Strong had been an assistant coach in the SEC east, leading defensive units at South Carolina and Florida before taking a job in the Big East at Louisville. The job was considered to be a good first stop, but the feeling was Strong would return the conference where he spent so many years as an assistant coach.
But again, he said no, shutting the door on the Tennessee Volunteers and a conference he seemed to want to be a part of so badly. Perhaps he was scorned too many times by receiving interviews but no offers, or perhaps he sees the position with the Cardinals as a better opportunity with an easier schedule and stacks of cash.
However, did he close the door for good?
Tennessee, although down at the moment, is a sleeping giant. They have the resources, facilities, prestige and tradition to win championships; I don’t know if the same can be said for Louisville. Which brings the question: if Tennessee is not good enough for Strong, which job is?
Also, let’s not forget that Strong is starting to get up there in years-no longer a young guy at 52 years old. As he gets up in years, he becomes less attractive to programs looking for long term hires-the past two hires Bret Bielema (Arkansas) and Guz Malzhan (Auburn) are both coaches in their forties.
Not only is Strong’s long term viability in question, but when will a job like Tennessee come open again? Off the top of my head when I look around the SEC, everyone, with the exception of the Volunteers, seemed to be locked into their head coach for at least the next two-three years.
Perhaps the allure of Louisville’s move to the ACC was enough for strong to stay. Perhaps he saw a commitment with the Cardinals program that none of us saw. If he finds success in the ACC, perhaps this one little blip in his career does not matter.
The door to the SEC may have closed.