Louisville AD optimistic Strong stays with Cards

Dec 27, 2009 - 11:49 PM By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky.(AP) -- Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich can rest easy, it looks as if Charlie Strong is sticking with the Cardinals.

Florida coach Urban Meyer's decision to take a leave of absence rather than resign has left little doubt that Strong, who took the job earlier this month, will remain with Louisville.

Louisville hired Strong to replace Steve Kragthorpe on Dec. 9, but Jurich said early Sunday he was concerned Strong would be a leading candidate to succeed Meyer, who abruptly resigned for health reasons on Saturday night.

Those fears, however, were eased when Meyer changed his mind less than 24 hours later.

Meyer will coach the Gators in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will run the program in Meyer's absence.

Strong, who has spent the last seven season as the Florida defensive coordinator, will coach the Gators' defense against No. 4 Cincinnati before returning to Louisville on Jan. 2.

Jurich and Strong spoke several times over the weekend, conversations Jurich described as "positive."

"He's just looking forward to being the head coach here, that's what he's been saying," Jurich said.

Louisville's courtship of Strong ended with the 49-year-old signing a memorandum of understanding that will pay him $1.6 million annually. The two sides have been working on a formal contract in recent weeks.

Strong has quickly been embraced by the Louisville community. T-shirts celebrating his hire have been a hot seller and his emotional introductory news conference left little doubt how grateful he was for the opportunity to become a head coach.

Strong hasn't wasted any time getting to work rebuilding the Cardinals. He hired former UNLV coach Mike Sanford as offensive coordinator last week and has already secured commitments from a couple of high-profile recruits. Jurich said Strong also spent Christmas Eve calling every Louisville player wishing them a happy holiday.

"He talked to every single kid on our team; I've never heard of that," Jurich said. "He told them that Jan. 5, let the games begin."

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