University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich was asked on Thursday if he was ever worried football coach Charlie Strong might leave.
"Are you nuts?" Jurich said to a reporter. "Of course I was nervous. "... I never thought he was gone, but I sure couldn't say he was staying, either."
Jurich is certain now that Strong, who turned down an offer to coach at Tennessee, is staying. Jurich said the two parties are working on a contract extension to hopefully through 2020.
"He's the pied piper of this program," Jurich said. "He's a man of high integrity, and that all has shown through his actions."
Jurich said he believes the U of L program is a "top 10 program in the country," and when asked if the coach would be paid like it was a top-10 program his response was, " I would imagine."
Jurich confirmed Tennessee asked for permission to speak with Strong last week and he first talked with the coach about the job at 4 a.m. when team returned home from Rutgers on Friday morning.
But Jurich said it wasn't until about 20 minutes after reports surfaced on Wednesday night that he knew Strong was staying.
"I have unbelievable respect for the SEC," Jurich said. "But they're human just like we are. They're not going to pour more money into football than we are."
Jurich said he didn't begin working with Strong's representatives until 10 o'clock this morning and "that was the first time we talked," with Strong's representative about a new deal.
"We never even talked about a number," Jurich said. "I said, trust me. I promise his daughters will have lunch money tomorrow."
Jurich said the assistant coaches would all receive raises and noted the team going to the Sugar Bowl "is a benchmark. I think we're a year early."