Wednesday, October 28, 2009

the replacements: Charlie Strong

Doesn't feel as weird doing another entry in this series now that our little win streak is over.

Charlie Strong

Main qualification: Multiple national titles as Florida Gators defensive coordinator


1986-1987: Southern Illinois (WR)
1988-1989: Florida (OLB)
1990: Mississippi (WR)
1991-1994: Florida (DE '91-'93; DT/Asst.HC '94)
1995-1998: Notre Dame (DL)
1999-2002: South Carolina (DC)
2003-present: Florida (DC; DE '03-'04; LB '05-present)

First, let's clear up the occasionally-proffered notion that Strong wouldn't want to come here. Keep in mind: as I pointed out a few weeks ago, if Groh is out, our job is likely to be the single most attractive in the whole country. We're a BCS school. We pay well. We're sitting on a pretty good recruiting base. And Charlie Strong, as you'll find out if you Google him because every other result is an article discussing this, thinks his race (he's black) or more specifically, that of his wife (she's white) is the reason he's not a head coach anywhere.

We can leave the politics out of it. In fact, please do. The point is, Charlie Strong feels passed over. He's interviewed for several head coaching jobs - six in one year if you believe Randy Shannon - and not gotten any of them. If a BCS school like ours came calling, he wouldn't turn up his nose.

Now, as for qualifications. As a head coach, Strong obviously has none. Nevertheless, whichever school hires him will immediately be in for a shower of praise. There is no other assistant in the country that has never been a head coach and yet receives so much press in connection with other jobs. Last year, UCF was the hot spot - that never materialized. Even Gator types are pretty resigned to the idea that Strong will eventually up and leave them. Florida even has an assistant DC in place. How many schools have an assistant DC? And in a world full of ambitious, Type A personalities that don't care for intrusions on their turf, why would you do that, if not because you think your regular DC will be pulling up roots sooner rather than later?

Strong's accomplishments are more or less the usual for the archetypical "assistant ready for his own gig." Except for the multiple national championships. Those are nice. Florida pilfered him from South Carolina, which was known under Strong for having good defenses after years of carrying the Shamecocks moniker. South Carolina didn't want to lose him, either, and with descriptions being tossed around like "ace recruiter," you can guess why.

Urban Meyer himself is a pretty good recruiter, and at South Carolina, Strong was working for another guy well known for connecting with players and pushing the right motivational buttons: Lou Holtz. The guy's been around nothing but the highest quality coaching most of his career (except for the Zook years.) And nobody would dare question his coaching ability either; not after 25 years in the business.

Downsides? A couple, and the most obvious being, there are always coaches that make great assistants but aren't cut out for head coaching gigs. And you never know who they are til you hand them the keys. Greg Robinson is the quintessential example; he was considered a brilliant DC at Texas and then got himself hired at Syracuse and absolutely cratered the program. Most guys aren't that bad. But it's a risk you take. And from the AD's perspective, this isn't quite as risky as it might seem. Hire a guy like Charlie Strong and nobody thinks you're taking a risk; instead, they pat you on the back for being able to lure such a prominent name that a lot of schools could have had.

Second issue is that Strong is likely to be upwardly-mobile if successful. Is this a problem? Well, yes. Sort of. Ask anyone what would be the perfect outcome of a head coaching hire and they'll tell you they want a guy who'll stick around for twenty years and become an icon. I think Strong would be more likely than some of these other candidates to, if he's successful, jump ship in four or five years to a higher-profile, higher-paying job. That's a problem, but one you don't worry about much in the afterglow of a new hire when everything's sunshine and roses. And if Strong is hired and does a good enough job that Tennessee or whoever comes calling, I think we'll be pretty happy with the way his tenure went and will have both the incentive and the ability to hire an equally good candidate.

I've stated my personal preference for 1) Tommy Tuberville and 2) Brian Kelly if he'll come and not wait for Notre Dame, and after that there's a sort of mishmash of good ideas, some better than others. Strong tends to rise up near the top of the mishmash. We'd get a lot of good pub for Giving A Deserving Man A Chance, which is a good thing and brings in donor money and is also the least of the reasons to hire Charlie Strong.


Winfield Featherston said...

If you ignore the wife element, I think somebody has some dirty picture of Charlie Strong that they use against him.

Also, Syracuse was in much worse shape than I think UVA is right now.
If the ACC gets either Charlie Strong or Chip Kelley it increases its legitimacy.

The same goes for Tuberville...almost. I am never a fan of teams who get coaches who made their name and "legend" persona at a different school and then leave and coach somewhere else. Those teams will never have quite what the coach had at the previous school. When I think Tubs, I think Auburn. I doubt that will ever change.

mlambo said...

The advantage Charlie Strong has over Tuberville is that Charlie must be hungry for his shot at head coach. Tuberville seems like he would be a bit burned out after that train wreck at Auburn.

Charlie Strong is the best choice for UVa.