Reports: UT has sights set on Charlie Strong; decision could come as early as Wednesday

Louisville head coach Charlie Strong gestures during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against  South Florida, Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Photo by Chris O'Meara, AP2011

Louisville head coach Charlie Strong gestures during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against South Florida, Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

NEW YORK — After a wild, rumor-filled day in the Big Apple, Tennessee's search for a new head coach could be on the verge of a conclusion.

Louisville coach Charlie Strong appears to have emerged as Tennessee’s top choice, and he could decide his future as early as today.

ESPN's Chris Low first reported Tuesday that Strong was the Vols' top choice, but said that no deal had been finalized. Reports from Louisville late Tuesday suggested that some believe Strong could still be persuaded to stay with the Cardinals.

The situation presents a reversal from 24 hours ago, when Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart appeared to be putting Strong on hold while pursuing other candidates.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who interviewed with Tennessee on Sunday and was considered along with Strong to be one of the Hart's top two targets, was at the center of most of Tuesday's wildest rumors.

An Arkansas newspaper and a prominent website covering the school said Gundy would soon be announced as the Razorbacks' new coach. Almost immediately, the story was retracted. Shortly after that, Arkansas announced the hiring of Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, a stunning decision that few, if any, predicted.

While some inferred from Tuesday's drama that Gundy had picked Arkansas over Tennessee but ultimately chose to remain at Oklahoma State, there was no statement from Gundy or OSU to reaffirm his commitment to the school.

Even if Gundy isn't entirely out the picture, Tennessee's immediate focus appears to have turned to Strong, a 52-year-old Arkansas native who had stints as a defensive coordinator at Florida and South Carolina before getting his first head coaching job at Louisville.

Strong, who would become Tennessee's first black head football coach and the fifth in SEC history, is 24-14 in three seasons at Louisville. The Cardinals (10-2) will represent the Big East in the Sugar Bowl, but are moving to the ACC in 2014.

Hart, who was in New York for former Vols coach Phillip Fulmer's Hall of Fame induction on Tuesday, may have met with other candidates at the Waldorf-Astoria this week, but that could not be confirmed. Reports that North Carolina coach Larry Fedora interviewed Tuesday were disputed by a UNC source, according to The News & Observer.

Strong has been under pressure at Louisville since reports of his discussions with Tennessee and Auburn surfaced. Asked if he would return to Louisville in 2013, Strong said Monday, "I will say that at the right time."

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich has said in the past that money would be no object in keeping Strong with the Cardinals, but said Tuesday that the final choice would be in Strong's hands.

"The ultimate decision will come down to does he want to be in Louisville or not?" Jurich told TV station WHAS. "Economically, fiscally, we can match anything anybody wants to do."

Strong earned $2.3 million plus bonuses in 2012. Strong's buyout, which is on a sliding scale, is reportedly in the neighborhood of $2 million.

Even if the deal was reached Tuesday, Tennessee might have wanted to delay the announcement to avoid upstaging Fulmer's Hall of Fame induction. Strong also could request time to inform his players or assistants before the news is made public.

Tennessee is seeking a replacement for Derek Dooley, who was fired Nov. 18 after three losing seasons.

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/Tennesseebeat.

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Comments » 165

eduardo writes:

Championship Coach??? Homerun hire?? BS

EglinVOL writes:

GO VOLS!!!

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

If it cant be Gruden, Strong is my next choice,go get him Hart!! oh yeah, FIRST!!!

Twinkie50 writes:

Strong will get it done on the hill within 3 years!! Love the hire...if this holds up!

RoyaltyVol writes:

Solid hire

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

OOPS THOUGHT I WAS FIRST, anyway,good hire IMO

orange_eVOLution writes:

It's not a hire. Strong has not accepted anything. We will probably still be looking after he decides to stay at Louisville.

CasuallyAvid writes:

Strong is exactly who we need. His defense and recruiting leadership + our existing offensive staff will bring immediate success. I know everyone wanted a splashy name like Gruden, but to be honest I'd rather have someone like Strong who loves the SEC, knows how to recruit, and has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove himself on a bigger stage. The Grudens of the world are just chasing the next biggest paycheck...Strong will build long term success and will be loyal for years to come. Home run hire!! Go Vols!!!

VFLVFLVFL writes:

Lets talk about gruden again. That was fun.

1986sugarbowl writes:

I hope he can recruit better for Tennessee! If he keeps the offensive coaching staff on board, we may just be OK. I still have concerns about Brey, Hunter and Paterson leaving. If that happens, the offense is looking like a 17 pnt a game team. That will not win you games in the SEC, even with a great defense.

