John Adams: Charlie Strong's strengths match up with UT's weaknesses

John Adams
Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, right, shouts during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida International in Miami, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012. Louisville defeated FIU 28-21. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Photo by Lynne Sladky, AP2012

Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, right, shouts during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida International in Miami, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012. Louisville defeated FIU 28-21. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

December can be a crazy month for college football coaches. Charlie Strong knows that as well as anyone.

He's a successful coach. He's also black.

The combination of success and race once made him one of the most sought-after interviews in the country at this time of year. His dilemma: How real was the interest?

Interviewing a black candidate isn't just a matter of political correctness. Schools are actually graded by the Black Coaches Association, whose reason for being is to improve job opportunities for minority coaches.

But the BCA's good intentions actually can work to the disadvantage of a black coach as successful as Strong, whose name has been mentioned prominently with the coaching vacancy at Tennessee. When he was a defensive coordinator at Florida, he was an obvious coach for a school to interview — just to cover itself with the BCA.

Now, after just winning a Big East Conference championship at Louisville, Strong is more than an appropriate interview. He's a viable candidate for more prestigious jobs.

When his name first came up in conjunction with Tennessee, I dismissed it — mainly because Strong has only three years of head-coaching experience. But after examining his resume more closely and speaking with people who know him, I can understand why Tennessee's interest would extend beyond the interview stage.

Strong has had three consecutive winning seasons at Louisville, no small feat given the state of the program when he took charge. He didn't have the advantage of picking up where Bobby Petrino left off — in a BCS bowl. He followed Steve Kragthorpe, who went 6-6, 5-7 and 4-8 in his three seasons.

Don't judge Strong based solely on what he did at Louisville, though. Consider his accomplishments at Florida, where he was a defensive coordinator under both Ron Zook and Urban Meyer.

People familiar with his work there tout him as a great recruiter and motivator, as well as having a strong locker room presence. Those same people believe Tim Tebow wasn't Florida's only huge loss after the 2009 season. That's also when Strong left for Louisville. The Gators then plummeted from 13-1 to 8-5.

Strong's supposed strengths stack up neatly alongside UT's deficiencies.

He's a defensive coach. UT just fielded the worst defense in school history.

His ability to recruit talent-rich Florida hasn't been impaired by his move to Louisville, which has 33 Florida players on its roster. A paucity of in-state major-college prospects has long forced UT to rely on regional and national recruiting.

He has a reputation for setting high standards and enforcing them. UT has a recent track record of coddling star players.

One more thing: After three consecutive losing seasons and with the daunting schedules to come, UT offers a huge challenge. That might appeal to a coach who had to wait so long for a head-coaching job and who wants to show more than one school what they missed.

Louisville's football prominence has been enhanced by its decision to leave the Big East for the ACC. But it's still a basketball school in a basketball conference.

You want to prove yourself as a college football coach? Go to the SEC.

Better yet, go to a program as down as Tennessee's.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 146

RoyaltyVol writes:

Strong will be a good hire however we need a better DC than what Louisville has. I say hire Ted Roof with Penn State and pay him about 900,000 a year to get him here.

VFLVFLVFL writes:

Wow. JA finally wrote a descent article. Not 100% negative and taking jabs at Tennessee? Wait a minute, is that you behind keyboard Dave Hart? Kudo JA. For once u didnt tick me off

volspaws writes:

Say, John......what can you find out for us about the White Coaches Association?

nocleats writes:

If he brings Larry Slade back to Knoxville, with his DLine Coach and his Wide Reciever Coach and Keeps Jay Graham, could be a Great Hire... Hope we dont Have to wait till after his bowl game though, I would hate to surrender Dec in recruiting.

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

At least I've heard of Charlie Strong. Can't say that about our last hire.

thevoice writes:

Charlie Strong + Jim Chaney = decent team.

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say he can recruit in Florida! Witch Doctor hope the press conf. is soon.
Bones never lie.

