A two-time conference coach of the year and the architect of a revitalized University of Louisville program that has posted at least 11 wins in each of the last two seasons, Charlie Strong has been named the 29th head football coach at The University of Texas, Men's Athletics Director Steve Patterson announced Sunday. Strong will be introduced at a Monday news conference.
"I'm excited and my family is excited to have the chance to lead one of the premier football programs in the country," Strong said. "Texas is one of those places that is always on your radar and a program anyone would dream of being a part of because you have a chance to compete on a national level every year. It's special because it has such great history, pride, tradition and passion for football."
Strong spent the past four seasons as Louisville head coach, re-energizing a program that was coming off back-to-back losing seasons (5-7 in 2008, 4-8 in 2009) and a 15-21 record in the three years prior to his arrival. He amassed a 37-15 record, a pair of Big East Conference Championships (2011, 2012) and was named Big East Coach of the Year in both 2010 and 2012. He also led UofL to four straight bowl game appearances (3-1 record), including a victory over No. 4 Florida in the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl. Strong is the only coach in Louisville history to win three bowl games and prior to his arrival, the Cards had won just six bowl games in the program's 100-year history.
Over the past two years, Louisville has been one of the nation's winningest programs, posting a 23-3 record (88.5 percent) and registering bowl victories in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. The Cardinals' 11-plus win seasons in 2012 and 2013 were the fourth and fifth in school history and the first back to back. Louisville is also on pace to finish among the nation's top 15 for a school-record second straight year. It will be just the Cardinals' ninth top-25 finish in school history.
"To follow a future Hall of Fame coach like Mack Brown, who built a program that had great success and a reputation of doing it with class and integrity, is extra special," Strong said. "The National Championship, BCS Bowl wins and all he accomplished in 16 years built on the Longhorn legacy and makes it such an exciting place to be.
"Coach Brown developed such a strong bond with his players, the lettermen, community and high school coaches in this state, and that's something I hope to build on. He made everyone feel at home. I had the opportunity to speak at the High School Coaches Clinic in Austin a few years ago and Coach Brown introduced Coach (Darrell) Royal, and everyone gave him a standing ovation. Meeting Coach Royal and being around him that day is something I'll never forget."
Featuring an explosive offense and stingy defense in 2013, the Cardinals rank 16th in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 18th in the BCS and Associated Press Poll after compiling a 12-1 record, including a 7-1 mark in the American Athletic Conference, and capped the year with a 36-9 win over Miami (Fla.) in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Strong's squad racked up 554 total yards while holding the Hurricanes to just 174. It marked just the second 12-win season in school history (2006).
"This was a difficult decision because the University of Louisville gave me my first opportunity as a head coach," Strong said. "I have so much respect for President (James) Ramsey and (Athletics Director) Tom Jurich. They have been great to me and my family, and it was very hard to say goodbye, but they know this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."
This season, Louisville is one of only six schools to rank among the top 28 nationally in both total offense and defense, and one of just eight to rank among the top 25 in scoring offense and defense. The Cards lead the nation in total defense (251.5 yards per game), rushing defense (80.7 ypg), sacks (3.31 pg), fewest passes intercepted (4), fewest turnovers lost (10), fewest first downs allowed (183), third-down conversion defense (26.7%), completion percentage (70.8) and punt-return defense (1.15 yards per return). UofL also ranks second in scoring defense (12.2 ppg), turnover margin (+1.3 pg), third-down conversions (56.0%) and time of possession (33:49), while placing in the top 10 in passing efficiency (third), pass efficiency defense (fourth), passing yards allowed (fifth), tackles for loss (sixth) and red-zone defense (fifth). The team ranks 25th in scoring offense (35.2 ppg) and 28th in total offense (460.8 ypg).
Junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a finalist for the 2013 Manning Award and was a semifinalist for both the 2013 Maxwell Award and Davey O'Brien Award. He threw for 3,970 yards and a school-record 31 touchdowns with only four interceptions and leads the nation with a 71.0 completion percentage. On the defensive side of the ball, DE Marcus Smith was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award and earned second-team All-America honors while leading the nation in sacks (1.1 per game/14). The Cardinals had 11 players earn All-American Athletic Conference honors in 2013.
In 2012, Louisville posted an 11-2 record, claimed a Big East Championship and finished the year ranked 13th in the BCS Standings, USA Today Coaches Poll and AP Poll. The Cards capped the year with a 33-23 upset win over the fourth-ranked Gators in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Bridgewater was named Big East Player of the Year, ranked eighth in the nation in pass efficiency and led the Cardinals to the nation's 24th-ranked passing offense (296.1 ypg), while ranking 16th in passing defense (154.2 ypg) and 23rd in total defense (340.3 ypg).
In Strong's first two seasons (2010-11), Louisville recorded identical 7-6 records, including appearances in the 2010 Beef `O' Brady's Bowl and the 2011 Belk Bowl. After Louisville won a combined two league games in the two seasons prior to his arrival, Strong led the Cardinals to three Big East victories in 2010, and five in 2011. UofL won five of its last six games, including a win over nationally-ranked West Virginia to win a share of the Big East title and qualify for the Belk Bowl. Strong guided Bridgewater to Big East Rookie of the Year honors and freshman All-America accolades, while guard Jake Smith became the first Cardinal player to be named a FWAA Freshman All-American.
Louisville defeated Southern Mississippi 31-28 in the 2010 Beef `O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., after falling behind 14-0. The game capped one of the best turnarounds in FBS football, improving by three games from the previous season.
Prior to Louisville, the veteran of 31 years in collegiate coaching built an impressive resume as an assistant coach, including 11 seasons as a defensive coordinator in the SEC and four years as an assistant coach at Notre Dame. All totaled, Strong spent 15 seasons as an assistant at Florida during four stints, including seven years as the defensive coordinator, the last five of which were under current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. Strong was also on two of Lou Holtz's staffs, spending the first two years of his Fighting Irish tenure under the Hall of Fame coach, as well as four more as defensive coordinator at South Carolina. Strong was a finalist for the Broyles Award (nation's top assistant coach) three times.
Strong spent seven seasons as the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida under Meyer from 2005-09 and Ron Zook from 2003-04 where he helped the Gators win a pair of national titles - 2009 over Oklahoma (2008 season) and 2007 over Ohio State (2006 season).
In that stretch, Strong coached 13 All-Americans, a National Defensive Player of the Year, a Jack Tatum Award winner, two SEC Defensive Freshmen of the Year, two Thorpe Award finalists, two Nagurski Trophy finalists and the 2008 Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year. He also developed seven first-round NFL Draft picks and 18 players that were selected in the third round or higher.
In 2009, Strong guided one of the nation's top defensive units, finishing in the top six in four different statistical categories. UF was fourth in the nation in scoring defense (12.4 ppg), second in passing defense (152.8 ypg), fourth in total defense (252.6 ypg) and sixth in passing efficiency defense (96.1 rating) as the Gators went 13-1, including a trip to the SEC Championship game for the third time in Strong's tenure. Florida finished the season with a 51-24 win over Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl and a No. 3 ranking in both polls. He was named a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, given to the nation's top assistant coach, for the second straight year and is only the second three-time finalist in the history of the award. In Strong's position group, LB Brandon Spikes earned consensus first-team All-America honors and earned the second of his two Butkus Award finalist nods and was a finalist for the Bednarik Award, while CB Joe Haden also earned unanimous first-team All-America honors and was a Thorpe Award finalist.