OwensboroVol writes:

All of the research I've been able to see says this guy has been a winner every where he has been. This will be his first chance with the full support of a SEC University behind him. I see nothing except good things ahead for Tennessee.

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

in response to CasuallyAvid:

Strong is exactly who we need. His defense and recruiting leadership + our existing offensive staff will bring immediate success. I know everyone wanted a splashy name like Gruden, but to be honest I'd rather have someone like Strong who loves the SEC, knows how to recruit, and has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove himself on a bigger stage. The Grudens of the world are just chasing the next biggest paycheck...Strong will build long term success and will be loyal for years to come. Home run hire!! Go Vols!!!

Pretty much agree with ya,God think about the recruits a Gruden could have brought in here. Strong would be a great hire, hope we get him!

Razzle writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

All of the research I've been able to see says this guy has been a winner every where he has been. This will be his first chance with the full support of a SEC University behind him. I see nothing except good things ahead for Tennessee.

I agree Owens, Strong sounds like a good coach to me.

jdogg44 writes:

I'm lovin' it!!!! Charlie Strong!!! Go Big Orange!!!

Twelvethirtyone writes:

in response to JOHNWARD4EVER:

If it cant be Gruden, Strong is my next choice,go get him Hart!! oh yeah, FIRST!!!

If it is Strong, I think that's a good hire... but I still believe it is Gruden and the AD is using the media as a smokescreen. Just my opinion (and yes, I know many will think I'm crazy - maybe I am lol)... No one will know for sure until Dave Hart has a press conference to announce the new coach. :)

therightstuff writes:

Wait for the announcement Volunteers. Until Dave Hart and whoever the coach will be are standing together and announcing the agreement I just won't believe anything. Arkansas supposedly hired Gundy and Auburn Smart....neither were the one.

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

in response to Twelvethirtyone:

If it is Strong, I think that's a good hire... but I still believe it is Gruden and the AD is using the media as a smokescreen. Just my opinion (and yes, I know many will think I'm crazy - maybe I am lol)... No one will know for sure until Dave Hart has a press conference to announce the new coach. :)

EXACTLY!!!

asleep#212036 writes:

You never know how these things will turn out and it's much harder to persuade someone to leave a place they are comfortable so Louisville still has the advantage. If their AD is sincere and they can match money with UT, then the only advantage we have is that we are in the SEC and they never will be. I'm hoping that he's still unhappy about being passed over for several SEC jobs while at Florida and Louisville and will take this job, tough as it will be, to prove everybody wrong. It's possible the extreme difficulty of the task may actually be what he finds so attractive and what others find so scary. Anyway, if he stays at Louisville it's his loss and we will move on. However, short of his saying he just flat out doesn't want to leave Louisville, I can't imagine that as much as we need an established, winning guy with BCS level HC experience, that Hart will let money or anything else stand in the way of getting him to Knoxville. I guess we'll know soon enough. Go Vols!!!

slickmo writes:

in response to CasuallyAvid:

Strong is exactly who we need. His defense and recruiting leadership + our existing offensive staff will bring immediate success. I know everyone wanted a splashy name like Gruden, but to be honest I'd rather have someone like Strong who loves the SEC, knows how to recruit, and has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove himself on a bigger stage. The Grudens of the world are just chasing the next biggest paycheck...Strong will build long term success and will be loyal for years to come. Home run hire!! Go Vols!!!

his defense and his recruiting? nice research work, his recruiting is 2nd to last in the big east and his defense isnt much better. hart just screwed us and your happy about it. look up strong's stats and recruiting for yourself

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Somebody may have already said it, but I haven't seen it, so here goes the headline: Big Orange Country Strong!

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

My buddies say I'm crazy, but I still wouldn't mind Butch Davis. Just Win

alavol writes:

in response to Twelvethirtyone:

If it is Strong, I think that's a good hire... but I still believe it is Gruden and the AD is using the media as a smokescreen. Just my opinion (and yes, I know many will think I'm crazy - maybe I am lol)... No one will know for sure until Dave Hart has a press conference to announce the new coach. :)

what is it with this man-love of Gruden? Enough already!I would take Petrino any day, the man can coach and he does not have a $2MM buyout. funny, we have had the most time and are the last ones to the dance!

