University of Louisville head coach Charlie Strong has brought energy and enthusiasm back to the Cardinals’ football program with his ability to motivate, teach, and recruit at the highest level.
A man with a proven track record as an assistant coach for 27 years and winning two national titles, Strong has a clear vision of re-building the Cardinals’ football program based on character, hard work and honor.
In two seasons at Louisville, Strong has guided the Cardinals to consecutive bowl appearances, and the school’s first BIG EAST title since 2006. He is only the third coach in U of L history to guide his first two teams to bowl games and 14 wins after inheriting a team that won just 15 games in the three seasons before Strong was hired.
Simply put, Strong has turned around the football program and the excitement around the program is at an all-time high.
Louisville improved from 4-8 in 2009 to identical 7-6 records in 2010 and 2011, including bowl game appearances in the Beef `O’Brady’s Bowl in 2010 and the Belk Bowl last season.
After winning a combined two league games in 2008-09, Strong led the Cardinals to three BIG EAST victories in 2010 and five on 2011. Playing with a large number of underclassmen and true freshmen this past season, Strong saw his young team get off to a slow start, but it was understandable with the large number of first-time performers.
Louisville won two of its first three games, including a 24-17 win on the road at arch-rival Kentucky, snapping a four-game losing streak to the `Cats. It was the first win in Lexington since the 2005 season. However, Strong’s young team dropped its next three games and it looked like the season was lost.
Sitting at 2-4 after a loss to Cincinnati on Oct. 15, in which Louisville had a 16-7 lead at the half, the Cardinals rattled off wins in five of their last six games, including a win over nationally ranked West Virginia. Louisville also won its last two games of the year on the road to win a share of the BIG EAST title and qualify for the Belk Bowl.
Strong guided true freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to win BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and a number freshman All-American accolades, while freshman guard Jake Smith became the first Cardinal player to be named a FWAA Freshman All-American.
Taking over a program that went 15-21 in the three seasons prior to him taking over, Strong’s first season was just as impressive, guiding the Cardinals to a 7-6 record and being named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
After combining to win just two BIG EAST games in 2008 and 2009, Strong guided the Cardinals to a 3-4 record, including its first BIG EAST shutout — a 26-0 win over BIG EAST champion Connecticut.
Louisville also snapped its 10-game road league losing streak with a 28-20 win at Syracuse and a 40-13 victory over Rutgers to achieve bowl eligibility. Louisville defeated Southern Mississippi 31-28 in the 2010 Beef `O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., after falling behind 14-0. It capped one of the best turnarounds in Division I football, improving by +3 games from the previous season. Off the field, Strong coached four first-team All-BIG EAST performers in Bilal Powell, Johnny Patrick, Cameron Graham and Mark Wetterer, while Hakeem Smith was the BIG EAST Newcomer of the Year.
Since coming to Louisville, Strong also emphasizes the importance of academics. His teams have been over a 2.5 GPA in every semester that he has been the head coach and saw plackicker Chris Philpott earn CoSIDA Academic All-District accolades. The former long-time assistant coach with the Florida Gators became the 21st head coach at Louisville when he was officially introduced as the Cardinals’ head coach on December 9, 2010.
No stranger to success, Strong has coached in 20 bowl games as an assistant and has won a pair of national titles at Florida. He helped the Gators to national titles in 2009 with a win over Oklahoma and in 2007 with a dominating win over Ohio State.
He has also worked for three different head coaches who have won national championships in former Florida coach Urban Meyer, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz.
Prior to taking over at Louisville, Strong was considered one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation after coaching the Gators from 2003-2009 and building some of the nation’s top defenses. He had four different tenures with the Gators from 2003-09; 1991-94 and 1988-89, and as a graduate assistant in 1983-84.
