The search for a new football coach at Tennessee continues, as on late Wednesday evening Louisville coach Charlie Strong turned down a job offer from the school.
SI.com’s Pete Thamel was the first to report the story. Here is an excerpt via SI.com:
Charlie Strong is staying at Louisville, according to a Louisville source. Strong received a contract offer from Tennessee on Wednesday, but declined it after pondering the decision for a few hours.
Louisville and Strong are finalizing a long-term extension that could be announced as early as Thursday. It's expected to be a significant commitment in both years and dollars and will reportedly put Strong in the top echelon of coaches in the ACC.
For Louisville, this is a grand slam, home run decision not only for the football program in the present, but in the future as well.
Since taking over for Steve Kragthorpe in 2009, Strong has turned this program from a Big East laughing stock into an emerging college football power with this past season his best season to date. In 2012, Louisville finished 10-2 in the regular season, won the Big East title and will now get set for a trip to the Sugar Bowl to take on the SEC’s Florida Gators. Assuming there are no surprise roster defections, Louisville will return 19 starters in 2013 and will likely begin the year as one of the Top 10 teams in the country. In the long-term they seem ready to compete for ACC championships once they join that conference in 2014 as well.
Of course with the good comes the bad, and with it more frustration at Tennessee. The Volunteers have been rebuffed by a number of big-time candidates in pursuit of their next head football coach, with former NFL head coach Jon Gruden and current Oklahoma State head man Mike Gundy, saying “thanks but no thanks” to job offers from the school.
And what will be interesting now, is to see where the Vols turn next. Most reports seem to indicate that North Carolina’s Larry Fedora is on Tennessee AD Dave Hart’s short list, as is current Miami head coach Al Golden. There is also a very small possibility that former Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer could get a call, although after he was fired in 2008 it is hard to imagine that the fans, school or Fulmer himself would be interested in returning to coach this team.
Another name which remains intriguing in the head coaching search remains Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Hart has repeatedly said that he is looking to bring in someone with head coaching experience to Tennessee, but with more and more candidates turning down the school, you’ve got to wonder if the school might now be interested.