Orangeblood13 writes:

Arkansas just trumped us in the hire if this is true
Everyone out there and we get Charlie strong ?

VOLtage writes:

One of your best articles I enjoyed it.

hazard writes:

Arkansas trumped us....REALLY?

budd#207344 writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

Arkansas just trumped us in the hire if this is true
Everyone out there and we get Charlie strong ?

You would rather have a 4-4 big ten coach from Wisc. than Charlie Strong? Are you sure you are on the right sight?

6972 writes:

Till the dotted line is signed....JA's guess is no better than yours or mine. If it turns out to be a bad hire....the Titanic is going to hit the bottom. Of course, it can't get too much worse.

atnvol#283282 writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

Arkansas just trumped us in the hire if this is true
Everyone out there and we get Charlie strong ?

Who in the heck is "Everyone"....TN is no longer a "pie" job. Lots of baggage that has to be overcome with the TN job. You better hope like heck it works out with any hire TN can make at this point in its history.

eb502us#225637 writes:

As someone who follows Louisville football (my father is an alum), Louisville's defense couldn't stop anyone this year. And let's not forget, Strong is in his 3rd yr.

If not for a Heisman type QB and a capable offensive coordinator, he's not nearly the candidate everyone is making him out to be. I think we can do much better.

iowa_vol writes:

Arkansas trumped us? You are sadly mistaken. Bielema is an a-hole. He was as a player at Iowa and contiunues it to this day. I would be embarrassed if he were at Tennessee. He will see that the SEC is much, much different than the Big 10 and his name recognition is nothing in the SEC. Charlie Strong would be a GREAT hire. I hope that we get him...green, black, red...once at UT, it's all ORANGE!!

jcalhoun4 writes:

in response to volspaws:

Say, John......what can you find out for us about the White Coaches Association?

How about every college football that is white? Which in division 1 I think is more than 100 out of 120 teams. It's like when I was a student at Tennessee talking about HBCU's and somebody asked me if there were any historically white colleges and universities and I said, "you're at one."

VolFanUSNavy writes:

Hire Charlie Strong, keep OL and RB coach and get rid of everyone else. Actually, Coiner is a good coach too.

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Colliervol writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

Arkansas just trumped us in the hire if this is true
Everyone out there and we get Charlie strong ?

You might want to check on that. I'd say that about half of Razorback nation is not happy tonight.

txvolsfan writes:

would be solid hire maybe not the wow factor of a Gruden but a solid coach and if he is successful this would be a destination job for him and not having to look again for several years!!!
I would support him
GO VOLS
TXVOLSFAN

DebKY writes:

Born into the Vol family, and being an avid Cardinal fan, I am so torn between the two!
I proudly wear the ORANGE and RED in this blue state.
Go VOLS and GO CARDS!

govolsdid writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say he can recruit in Florida! Witch Doctor hope the press conf. is soon.
Bones never lie.

I have been wondering when you would let us know how the "bones" felt about a hire and I agree and think Strong would do us at UT proud.

Colliervol writes:

in response to iowa_vol:

Arkansas trumped us? You are sadly mistaken. Bielema is an a-hole. He was as a player at Iowa and contiunues it to this day. I would be embarrassed if he were at Tennessee. He will see that the SEC is much, much different than the Big 10 and his name recognition is nothing in the SEC. Charlie Strong would be a GREAT hire. I hope that we get him...green, black, red...once at UT, it's all ORANGE!!

I personally liked it when he said last year that "the Big 10 did not want to be anything like the SEC". Now here he is. Funny how things work out.

volspaws writes:

in response to jcalhoun4:

How about every college football that is white? Which in division 1 I think is more than 100 out of 120 teams. It's like when I was a student at Tennessee talking about HBCU's and somebody asked me if there were any historically white colleges and universities and I said, "you're at one."