During his tenure at Florida, he has coached 13 All-Americans, a National Defensive Player of the Year, a Jack Tatum Award winner, two SEC Defensive Freshmen of the Year, two Thorpe Award finalists, two Nagurski Trophy finalists and the 2008 Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year. He has developed seven first-round NFL Draft picks and 18 players that were selected in the third round or higher.
In 2010, cornerback Joe Haden was the seventh pick in the NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns, while Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham and Major Wright were all selected in the first three rounds.
In 2009, Strong guided one of the nation’s top defensive units, finishing in the top five in four different statistical categories. UF was third in the nation in scoring defense (11.54 ppg), third in pass defense (151.46), fourth in total defense (253.08) and fifth in pass efficiency defense (93.91) in leading the Gators to a 12-1 record and a trip to the SEC Championship game for the third time in Strong’s tenure as the defensive coordinator.
Five members of his 2009 defense earned first or second All-SEC accolades. Strong was named a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach for the second straight year, and is the only second three-time finalist in the history of the award. Strong’s defense in 2008 ranked in the top 20 nationally in 10 statistical categories, including a school-record tying 26 interceptions that also tied for the most in the country that season. UF’s scoring defense showed the third-largest improvement from the 2007 season to the 2008 season, finishing fifth in the nation by yielding only 12.9 points per game.
His most impressive output of the season came in the 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship Game versus Oklahoma, which entered the contest with a nation’s best 54.0 scoring average.
The Gators held the highest-scoring offense in the history of college football and the Heisman-winning quarterback Sam Bradford to just 14 points and 363 total yards in Florida’s 24-14 win to guide the Gators to their second national title in three years.
For his outstanding work in 2008, Strong was named a finalist for the Broyles Award for the second time in his career. Strong also coached a group of linebackers that included consensus first-team All-American and repeat first-team All-SEC performer Spikes, who was a finalist for the 2008 Bronko Nagurski Award.
In his seven years at UF as defensive coordinator, the Gators intercepted 131 passes, the third-highest total in the nation and the most in the SEC during the last seven seasons.
A tenacious recruiter, Strong was named one of the nation’s top-25 best recruiters by Rivals.com for his part in inking the 2007 signing class that was ranked No. 1 by most outlets. He was also a vital part in helping Florida lead the SEC in rushing defense for the second straight season while surrendering only 103.3 yards per game, registering as the 10th-best nationally. In 2007, he also helped develop Spikes into a consensus first-team All-SEC selection.
It marked the first time since 1999 that a freshman or sophomore linebacker earned Coaches’ first-team All-SEC recognition. In 2006, Strong helped guide the Gator defense that limited opponents to a league-best 72.5 rushing yards per game. That figure marked the second-lowest total in school history, and stood nearly 25 yards better than the next-best team in the SEC. The Gators’ run defense ranked fifth nationally in 2006, while they rated sixth in the nation in total defense with an average of 255.4 yards per contest. Under Strong’s watch, Florida set a BCS record for fewest yards allowed in its national title bout with Ohio State, yielding only 82 yards to better the previous record by 72.
Three members of the UF defense earned All-America recognition and six players received All-SEC honors in 2006.
Since the 2003 season, Strong’s defensive units at Florida allowed an average of 17.6 points per game, which ranks ninth in the country over that span, have forced a mind-boggling 193 turnovers and an average of 308.6 yards per contest.
From 1999-2002, Strong served as defensive coordinator at South Carolina, earning finalist honors for the Broyles Award in 2000. He guided the Gamecocks to a top-20 national ranking in total defense twice, while the 2000 squad ranked sixth in the country in scoring defense after yielding just 15.8 points per game. Strong also spent four seasons at Notre Dame, overseeing the defensive line on a defense that registered a single-season school-record 41.5 sacks in 1997.
A four-year letterwinner at Central Arkansas, Strong was a three-time All-Conference selection in football and a two-time honoree in track. He is married to the former Victoria Lovallo, and the couple has two daughters, Hailee (14) and Hope (11). Strong has one son, Tory (24).