Sugar Bowl: Charlie Strong Notes

Strong Named AFCA Regional Coach of the Year
After a 10-2 regular season and a second-straight BIG EAST championship, University of Louisville head coach Charlie Strong was named one of the American Football Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year, the AFCA announced. Strong, who has guided the Cardinals to a 24-14 record in three seasons, led the Cardinals to their first 10-win season since 2006 and the school’s second BCS Bowl game. The Cardinals will square off against Florida in the 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl on Wednesday, Jan. 2 in New Orleans, La. Competing in the postseason for the third-straight year, Strong earned Region 1 honors for Coach of the Year recognition. The Cardinals raced out to a school-best 9-0 start before dropping two-straight games. Louisville clinched a share of their third BIG EAST title with a 20-17 win on the road at Rutgers. A native of Batesville, Ark., Strong led the Cardinals to consecutive 7-6 campaigns in 2010 and 2011 before compiling his best record this season.

Strong in the Sugar Bowl
Head coach Charlie Strong will make his fifth trip to the Sugar Bowl, but it will be his first as a head coach. Strong was 2-2 as a coach with the Florida Gators. In his last game as a member of the Florida staff before taking the Louisville job, Strong and the Gators blasted Cincinnati 51-24 in 2010. The Gators lost to Florida State 23-17 in 1995 and defeated West Virginia 41-17 in 1994. Florida also lost to Notre Dame 39-28 in 1992.

Strong in Close Games
In his three seasons at Louisville, Charlie Strong is 10-10 in games decided by seven points or less after a 20-17 win at Rutgers on Nov. 29. Louisville is 6-1 under Strong in games decided by seven points or less this year. After a pair of blowout wins to start the season, Louisville secured a five-point win over North Carolina and a four-point win against Southern Mississippi. Louisville gathered a two-point win over USF, a three-point overtime victory over Cincinnati and the three-point win over Rutgers.

Louisville was just 1-4 in 2010 in games decided by seven points or less with the only win coming in the 31-28 win over Southern Mississippi in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. Strong was 3-4 last season after a 31-24 loss to NC State in the Belk Bowl.

The Cardinals are 4-7 in games decided by seven points or less at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The Oct. 26 win over Cincinnati was Strong’s third win in a close game since a 39-34 win over North Carolina.

Louisville is a perfect 2-0 during Strong’s three seasons at Louisville in games decided by two points or less.

Strong Notches Third Straight Winning Season
Entering its 94th season of football, the University of Louisville now has four coaches who have started their coaching careers at Louisville with three straight winning seasons. Bobby Petrino (2003-06) and John L. Smith (1998-2002) were the last two head coaches to post three straight winning seasons in their first three years on the job until head coach Charlie Strong became the fourth with a win over USF. Lee Corso (1969-72) was the other coach to post three consecutive winning seasons to start his career. Corso, Smith and head coach Charlie Strong also won league titles during their first three seasons.

Strong Remains Loyal to Louisville
Charlie Strong met with reporters on the morning of Dec. 6 at the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex to announce that he had turned down an offer from Tennessee and will stay with the Cardinals.

“This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make in my 29 years of coaching,” Strong told reporters. “I thought back to the first hours I talked to Tom Jurich. I remembered how he trusted me and how he was committed to leading the Cardinals back to a conference title, a BCS bid and hopefully, one day, a national title. He gave me my first chance to be a head football coach after being an assistant for 27 years. His unwavering loyalty in me and my vision has always been there. We haven’t finished the job yet. My enthusiasm and heart are with the University of Louisville.”

The 18th-ranked Cardinals (10-2) won a share of their second straight BIG EAST Conference championship and a BCS berth in the 79th Allstate Sugar Bowl, where they’ll face No. 4 Florida (11-1) on Jan. 2 in New Orleans. Though coaching Tennessee would have allowed Strong become a head coach in the Southeastern Conference, he decided to stay at the school that gave him his first head coaching job. Strong is 24-14 in three seasons with the Cardinals.

“I’ve been to the SEC and I’ve had a chance to go win two national championships,” said Strong. “You look at those jobs and there are some really good jobs out there, but I have a great job here. I have a great person that I work for.”

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