Wow.....bet you earned a lot of respect for that brilliant comment.....way to stick it to whitey, tough guy.....college footballs are white? the ones i see on tv are brown with white stripes around the ends

KTownCubbie writes:

Charlie Strong is black? Wow, thanks for pointing that out, John. I'll have to tell people; we need to get the word out about this. Its crucial that we make race a forefront concern in this hire. Otherwise we might be tempted to open articles with actual information about his coaching qualifications rather than beginning with an arbitrary human characteristic, making an underhanded jab at equal opportunity politics, then getting around to talking about why he's a good fit at UT.

SaneVolFan writes:

in response to volspaws:

Say, John......what can you find out for us about the White Coaches Association?

Congratulations! Worst post I have seen on pretty much any subject.

BobbyJones writes:

in response to volthrunthru#658770:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You need to go back to Tuscaloosa.

govolsdid writes:

in response to volthrunthru#658770:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I am WHITE and do not care what color you are BUT if anyone of us is playing racist my vote goes to YOU!!!!! I do not care what color OUR Coach is as long as we runs a clean ship and WINS BABY GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!!!!!!!

BMSvol writes:

Whoever it is, he better be good after the Arkansas slam dunk.

TKO writes:

You have to be STRONG to be a Volunteer!
Albeit Strong or whomever, may the very best
await the Vol Nation!

Colliervol writes:

in response to volthrunthru#658770:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If she said that, maybe she was just telling the truth. Given the good old boy network that pervades sports, I don't doubt what she said. And to say that Strong is no more qualified than CDD is a ridiculous statement. Did CDD ever get to a BCS bowl? Was he ever a coordinator of any kind, much less a successful one? And if Strong is a good recruiter because kids "identify" with him, well isn't that the object?

laraccoon writes:

Hart makes so much less then all the other players in this equation. odd aint it ?

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

CS denied he even interviewed with UT, So, how's he atop the list of candidates? Hart won't make a decision until he's interviewed everyone interested in the position. Besides, our big money boosters will have to endorse this hire first.

ljlongtimevolfan writes:

If Charlie Strong is the best coach UT can hire just shut the program down.

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to atnvol#283282:

Who in the heck is "Everyone"....TN is no longer a "pie" job. Lots of baggage that has to be overcome with the TN job. You better hope like heck it works out with any hire TN can make at this point in its history.

Your a bigger idiot than you sound
Out history tells us otherwise
You trolls I swear

florida-volfan writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

Arkansas just trumped us in the hire if this is true
Everyone out there and we get Charlie strong ?

Dont know about that one....Wisconsin was projected to have a very good year, but it didnt pan out. Looks to me that Bielema's run has run out up there..... and he jumped ship after a not so great year

LrgOrngFan writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

Arkansas just trumped us in the hire if this is true
Everyone out there and we get Charlie strong ?

You really think Bret freaking Bielema is a bigger name than Strong? Just because he coached in the weak Big 10 doesn't mean he's a better coach. Patterson, Peterson, Gundy, and god forbid Fedora or Golden aren't any better either.

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to budd#207344:

You would rather have a 4-4 big ten coach from Wisc. than Charlie Strong? Are you sure you are on the right sight?

Just my opinion , that's okay to post here right?
Strong is winning in a weak big east, really weak right now
Just think we could have made this hire at anytime

I don't know maybe you guys that are rulers of
The blogs know better

NeilwzRight writes:

It's time to make another run at Chris Petersen. The timing couldn't be better.

DingoVol writes:

I would take Charlie Strong any day over the Arkansas "slam dunk". Not buying it. Charlie Strong or Larry Fedora can both coach. Ran it by my Bull Gator buddy today and he said we can't go wrong with either choice. He wished we would get Gundy because he doesn't want to see either one at UT and neither does any of his Gator friends.

lastlap writes:

It's like winning the presser. Who gives a rats arse what he says in the presser? Just bleed Big Orange and Win Baby. Same goes for the race card. Just win Win Baby!!!

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to florida-volfan:

Dont know about that one....Wisconsin was projected to have a very good year, but it didnt pan out. Looks to me that Bielema's run has run out up there..... and he jumped ship after a not so great year

Hope your right

TheEffect writes:

I thought Tennessee was going to break the bank and get an elite coach? Charlie Strong?

