Strong, who was hired Dec. 8 as Louisville's new coach, will return to Louisville shortly after the game to finalize his staff and begin the final push with his first recruiting class.
Strong appears to have both of his coordinator's in place and ready to go. Former UNLV coach Mike Sanford was announced as Strong's offensive coordinator last week. News broke yesterday at the Sugar Bowl that Florida defensive back coach Vance Bedford will be named as Strong's defensive coordinator. Sanford was a successful coordinator at Stanford and Utah, and Bedford was defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State for two years. Both Bedford and Sanford have NFL coaching experience.
That story has dominated the headlines out of New Orleans all week. When the initial story broke some wondered if Strong, newly hired at Louisville, might become a candidate to replace Meyer. Sources in Florida say that wouldn't have been the case and Strong reiterated during his Sugar Bowl news conference that he's excited about coaching the Cardinals.
"I wanted to go to Louisville," Strong said. "I won't second guess my decision to go work for a great AD and president and [Louisville] is in a BCS conference. I won't second guess my decision to go there."
It was a long road for Strong to become a head coach. He spent 26 years as an assistant before Louisville stepped forward with an offer to replace Steve Kragthorpe. As soon as the Sugar Bowl concludes, Strong will devote his full attention to rebuilding a program that won the Orange Bowl three years ago, but didn't produce a winning record during Kragthorpe's three seasons.
"All of a sudden you're a head coach....and you've got to go recruiting and find assistant coaches," Strong said. "So everything runs through your mind that you know that you've got to get done."
The rebuilding process won't happen overnight.
"You try to realize that you can't solve every problem right away," said Strong. "It's a process and things will take time."
The first order of business for Strong has been recruiting. Louisville's roster was depleted of quality BCS-level talent during Kragthorpe's three year tenure and Strong has worked relentlessly on the recruiting front since taking the job trying to restock UofL's cupboards.
Since taking over, Strong has solidified most of Kragthorpe's 16 commitments, added Miami (FL) Northwestern teammates Michaelee Harris, a four-star wide receiver, and Corvin Lamb, a two-star athlete with several BCS offers. He also has lined up a major recruiting weekend Jan. 8-10, headlined by four-star defensive tackle Todd Chandler and four-star defensive end B.J. Buter, who is currently committed to Georgia but could switch his commitment to Louisville next week.
If that weren't enough, Strong also has already secured verbal commitments from four of the city's top 2011 prospects – Four-star Seneca quarterback DaMarcus Smith, Ballard wide receiver DeVante Parker, Fern Creek athlete Jerrell Moore and Fern Creek defensive lineman Jamon Brown.
Many believe, including Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, that all the publicity generated from Strong coaching his final game at Florida in the Sugar Bowl will have positive results on Louisville's recruiting efforts. Though it's been a 'dead recruiting period' in college football since Dec. 21, Strong has generated a lot of favorable press in Florida the past few weeks – something that never hurts when you're trying to lure the Sunshine state's finest football prospects north to Louisville.
"Right now in the recruiting process we really can't see kids – it's only a matter of making phone calls," Strong said. "I sat down with Tom Jurich and he told me he wanted me to coach in this game."
The Sugar Bowl kicks-off Friday night at 8:30.