectations. Mack Brown won 158 games in 16 seasons as the Texas coach. He went to two BCS title games. He won the 2005 title game. After three years of 8-5, 9-4 and 8-5 he was pushed out the door in Austin. Remember the creed from Friday Night Lights? Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. Better come in with your eyes wide open.

Even if Strong might struggle early with the off-the-field requirements, he would be a good on-the-field hire. He would bring bloody-your-nose football to a program lacking in that area. Strong is about toughness and intensity. For a Longhorns comeback, that's a good place to start.

Would Strong's departure help Kentucky football? Perhaps. The man was 37-15 in four years, including 23-3 his last two. He was 3-1 against UK. After Rich Brooks dominated Steve Kragthorpe, Strong dominated Joker Phillips.

Louisville has been down this path before, however. Jurich has hired four football coaches. He swung and missed with Kragthorpe. He hit homers with John L. Smith, Bobby Petrino and Strong. That's a pretty good batting average.

Whether Strong stays or goes, Louisville will be fine.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. E-mail: jclay@herald-leader.com. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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