VFLVFLVFL writes:

in response to Twelvethirtyone:

If it is Strong, I think that's a good hire... but I still believe it is Gruden and the AD is using the media as a smokescreen. Just my opinion (and yes, I know many will think I'm crazy - maybe I am lol)... No one will know for sure until Dave Hart has a press conference to announce the new coach. :)

I hope your right.. i been lighting candles, burning incense, rubbing buddahs belly, and cracking blood filled eggs in wooden bowls to try to make this thing happen. We will see if it works. Go vols

pcshowtime writes:

his current recruiting class is ranked 7th out of 8 in the big east who says he can recruit. This is not a good hire not compared to gundy of fedora.

Do not give me that bs about class rankings do not mean anything until signing day. We are coming up on the dead period when do people think he is going to strengthen his class. bargin basement hire.

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

in response to BigVolFaninSC:

Somebody may have already said it, but I haven't seen it, so here goes the headline: Big Orange Country Strong!

Does sound pretty good!

Lvillebill writes:

in response to Twinkie50:

Strong will get it done on the hill within 3 years!! Love the hire...if this holds up!

Amen. Great hire, if true.

volfanlostnbama writes:

Yep, if he is not playing poker with Louisville AD looks like we were played once again for a raise somewhere else. Wonder who is up to bat next if this falls through by morning...all sorts of craziness, have never seen anything like this over the last 40 years of following UT.

Lvillebill writes:

in response to asleep#212036:

You never know how these things will turn out and it's much harder to persuade someone to leave a place they are comfortable so Louisville still has the advantage. If their AD is sincere and they can match money with UT, then the only advantage we have is that we are in the SEC and they never will be. I'm hoping that he's still unhappy about being passed over for several SEC jobs while at Florida and Louisville and will take this job, tough as it will be, to prove everybody wrong. It's possible the extreme difficulty of the task may actually be what he finds so attractive and what others find so scary. Anyway, if he stays at Louisville it's his loss and we will move on. However, short of his saying he just flat out doesn't want to leave Louisville, I can't imagine that as much as we need an established, winning guy with BCS level HC experience, that Hart will let money or anything else stand in the way of getting him to Knoxville. I guess we'll know soon enough. Go Vols!!!

All good points, but he's still at a basketball school, going to a basketball conference, with lackluster fan support. He'll come to TN, the SEC, and be here for a decade! Go Charlie Strong, GBO!

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

in response to pcshowtime:

his current recruiting class is ranked 7th out of 8 in the big east who says he can recruit. This is not a good hire not compared to gundy of fedora.

Do not give me that bs about class rankings do not mean anything until signing day. We are coming up on the dead period when do people think he is going to strengthen his class. bargin basement hire.

How many kids from SEC country want to play in the Big East? Got research on that?

JohnnyBeGood writes:

Hope this isn't another case of UT settling for the coaches that nobody else wants. We need a recruiter, a leader, and someone to rebuild team and fan spirit. Everyone to their own opinion, mine is this isn't the guy.

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

in response to GlennFordsFoible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Who is your hire, considering whats left, apparently you are the only intelligent person up this late at night

maciste54 writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

in response to maciste54:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

my thoughts exactly!!!!

jplemons80 writes:

Well if it is Strong, I hope you boys enjoyed the drama of this coaching search. You'll be going through it again in 3 years when he's fired and UT is looking for someone else. Strong is not the right hire

BigToe18 writes:

SORRY butch jones is the one!!!!

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to slickmo:

his defense and his recruiting? nice research work, his recruiting is 2nd to last in the big east and his defense isnt much better. hart just screwed us and your happy about it. look up strong's stats and recruiting for yourself

His offense ranked #1 in the BE in scoring this year. His defense this year and in 2010 was in the top half of the conference, and ranked #2 in 2011.

His 2011 class ranked #1 in the BE. His 2010 and 2012 classes were both #2. The current raking of the 2013 class is totally meaningless.

Nice research work.

CasuallyAvid writes:

in response to slickmo:

his defense and his recruiting? nice research work, his recruiting is 2nd to last in the big east and his defense isnt much better. hart just screwed us and your happy about it. look up strong's stats and recruiting for yourself

Why do you all keep bringing up the whole 7th of 8 stat?? It's the Big East people!! No school in their conference can pull quality talent so whether his class is #1 or #8 is a pointless argument. Listen, he built his career as an outstanding defensive mind in the SEC. He still has great relationships with SEC recruiting hotbeds, whose kids WILL commit to an SEC school, just not Louisville. He just pulled Louisville out of the toilet they had been in for 3 years before he got there (sound familiar?) and now has them in a BCS bowl. All of those things are what our program needs.

