Charlie Strong is staying at the University of Louisville.
Strong made his decision to turn down an offer from Tennessee and remain the head football coach at U of L on Wednesday evening.
On Thursday, he told everyone about his decision.
Strong made a four-plus minute opening statement – where at several points his voice cracked with emotion – and then answered questions from the media for more than 10 minutes at the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex.
"It was the toughest decision I have ever had to make," Strong said. "As I talked with my family, it became crystal clear that I needed to stay at Louisville."
Strong said he believes he can develop the U of L program into a championship team and delivered a powerful message after a few days of speculation and uncertainly surrounded the third-year head coach.
"I didn't want this to be an emotional decision," Strong said. "When I thought about leaving, I came back to ‘We haven't finished the job yet'."
Strong said he talked to Tennessee on Monday and the Volunteers made him an offer on Tuesday. He said a new contract with U of L has not been finalized and added that he and athletic director Tom Jurich hadn't discussed a number.
"I have not signed a new contract," Strong said. "I don't even know yet. I want to make sure my assistants are taken care of."
But he is staying put and he turned down a program that competes in the Southeastern Conference. Strong currently makes $2.3 million and Jurich had previously said he would match any offer.
"They made an offer and I said I'd think about it and talk about it with my family," Strong said of Tennessee.
Strong later added that "my enthusiasm and heart are at the University of Louisville," noting he told his players on Wednesday to "trust me. I told them I was going to make the right decision for this program."
Strong said a lot of his decision had to do with the trust that Jurich had in him, giving him his first head coaching job in 2009. Jurich also gave him a contract extension last season before the program had turned the corner in terms of wins and losses on the field with Strong noting, "he believed in us."
"People expect you to walk out (at U of L) when others come calling," Strong said "I want the community to understand we have an outstanding program.
"I want to be here. The decision was about relationships."
Strong criticized the U of L fan base for their attendance at football games during a press conference on Monday. But he said on Thursday that "our fans are super" and he didn't want to turn his back on the faithful.
"I know I said some things and shook some things up," Strong said. "But our fans are great."
In three years under Strong, the program has been to three bowl games. The Cardinals are 10-2 this season and will play Florida in the AllState Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in the New Orleans Superdome.