Originally posted on Know It All Football  |  Last updated 4/19/13
They wanted him. As the Tennessee Volunteer football program continued to struggle to find its footing since the parting of ways with Phillip Fulmer, they thought they had the answer to their problems. Charlie Strong was a guy who grew up in SEC Country. He went to college in SEC Country. He earned his coaching stripes in SEC Country. Surely he would jump at the chance to leave what some considered a second-tier job at Louisville to become the head coach at one of the SEC’s historically dominant and prestigious programs. Wrong. After being courted by the Volunteers for a couple of weeks in late 2012, Charlie Strong said no to Tennessee and signed a deal to stay at Louisville through 2020. He followed that up by leading his Louisville team to a lopsided victory over the Florida Gators, another darling of the SEC. Charlie Strong’s actions have spoken volumes. He plans on building an empire in Louisville. He’ll get a nice jump on that building process in 2013. For staters, he’ll have Teddy Bridgewater back for another year under center. Many expect him to make a run for the Heisman as well the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Move over, Johnny Football. Make room for Teddy Ballgame 2.0. Bridgewater is one of 15 returning starters for the Cardinals, a team who will face arguably the easiest schedule of any BCS Conference team in the nation. Louisville’s last year in the Big East (which will chance names sometime before May 2), will be highlighted by games against Rutgers and South Florida. Their toughest matchup of the season could come by way of in-state rival Kentucky — a perennial SEC doormat. They’ll be favored in every game they play in 2013. What this likely means for Strong, Bridgewater and the Cardinals is another trip to a BCS game — possibly the BCS Championship game if they run the table. Imagine how much weight back-to-back BCS Bowl appearances can carry as Louisville gets set to join the ACC in 2014 while recruiting right on the Big Ten/SEC border. If strong can sustain his recent success, Louisville will likely become one of the ACC’s premier football programs relatively quickly, keeping the them in the national eye and competing for conference titles annually. With the new playoff system on the horizon, winning your conference will be as important as it’s ever been in order to have a chance to play for a national title. I predict that Strong will soon field a team full of lineman from Big Ten country and skill players from SEC country — all with the goal of kicking down the door of the ACC and planting his flag in the center of the room. Charlie Strong is a smart guy, perhaps even a good chess player who has the ability to see what both he and his opponent’s options will be several moves ahead. There was a reason he shunned the SEC, a conference that helped him cut his coaching teeth, for what many believed to be less greener pastures. He’s building something in Louisville and positioning his creation to adapt and succeed in an ever-changing college football landscape. They wanted Charlie Strong to rebuild a broken machine. He turned them down to go build his own. BY J.P. SCOTT ON APRIL 20, 2013 Reads: (14)
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