I have mixed feelings about this. I’m sorry to see him go, but I’m frankly not convinced he’s the guy who can build a truly lasting winner (a la Nick Saban) at either Louisville or Texas. He certainly turned the program around after Steve Kragthorpe failed to build on Bobby Petrino‘s success. He is perhaps one of the premier defensive coaches and recruiters in the game (or he managed to identify and hire the right staff). This showed in Louisville’s defensive success this season and in the clearly improved quality of recruits now at the school compared to five years ago.
But I have wondered during his tenure about his skill at in-game coaching. His clock management has been inconsistent at times, and I’ve seen him revert to the “prevent” defense prematurely. He invariably switched running backs after one had clearly shown a hot hand to another who then failed to get established. I’ve also thought that he should have given his backup quarterback game experience during some games this year (as Petrino used to with Brian Brohm). And too often he allowed someone to call running plays in the red zone when he had perhaps the best goal line QB-WR in college football (Bridgewater and Parker) available. Of course, he gets big bucks to coach football teams; I’m just a bookie’s son who knows a lot about the game.
Big-time college football is of course about money, and no one can blame the man for taking on this challenge and a much bigger paycheck, though Louisville is arguably the true test with respect to achieving a national championship, and my alma mater paid Mr. Strong pretty well ($3.7M/year). And by all reports he appears to have handled things the right way, with the possible exception of whether he informed his players. And this is the sad thing about these kinds of moves: the effect on the kids whose performances really made his career success and huge pay possible but get little recompense themselves and who depended on Coach Strong as a mentor and teacher. I suspect he promised some or all of them that he would remain at Louisville for some time – he said as much after he flirted with Tennessee last year – and now he’s left them in the lurch.
Fortunately, Louisville has perhaps the best athletic director in the country and I expect him to replace Coach Strong in good order with someone who can keep the program on an upward path. Perhaps it’s best anyway to begin anew as Louisville transitions to the ACC. We’ll know soon enough.