CRAWFORD | Strong talking to Texas shouldn't create ill will - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Strong talking to Texas shouldn't create ill will

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ATLANTA, Ga. (WDRB) -- All right, so Charlie Strong, by most accounts, including a report in the Austin American-Statesman, has interviewed for the open head coaching job at Texas.

My reaction. So what?

I'd interview for it too, if they were interested. Does it mean I don't love my job? Far from it. As far as I'm concerned, WDRB president and general manager Bill Lamb is a media genius. (And by the way, Bill, don't you get any ideas about interviewing at Texas.) I get up every day and feel lucky to be at WDRB, and that's a fact.

But if some big-time national bunch came along and wanted to talk to me about a job, well, I'd have to talk to them. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't anyone?

Texas is one of those football destination jobs. I mean, they even for a while had thoughts of going after Nick Saban, who himself is at one of those destination jobs. In fact, Texas, if it had its preference, would only hire someone who already is at a destination job, because it views its job as more of a destination than anywhere else's.

Texas isn't just a university, isn't just an athletic department, but it's a way of life -- and a cable sports network. It's the Real Deal. And for Charlie Strong to not at least have a conversation if Texas has interest, well, I don't know if I'd trust a coach who wouldn't at least listen to that.

On its Senior Day, Texas drew 101,000-plus. After a season in which it wound up firing its coach. Louisville drew 45,000-plus. In the final home game for one of the most beloved players in its history. The Texas state championship high school football game drew 54,347 this year.

But this isn't about, "Oh, look how much better a job Texas is than Louisville." Though, you know, from the standpoint of resources and profile and support and passion, let's be honest.

The problem U of L has, of course, is that whenever a coach interviews somewhere else, everyone points to them and says, "You're a stepping stone school."

I've already seen it in fan back-and-forth on my Facebook page. UK fans calling U of L a "stepping stone." What they fail to say is that you're better being a stepping stone than a headstone.

What Strong has to weigh is this: U of L has had coaches leave for higher-profile jobs. John L. Smith went to Michigan State. Bobby Petrino went to the Atlanta Falcons. Howard Schnellenberger went to Oklahoma.

None of those had what you would call fairy tale endings.

The part of this that leaves most U of L fans I know feeling a little rankled is that Tom Jurich, apparently, wasn't included in the Texas-interview loop. Every time Jurich goes on vacation, somebody bothers him. It was Pat Forde in the fall of 2012, prompting Jurich home to work on admission to the ACC.

This time, WDRB's Rick Bozich got him on the horn to ask him what he knows about reports that his football coach was interviewing at Texas. Jurich, who is on vacation in Colorado, told Bozich that the Texas AD called him Tuesday morning but they didn't talk. Jurich said he called him back quickly, within ten minutes, but didn't get him. And the two never connected.

Most Cardinal fans, and I think reasonably so, hope that Strong would be grateful enough to Jurich to keep him in the loop. If you have an employer who is treating you well, and has treated you well, it's a courtesy. Strong's first priority, even if Texas is on the phone, needs to be keeping his current boss happy. Strong has not responded to phone messages from WDRB.

(I should acknowledge that I have, in the recent past, conducted a well-documented job negotiation that I felt compelled to keep under wraps. I could go into why. But suffice it to say that my situation was different from Charlie Strong's present situation. Let's just leave it at that.)

None of us knows what has gone on between Strong and Jurich behind the scenes, if anything. But publicly, both men have been nothing but supportive of each other.

In the end, my takeaway is that, from a Louisville standpoint, people need to settle down just a bit.

Strong interviewing with Texas does not mean, by definition, that he's unhappy with Louisville. It does not mean that Louisville, its fans or administration, have done anything wrong. It doesn't mean that Strong will leave, but it does mean that he has an interest in Texas.

He also had an interest in Tennessee. At one point, Tennessee was pretty sure it had locked Strong up until Jurich came with another offer.

This time, I don't think Tom Jurich is interested in getting into a bidding war with Texas, even if he did have the money.

He has an idea of people he'll talk to if Strong leaves.

That's still a ways from happening. There's no guarantee Texas wants Strong.

We now know he is at least interested enough to talk to them. That's not a sign of disloyalty. It's just a sign of sanity. A month ago U of L fans were growing weary of Strong because he wasn't winning by enough points. Now they're worried Texas might snatch him away. Coaching is a fickle profession.

Regardless of what happens, Strong deserves praise and gratitude for what he has done in Louisville to this point. He not only has won 23 games in two years, but had 19 players graduate at the semester break last month. Think about that. The program was facing NCAA penalties for academic underperformance when he arrived.

He was the first coach ever to turn away from a major job offer to stay at Louisville when he spurned Tennessee last season.

Yes, Tom Jurich did Charlie Strong a great service by giving him his first college head-coaching job. But since that day, Strong has done more than his part to repay that debt.

The best policy at present is to calm down and see what comes next. Unlike previous job shenanigans that have happened at U of L, this one should engender no hard feelings, regardless of result.

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