LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- If Tom Jurich looked like a man who has been through this drill a few times, it's because he has. The University of Louisville athletic director met the media facing his fifth football hire at the school, and smoothly tied together the loose ends of Charlie Strong's departure with his vow to move forward quickly and confidently.
Jurich said there was no animosity between him and Strong, who informed him last night at Strong's home that he would be leaving for Texas. He said there was no counter-offer. He said he let Strong know U of L would do anything Strong wanted to keep him, but Strong said it wasn't a question of money. He said in the meeting he thanked Strong, and told the coach he gave him an "A plus plus" for his time in Louisville.
"Once I knew he was going to Texas, I just wanted him to know how much I appreciated the job he did," Jurich said. ". . . Texas is a premier, premier job. Let's call it what it is, not try to hide from it. . . . Every expectation I had for Charlie at this university he exceeded. Every, single one."
Jurich said he has a short list for Strong's replacement, but that he's wide open to all interested parties. When asked specifically about Bobby Petrino, the former U of L coach now at Western Kentucky, he answered, "Everybody is in play." He said of his relationship with Petrino now, he said, "My relationship's fine with Bobby."
Jurich also is open to talking to current offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. His initial list is not long -- though he acknowledges that more coaches are inquiring about U of L's job than ever have, and he might have some interested parties that he doesn't expect.
Referring to his vacation in Colorado and the weather that kept him stuck there until yesterday, Jurich said he'd spent "four snowy days" with his short list of candidates.
He said he would go into his search with no preconceived criteria, only a coach who wants to be at U of L, and who he thinks will be a good fit. He said head-coaching experience wasn't a requirement, noting, "Charlie didn't have it."
Strong's contract included a buyout clause of $4.7 million which Jurich says has not been discussed, but which he expects to be paid. He'll assess transition issues once he learns what coaches Strong plans to take with him to Texas. He says he'll stay out of the new coach's way on whether he wants to retain any of the current staff.
He said he hasn't had any direct discussion with any job candidates as of this afternoon, but that could change by tonight.
First, he was scheduled to meet with players in the afternoon. His job in this transition is a tough one. Already, several key U of L commitments have opened up their recruiting process, and he was preparing to speak to a locker room in which a number of players have responded angrily to Strong's departure, and the fact that the coach didn't let players know personally of his decision.
One player, however, offensive lineman Jake Smith, said he understood.
"It's hard when everybody's out of town," Smith said. "You can't call a meeting. . . . For me, I just appreciate the opportunity he gave me. He had a profound impact on a lot of lives here. I think you just have to be grateful for that and wish him the best."
For his part, Jurich called Strong, "a great man, that's the hard part. . . . I will always consider him a very close friend."
There is, according to Jurich, no timetable on making a hire, but that he would hope to have someone in place in less than a week. He said he wouldn't let the need to move quickly, however, dictate his decision.
"We have a great job here," Jurich said. "I feel like it's the best job in the country. It's a better job than it's ever been. We're going to move forward."