UT officially hires Charlie Strong as football coach

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by GEORGE RIBA and GARY B. GRAVES

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WFAA and Associated Press reports

Posted on January 5, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Updated Sunday, Jan 5 at 6:57 PM

AUSTIN -- The University of Texas made it official Sunday that they have hired Louisville’s Charlie Strong to replace Mack Brown as the head coach of their football program.

Texas made the announcement on their on Texaspsorts.com with a banner that read “Welcome to Texas Charlie Strong!”

Strong was quoted on the schools web site, saying, "I'm excited and my family is excited to have the chance to lead one of the premier football programs in the country."

Strong spent the past four seasons rebuilding the football program at Louisville, re-energizing a program that was coming off back-to-back losing seasons. Strong was 37-15 in four seasons at Louisville, including 3-1 in bowl games. He is the only coach in Louisville history to win three bowl games.

Last year, Louisville was one of only six schools to rank among the top 28 nationally in both total offense and defense, and one of just eight to rank among the top 25 in scoring offense and defense. The Cards lead the nation in total defense.

"This was a difficult decision because the University of Louisville gave me my first opportunity as a head coach," Strong said. "They have been great to me and my family, and it was very hard to say goodbye, but they know this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."

The 53-year-old Strong met this week with new Texas athletic director Steve Patterson about the coaching vacancy, but he wanted to wait until speaking directly with Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich to accept Texas' offer. Jurich was on vacation in Colorado and weather problems made traveling back to Louisville difficult.

Jurich returned to Louisville on Saturday night and met with Strong. Jurich gave Strong his first chance to be a head coach after a long successful career as a defensive coordinator at Florida, where he helped win two national titles, and South Carolina.

"Texas is one of those places that is always on your radar and a program anyone would dream of being a part of because you have a chance to compete on a national level every year,” Strong said. “It's special because it has such great history, pride, tradition and passion for football."

SI.com reported Strong will receive a five-year contract that will pay him $5 million annually.

“I am excited to have Charlie Strong here to build on the proud tradition of Texas football and the 16 great years that Mack Brown gave to the program," Patterson said. “Our committee and former lettermen helped create an extensive selection criteria and after visiting with Charlie, it was clear he met them all.”

Strong's decision ended a day Saturday that began with him telling assistant coaches in a brief meeting that he hadn't decided whether to accept Texas' offer. Asked about the coach's timetable for a decision, Louisville football spokesman Rocco Gasparro said, "It's a difficult decision for him."

Strong leaves as one of Louisville's most successful coaches, one who took the program from three consecutive non-winning seasons to four straight bowl games including Louisville's second BCS victory last January with a 33-23 upset of Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals added another bowl win last week, beating Miami 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

He would be Texas' first black head football coach and inherits a program aching to reclaim its place among the nation's elite.

“This is a historic day for The University of Texas and a historic hire for our football team,” UT president Williams Powers said. “Charlie Strong is one of the best coaches in the country. I'm confident he will continue the Longhorns winning tradition while maintaining the integrity and commitment to students that have always defined our program.”

Brown's Longhorns won the 2005 season national championship and returned to the title game after the 2009 season. But the Longhorns fell to 5-7 in 2010 and have lost at least four games each of the last three seasons.

The Longhorns ended the 2013 season with a 30-7 loss to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.

That dropoff, including an 18-17 mark in the Big 12 over the last four seasons, frustrated Texas fans, who demand much more from the wealthiest athletic program in the country that sits in the middle of the most fertile high school recruiting grounds in the country.

"To follow a future Hall of Fame coach like Mack Brown who built a program that had great success and a reputation of doing it with class and integrity, is extra special," Strong said. "The National Championship, BCS Bowl wins and all he accomplished in 16 years built on the Longhorn legacy and makes it such an exciting place to be.

"Coach Brown developed such a strong bond with his players, the lettermen, community and high school coaches in this state, and that's something I hope to build on,” Strong said. “He made everyone feel at home. I had the opportunity to speak at the High School Coaches Clinic in Austin a few years ago and Coach Brown introduced Coach (Darrell) Royal, and everyone gave him a standing ovation. Meeting Coach Royal and being around him that day is something I'll never forget."

Strong's hiring provides the Longhorns a strong recruiter that has built his program with talent from south Florida, including star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Texas also has its Longhorn Network partnership with the ESPN, a 24-hour channel dedicated to Texas athletics, a deal that pays the school at least $300 million over 20 years.

Brown had cited the fractured fan base in his resignation news conference and said it was time for someone else to unite Texas supporters. Brown lasted 16 years in the pressure cooker of Texas, but his final four years included university regents and powerbrokers exploring when and how to replace him, including a meeting with Alabama coach Nick Saban's agent in early 2013.

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AP College Football Writer Ralph Russo in Newport Beach, Calif., and AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.
 

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