Strong fulfills dream at Louisville

Charlie Strong was introduced as Louisville's new football coach Wednesday afternoon. An assistant for the past 26 years at programs like Notre Dame, South Carolina and Florida, Strong finally is living a dream.

"It's always been my dream to be a head coach and finally this day has arrived," Strong said. "Right now I want to go out and recruit and I want to put together a staff that cares about these [players]. I want them to know that their sole purpose here is to get a degree and win football games."

A finalist for the Broyles Award three times, Strong was considered one of the nation's top defensive coordinators. Strong was the architect of a Florida defense that helped win two of the past three BCS national championships. Now, Strong is ready to see if he can win a national championship on his own at Louisville.

"I've wanted to be a head football coach," Strong said. "Being a defensive coordinator is great but what you want to do is see if you can go win a national championship [on your own]. They've had a lot of success here. Three years ago, they were in the Orange Bowl. We're in a conference that you can go play for a national championship."

It's probably crossed Strong's mind if this moment would ever come. He was asked during his first press conference at UofL how it felt to finally get a head coaching job after 26 years as an assistant. That question prompted an emotional response from Strong.

Charlie Strong is eager to get started at Louisville.
"When we were offered this job me and my wife looked at each other and we were just so emotional because we just never knew," Strong said, who took a moment to compose himself after giving that response. His reaction drew applause from fans assembled in the room.

Now, Strong's first important task at UofL will be to assemble his coaching staff. Strong didn't name any assistant coaches Wednesday or give any indication who he might hire to fill out his staff.

"I have some guys in mind," Strong said. "There are a lot of names. What's amazing is the number of phone calls you get."

Despite an approaching recruiting dead-period Dec. 21, Strong said he's not in a hurry to announce his new staff.

"I want to take my time with this staff," Strong said. "What happens is if you rush into it there might be a guy that pops up that you're like 'wow.' The key thing about staff is you get some good recruiters, make sure you get some good teachers and some guys that have good character. And then you get some guys that can relate to your players. I'm not in hurry. I want to make sure I get some guys that are the right fit for Louisville."

Strong's other big task is to line up some talented recruits to bring in next year.

"We need to recruit Florida, Ohio and Georgia," Strong said. "You have to go and find football players and get the best ones. That's why is so important to get a staff together that has ties in those different areas. I know a lot of high school coaches that have really good players and I'm able to pick up the phone and get in the door."

Strong has outstanding recruiting ties in Florida and was a key recruiter on Urban Meyer's staff. Strong said he won't tamper with the players currently verbally committed to the Gators or pursue the players Meyer's program really wants.

"There are some guys that they're recruiting that I know they're not going to take that I'm going to call," Strong said. "But if there's somebody already committed or who they really want I'm not going to touch [them]."

Strong faces a difficult rebuilding job at Louisville. The Cardinals went 15-21 the last three years and won just two Big East games the past two seasons. Strong signed a five-year contract with UofL worth $1.6 million per season. The deal is also full of incentives for winning the league, going to bowls and finishing in the Top 25 in the national polls.

"I want to build a team that will merge talent and effort," Strong said. "It will combine competitive excellence and relentless effort. We want to get this program back to where it needs to be. I'm deeply honored to be the football coach here at Louisville."

Strong said it wasn't a difficult decision to leave Florida, where he has served as defensive coordinator the last seven years.

"It was an easy decision," Strong said. "I know I can come in and be successful with the young men and talent that is already here. We just need to get it headed in the right direction."

Strong, a defensive-oriented coach, was asked about his offensive philosophy. He said he wants a physical offense that can move the ball successfully on the ground.

"I just want to make sure we put a product on their field that is exciting and aggressive," Strong said. "When you look at offense, even the spread offense, you've got to be able to run the football. You can't just go out there and spread it around without running it because running the ball allows you to be a physical and aggressive team. That's what we want to be."

Strong's Florida defense was one of the nation's best this year, ranking in the top five nationally in total, scoring and pass defense.

"We want to be an aggressive and attacking defense," Strong said.

Strong, who will coordinate Florida's defense in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 1 vs. Cincinnati, is ready to apply what he's learned from Steve Spurrier, Lou Holtz and Urban Meyer – three coaches who have won national championships – at Louisville.

"I've been able to take a piece from each one and now I'm ready to apply it to this opportunity," Strong said. "We're going to start over. When we get back here in January we'll have a team meeting and just sit down and talk about the direction of this program."

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