In 2008, Strong's defense ranked in the top 20 nationally in 10 statistical categories, including a school-record tying 26 interceptions that also tied for the most in the country that season. UF's scoring defense showed the third-largest improvement from 2007 to 2008, finishing fourth in the nation by yielding only 12.9 points per game. The defense also ranked ninth in total defense (285.3 ypg), and third in pass efficiency defense (96.76 rating). Spikes preceded his consensus All-America honors from the previous year with unanimous honors and being named a finalist of the Lombardi and Butkus Awards under Strong. In the 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship Game versus Oklahoma, which entered the contest with a nation's best 54.0 ppg scoring average, the UF defense held Heisman-winning quarterback Sam Bradford and the Sooners to just 14 points and 363 total yards in a 24-14 win. The Gators ended the year with a 13-1 record and earned their second national title in three years. That came on the heels of a nine-win season in 2007 in which Florida finished No. 13 in the AP poll and No. 16 in the coaches poll with an appearance in the Capital One Bowl.
Under Strong's watch in the 2006 season, Florida set a BCS record for fewest yards allowed in the national title game, holding Ohio State to only 82 total yards. He guided a Gator defense that limited opponents to a SEC-best 72.5 rushing yards per game for the season, ranking fifth nationally, while rating sixth in the nation in total defense (255.4 ypg), sixth in scoring defense (13.5 ppg) and fourth in passing efficiency defense (98.31 rating). Safety Reggie Nelson earned first-team consensus All-America honors and was a Thorpe Award and Nagurski Trophy finalist, while the AP named CB Ryan Smith second-team All-America and LB Brandon Siler was on its third team.
The 2005 season saw Florida once again win nine games with the defense ranking in the top 10 in both total yards allowed (ninth/299.8 ypg) and rushing (10th/94.9 ypg). The Gators also ranked 18th in scoring defense at 18.8 ppg. UF defeated Iowa, 31-24, in the Outback Bowl and finished the season ranked 12th in the AP poll and 16th in the coaches poll.
In Strong's first two seasons (2003-04) the Gators finished 8-5 and 7-5, respectively. UF finished ranked in both seasons coming in at No. 24/25 in 2003 and No. 25 in the coaches poll in 2004. Strong made his first appearance as a head coach in the 2004 Peach Bowl in place of Zook. In 2003, CB Keiwan Ratliff was a consensus first-team All-American and a finalist for the Thorpe Award, while being named SEC Defensive Player of the Year, while in 2004, Siler was the SEC Defensive Freshman of the Year.
From the 2003-09, Strong's defensive units at Florida allowed an average of 17.6 points per game, which ranked ninth in the country over that span. His stint as defensive coordinator marked his fourth tenure at Florida, including a stretch from 1991-94 in which he coached defensive ends (1991-93) and defensive tackles (1994) after coaching outside linebackers in 1988-89, and serving as a graduate assistant in 1983-84.
Before returning to Florida for the fourth time, Strong received his first defensive coordinator assignment at the University of South Carolina under Lou Holtz from 1999-2002. There, he earned his first finalist nod for the Broyles Award after he helped guide the Gamecocks to a top 20 national ranking in 2000, which he did twice while at South Carolina, peaking with a No. 13 final ranking in both polls in 2001. The 2000 squad ranked sixth in the country in scoring defense after yielding just 15.8 points per game, while the 2001 team finished 12th at 18.4 points per game. The 1999 team ranked 20th in the nation in total defense, allowing 307.7 ypg. The 2000 and 2001 seasons saw some of the highest achievements in South Carolina history to that point, ending in back-to-back Outback Bowl wins over Ohio State.
Outside of his time at Louisville, Florida, and South Carolina, Strong's career stops have included one season (1985) at Texas A&M as a graduate assistant before moving on to Southern Illinois as wide receivers coach from 1986-87, one season (1990) at Mississippi as wide receivers coach and four seasons (1995-98) as the defensive line coach at Notre Dame.
A native of Batesville, Ark., Strong was a four-year letterwinner (1980-83) and three-time all-conference safety at Central Arkansas. He and his wife, Vicki, have a son, Tory, and two daughters, Hailee and Hope.