LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When oddsmakers talk, you have to listen. I've spent a few days waiting for an adjustment of the betting line on a new University of Texas football coach. Charlie Strong still sits atop the odds from Bovada.lv and Sportsbook.ag.
It's not that they're always right. It's just that they're usually right.
If they produced a spread saying the sky would be plaid tomorrow morning, I'd at least have to get up and check.
How many times has a meaningless game ended by coming down to one more basket making the difference between cover, push or loss? And when it does, how often have you turned to the person next to you and nearly simultaneously uttered the same word: "Vegas."
I waited for signs of a glitch on this one, but as the money has come in, it has kept coming in for the University of Louisville coach to be the next spokesman for The Longhorn Network.
Strong is a 7-5 favorite at Sportsbook.ag, and is 2-1 at Bovada.lv. James Franklin has climbed to No. 2 in the wagering at Bovada, but Strong remains the favorite.
It should be noted -- these are not Vegas odds. These come from offshore sportsbooks. They begin with a hunch -- albeit, a very educated hunch -- from oddsmakers using all information at their disposal. But the betting public, such as it is, has done nothing to dissuade it.
I don't have any special insight into Charlie Strong. I said it last year when he was talking with Tennessee, and that has not changed. I don't get to spend much time with him. He doesn't call me (or anyone else locally, that I know of) in the media.
Most of us who cover him don't see him as a great Texas fit mainly because of the public requirements of that job -- which is the aspect of his current job he doesn't appear to much enjoy. Strong is great with recruits and players. He's great in practice. At the press conference, he can be good when he wants to, but it's not what gets him up on the morning.
We look at the legion of Longhorn media wanting a piece of the coach and think it might make for a miserable existence for a guy who enjoys a certain level of privacy in Louisville.
So when I see those betting lines, my gut tells me not to put much credence in them. People lose money every day. But I also know those lines don't just come out of thin air.
Media reports are another story. They're nearly worthless. They throw names against a wall in case one of them sticks. Case in point -- Sports Illustrated's recent bracket pairing possibilities to reach a public consensus for who should be the next coach.
It has Charlie Strong facing off against Mack Brown -- who just lost the job! And they call it the "Ain't Played Nobody Division," when Brown has won a BCS championship. Waste of time. Media speculation doesn't matter.
That's a pretty good setup for more speculation. My own. That's all it is. I've been trying to come up with reasons the line is what it is. Here are four reasons:
1. Senior Day. Last year, Charlie Strong walked out on Senior Day to a U of L crowd listed at 45,618 (actually, far smaller) and told senior Will Stein that would change the next season. It bothered the coach that his team could be in the hunt for a conference title and fans not show up. (To be fair, it bothered fans that the team lost to Connecticut.) Strong wanted to change the culture. Fast-forward to Senior Day, 2013. Announced attendance 46,421 (actually smaller). For a one-loss football team. You're talking in the neighborhood of 10,000 empty seats. I checked Senior Day attendance at Texas this year in Darrell K. Royal Stadium. It was 100,119. In a year after which the coach would be forced out. Texas has problems. Apathy isn't one of them.
2. Opportunity. Strong's name, in some ways, will never be hotter. Winning in college football is difficult. Strong has won 22 of his past 25 games. It's fair to speculate he may never be on that kind of run again. The Atlantic Coast Conference will prove challenging. Teddy Bridgewater likely is headed for the NFL. If there's a convenient stepping-off point, Strong may have reached it.
3. Money. This is self-explanatory. Strong's buyout at U of L is $5 million. Texas has that much money in spare change found in the recruiting room couches. It has the nation's largest athletic budget. Money isn't a problem.
4. Availability. Of the more prominent names on Texas' list, including some NFL coaches, none appears to be imminently do-able. It could be that Texas will swing for the fences, but oddsmakers don't expect them to connect, and therefore will make a hard run at Strong.
I look at those, and I can see it, can see Texas talking to Strong, can see where he'd have interest. But those aren't the only factors. There are just as many that would suggest Strong wouldn't be as interested as the oddsmakers think he would be.
Texas isn't in Strong's recruiting wheelhouse. He appears to be more of an SEC guy. The notion that he wouldn't turn down a job as "big" as Texas? He turned down Tennessee last year. That's one of the biggest jobs out there. In the Southeastern Conference, no less. What about Clint Hurtt? Would Texas take an assistant with a show cause? What about Austin? It's a different kind of college town, would it be a fit for Strong? He's never seemed to be the kind of guy who craved coaching the "name" program. Tom Jurich at Louisville gave him his first job. All of these things, too, are factors.
A day before the odds came out, Strong told Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun, flat-out, he has "no interest" in the Texas job. He didn't quite say that in a round of one-on-one interviews with Louisville media.
"I have a good job," Strong said repeatedly, or some variation of it. "We can build something special here, put our signature on it."
He's earned, with what he did a year ago, the right to be believed when he says that. If you'll turn down Tennessee, you'll turn down a lot of places.
For now, I'd still be surprised to see Strong go. So my bet is against the odds you're seeing from the sportsbooks. But I wouldn't bet the house. It might surprise me to see Strong go, but it wouldn't shock me. (Meanwhile, I'm not sure why Texas hasn't already grabbed Art Briles -- a Texas guy -- and run with him.) The bigger worry for Louisville fans, I think, might be a possible domino effect once Texas does make a hire.
I've done this long enough to know, you don't ignore the odds. You can beat them once in a while, but they win more than they lose. And sometimes, they pull it out in the final minute.
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