Dooley was found at Big Lots. Now Tennessee is shopping at Walmart for coaches. More medicrity for Vol fans.

Prostar writes:

I prefer Strong over Gundy. Defensive minded coach over and offensive minded one. Look at the points we put up against South Carolina and Georgia and Miss. State. Offense was not our problem, keeping the opposition from scoring was, which is why we need a defensive mindset. If he can get 33 Florida players up to Louisville, how many can he get to Knoxville with what we have to offer facilities-wise? We've had our Willie Mack Garza episode so we don't need Trooper Taylor and his baggage. I don't see the Bielema hiring by Arky as a big deal. If he was upset by Urbie violating the "Gentlemen's Agreement" about commits to any particular school, he ain't seen nothin' yet. I'm more surprised that Arky didn't go after Malzahn. He was a high school coach in Arkansas and went back to Arky. State this year. I just think his spread offense style would play better than the power run game that Bielema favors. Also, they've (Wisconsin) had to rely on out-of-the-program quarterbacks the last couple of years rather than developing them in-house. I say bring on Charlie Strong. Louisville on game-day can't compare to Knoxville.

1vavolfan writes:

in response to volthrunthru#658770:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What she is referring to is true, so call it using the race card or what have you. This was discussed when Turner Gill was a hot coaching prospect and he got overlooked by top jobs. Black women resent black men who marry white women. When a black coach comes to a black kids home and talks to his black mom she may be inclined to send the kid elsewhere because of this. She is not talking about only being discriminated against for being a mixed couple but also how it can be seen as a drawback in recruiting.

MooseandSquirrelVol writes:

in response to volthrunthru#658770:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"She has said in interviews that, were they not a bi-racial couple, his career would be further along."

c. How well will a bi-racial couple go in some key circles.

------------------------------

And point c doesn't justify what she said?

RoyaltyVol writes:

in response to VolFanUSNavy:

Hire Charlie Strong, keep OL and RB coach and get rid of everyone else. Actually, Coiner is a good coach too.

I agree, Coiner did do a good job, our special teams were improved, minus a few problems with Palardy

DingoVol writes:

I think 80% of the "Vol Fans" on this site would not be happy unless we got Gruden, Saben, or Belicheck. Not going to happen. If a coach read any of the dummies on this site, they would never come here, but thankfully all of us are not represented by the few that find a way to post. We aren't getting the big name that many want. We will get a good coach that has the potential to turn this program into a winner relatively quickly. We are not a winner right now. We are a used to be pretty good, under-performing program that most of the kids we are recruiting have never seen succeed. Current high school kids were 4-5 years old when we won the "Thank you Clint Stoener for Fumbling" National Championship. I love the Vols and I am a realist. I want to compete or be in the hunt for the SEC East. Hopefully have a shot at an SEC title eventually. If we get Strong or Fedora, we are much better off than we have been for the last 4 years. The cupbard is not bare. We have some good players and a couple great ones. Let's support the new coach and enjoy the turnaround.

pcshowtime writes:

Ohio St On probation hires urban myer. Florida hires muschamp (at the time he was a name)

We are going to hire a man who lost to syracuse 26-45 then follow up the next week with a loss to uconn.

He is going to huddle up and try to play power football against bama a florida good luck. Please vols fans wake up we are not bama or LSU we can not line up and out muscle these teams. You want to beat them you do like texas AM or Auburn with cam newton.

How can you hire this guy over gundy. Gundy was one freaking game out of the national championship game last year. Gundy has 8 yrs head coaching experience. The big 12 while it is not the SEC is a heck of a lot better than the big east.
It is obvious to me UT is not ready to play big boy football again.
Please say no charlie strong.

rb4346 writes:

Adams, why did the race card have to come in to play. As long as he can be the coach we need to win I don't care if he is a polka-dot color.

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