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

Love Joan Cronan,Pat Summitt,Phillip Fulmer,Johnny Majors,Gen.Neyland,etc. Hart may not be the answer!!,I also love the internet,cell phones,drive-thru's,ATMS. GET THE PICTURE!!! MOVE ON!!!

BigToe18 writes:

THIS IS THE SEC.....YOU WANT A BADMAN TO WIN AND MAKE MEN, BUTCH JONES IS THE MAN....OH MY GOODNESS OPIE WE CAN US BUTT IN A SENTENCE REALLY...CAN NOT USE THE A== WORD OH MY GOD

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to GlennFordsFoible:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Jesus, Jeff. Answer his freaking question, or STFU.

Strong's classes have ranked #1 or #2 in the Big East every year so far. The current ranking of the 2013 class is meaningless, and probably affected by uncertainty about his future at Louisville, which didn't just start this week. Everybody has figured he'd be high on a lot of AD's lists this year ever since last season.

gobigorange5090 writes:

THe Gudenites cant get over that their guy isnt coming to UT. They wont accept anyone else.

gobigorange5090 writes:

in response to slickmo:

his defense and his recruiting? nice research work, his recruiting is 2nd to last in the big east and his defense isnt much better. hart just screwed us and your happy about it. look up strong's stats and recruiting for yourself

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

in response to JOHNWARD4EVER:

Love Joan Cronan,Pat Summitt,Phillip Fulmer,Johnny Majors,Gen.Neyland,etc. Hart may not be the answer!!,I also love the internet,cell phones,drive-thru's,ATMS. GET THE PICTURE!!! MOVE ON!!!

sorry guys, this was supposed to be in reply to GlennFords only fan!

AtopTheHill06 writes:

Good Hire. Recruiting and Defense will receive huge upgrade. Will be interesting to see how many junios Strong can get to stay

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to slickmo:

his defense and his recruiting? nice research work, his recruiting is 2nd to last in the big east and his defense isnt much better. hart just screwed us and your happy about it. look up strong's stats and recruiting for yourself

Big East recruiting has no relationship to SEC recruiting as it's much harder to maintain recruiting momentum at a basketball school like Louisville from year to year. Plus, now that they are in a BCS bowl, if he stays put, the recruiting will pick up noticeably. Defense is the same problem. He took over after three consecutive losing seasons in the Big East so.... they were really bad. His first recruiting class is likely juniors or redshirt sophomores, just like UT and Dooley, meaning they still have some growing to do. He won 10 games in year three (24-13 overall) and is in the BCS. Dooley won only 10 games the last two years (15-21 overall), the multiple indignities including losses to Kentucky and Vandy, a blowout no less. If you think Strong can't coach, ask Urban Meyer about his 2 NC's and see if Strong's defense at Florida met expectations. If you think he can't recruit, check out the 33 Florida kids he talked into moving to Louisville. I'm not saying he is or isn't a home run hire but the stats you are quoting, while technically correct (for now), don't really tell the whole story when you dig a little deeper. The only home run hire was Gruden and ONLY because he would be able to instantly restock the talent cupboard. He's not interested so Strong meets all our needs even though his star doesn't shine quite as brightly just yet. For Christ's sake, we had Dooley for three years, surely you won't complain about Strong. Go Vols!!!

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to Lvillebill:

All good points, but he's still at a basketball school, going to a basketball conference, with lackluster fan support. He'll come to TN, the SEC, and be here for a decade! Go Charlie Strong, GBO!

Like you, that's exactly what I hope he's thinking. Go Vols!!!

Snapshot writes:

in response to titletownz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No one cares what you think, and why do you care?

JOHNWARD4EVER writes:

in response to asleep#212036:

Like you, that's exactly what I hope he's thinking. Go Vols!!!

MAKE A STATEMENT!! GBO!! VFL!!

trl_x writes:

What a surprise some are already slamming the possible hire.

Good grief.

For those who question his defensive credentials consider he was DC at South Carolina with Holtz. Anybody remember how physical those defenses were?

And of course there's that little thing about him being the Gators DC when they won TWO national championships. Not even the great John Chavis did that.

I don't know if he'll be the guy but he has the pedigree. Anyone that discounts any of the facts above simply have no idea what they're talking about.

If he is the guy, give him a chance.

At least until after the Florida game...

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