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Ok, so I may be considered new and still wet behind the ears in the media/blogger/sports journalist field and know I’m in the minority but I have a few things that I feel need to be shared. I understand that sports writers and media pundits are supposed to “break stories” and stir up conversation and controversy however I don’t understand why some choose to run with a hunch or a rumor. Coach Strong made a very good statement and point when he said, “I get annoyed, very annoyed because a lot of times when those rumors come out, those people don’t know exactly what they are talking about so why get started? ….. Why would you (reporters/media) start running with something that you have no idea what you are running with?” With many rumors flying around about Charlie Strong, it’s easy to get caught up in the drama and even carried away when bantering with friends and foe. Personally, I don’t think Strong would lie to his players, staff and current recruiting targets when he says that “he is the coach at Louisville” and “he is not looking for a job.” Strong was visibly annoyed at yesterday’s press conference and rightfully so.
Strong understands and the fans should too that with success, comes greater responsibility and more and more job offers. Could he have silenced the media yesterday by saying, “Yes, I’ll be coaching here at UofL next year”? Sure he could, but like he stated, he was there to try and keep the focus on his young sometimes easily distracted football team rather than on himself. I don’t have a problem with that and until he gives us reason not to believe him, I encourage all Louisville fans to just relax and take his word and put your efforts into supporting the young men who have a huge challenge ahead of them in New Orleans on January 2. Think about it like this: If Strong knows he loves it here and he is happy and that he never interviewed with Auburn or Tennessee or whoever else, why should he spend time or energy trying to convince a fan base that has little trust in their coaches due to past happenings? He may know that even trying to defuse the rumors and or gain the fans’ trust fully is like trying to hand feed minnows to Jaws…It’s probably going to smell fishy no matter how you do it. It’s a very real possibility that if Strong feels that nobody believes anything he says and that he is already “out the door” that those feelings may very well drive him away and nobody in Cardinal Nation should want that. I’m just trying to caution fans on what they may say or do because you never know what ripple effect you might have with your actions.
Many Kentucky fans try to stir the pot and ruffle the Cardinals fans feathers and vice versa around these parts. Always have and always will. It’s no secret that the majority of UK fans would probably rather see Strong take another job due to his quick success at Louisville and the possibilities of ACC Championships looming in the near future. Strong and his tremendous staff have laid the foundation of a dynasty and the future appears to be, in the words of R&B star Rhianna, “bright like a diamond” with the recent ACC invitation and talks of expanding Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium once again. Fans of the red and black need not get in tizzy over smack talk from the UK fan base. The Cats just introduced former Florida State defensive coordinator, -photo courtesy kentucky.com (New Kentucky Head Coach, Mark Stoops)Mark Stoops as their next head coach and they should all be pretty excited about that. I for one think it was a good hire and hope they can get back to being a competitive, bowl eligible team, to help propel the Cards and Cats gridiron rivalry.
Tom Jurich has built the University of Louisville into one of the better athletic programs in all of the country however, the Louisville football coaching position is still one that is looked at as a stepping stone in the eyes in most. If fans treat it as such, then the perception will not change. Strong made some more good points about the Louisville fan base such as, not filling the stands on Senior day (even though the team was 9-1), the poor attendance for the Card March’s and also when he touched on the fan bases’ respect for the program. “You need to respect your program or the rumors do happen…… Why would you guys (the reporters) keep putting it out there for no reason.” I may be wrong here but I feel like Strong and his staff has a certain sense of pride and confidence in their team and just wants the fans to feel the same. It was almost a plea for the fans to “get on the train” and act as if Louisville football is in the same league as other historical programs such as the Notre Dame’s, Alabama’s, Florida’s, and Michigan’s. Nobody is confusing the Cardinals with the Irish, Tide, Gators or Wolverines in prestige or historical success but if you want to be talked about like that then you have to act like you are a part of that. Bottom line is that Louisville football is still building their fan base and has come a long way from the days of playing in a minor league baseball stadium but still has a ways to go. With Jurich and Strong, I see no reason why the Cardinals can’t become a sought out job rather than a stepping stone in time. Fans can definitely do their parts to help no matter how much of a big wig, alumni or casual fan they are but they can also contribute to the demise if not careful.
My final analysis: I believe Charlie Strong and his wife and kids are very happy in Louisville and I feel like Strong will be back next year and years to come. I believe the reason he doesn’t totally shoot down the many rumors right now is to keep his self, other coaches and players focused on the task at hand and use a strong finish to propel the team into next season with aspirations of another conference championship and possible BCS National Championship. Win or lose, after the Sugar Bowl, “…when the time is right…” Strong will meet with Jurich and the media to discuss the long term contract extension they just signed and will comment on the “next phase” of expanding Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Fans will be back on the train and will pick up some new passengers on their way to the ACC. Like I said at first though, I’m still wet behind the ears at this stuff and maybe it’s just my optimistic inner fan coming out.