"I'm thrilled to get an offensive coach like Mike Sanford to direct our offense," said Strong. "While at Utah, he directed an offense that was one of the best in the country, averaging 43.5 points per game and helped in the development of Alex Smith. Mike will be an excellent addition to our staff."
Sanford was fired last month after five losing seasons at UNLV. He failed to lead the Rebels to a bowl game, finishing his tenure with a 15-43 record.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to be the offensive coordinator at the University of Louisville working for Charlie Strong," said Sanford. "I have tremendous respect for Coach Strong and I have no doubt he will be successful at Louisville. I am excited to get to work and develop an offense that is explosive, attacking and balanced."
Regarded as one of college football's Spread-Option gurus, Sanford quickly turned around Utah's offense during his first season in 2003 under Urban Meyer, taking the Utes from last place in scoring offense in the Mountain West to third overall. The 2003 Utes improved 11 percentage points in red zone scoring, producing points on 79 percent of their trips inside the 20.
The following season, Sanford's offense averaged 43.3 points as the Utes finished 12-0 and beat Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl. Sanford's quarterback at Utah, Alex Smith, was a Heisman Trophy finalist and the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
The big question Louisville fans will be asking until the start of spring practice: How will Sanford's Spread-Option take shape at UofL? Essentially, the Spread-Option is a hybrid of the the west coast spread offense and the veer option attack. The past three BCS national champions have used the Spread-Option, which employs running the option out of a spread formation with the quarterback often in shotgun and multiple receivers in motion.
At UNLV this season, Sanford's offense averaged 24.8 points and 351 yards per game. The Rebels averaged 5.2 yards per play and scored 30 or more points in four games. UNLV averaged 224 yards passing and 126 rushing yards per game this season.
In 2008, Sanford's hard-work almost paid off as the Rebels missed bowl eligibility by one game and did pull an upset at No. 13 Arizona State. UNLV also set numerous school records on offense last year, including tying with Ohio State for the national lead in red-zone scoring percentage as well as posting the fewest overall penalty yards in a single season.