published Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Charlie Strong staying as Louisville football coach after turning down UT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Charlie Strong is staying at Louisville.

The football coach said he turned down an offer from Tennessee and will stay with the Cardinals.

“It became clear to me that it was best to stay in Louisville,” Strong said at a press conference at the stadium this morning. “We haven’t finished the job yet.”

The No. 22 Cardinals (10-2) won a share of the Big East Conference championship and a BCS berth in the Sugar Bowl, where they’ll face Florida.

A press conference with Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich is scheduled for later today.

Strong’s name had surfaced for openings at Tennessee and Auburn in the past week.

“They made an offer and I said I’d think about it and talk about it with my family,” he said about the Tennessee offer that came Tuesday.

Speculation linking him to the Auburn job triggered a denial as he prepared the Cardinals for their title-deciding game at Rutgers last Thursday.

Auburn hired former Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn on Tuesday, a day after Strong was mentioned as Tennessee’s top target. On Monday, Strong held a bizarre news conference in which he managed to stir up more speculation about his future.

He also criticized the Cardinals’ fan base for their attendance at football games.

Though coaching Tennessee would have helped Strong realize a dream of coaching in the Southeastern Conference, he decided to stay at the school that gave him his first head coaching job. Strong is 24-14 in three seasons at Louisville.

All along, Jurich expressed confidence in keeping Strong. He vowed to beat any offer made to his coach. He gave Strong a seven-year contract last year that paid him $2.3 million per season.

Strong will carry the Cardinals into their move to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014. Last week’s move from the Big East to the ACC was considered a major factor in his decision to remain with the program.

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