Arkansas native Charlie Strong was already expected to be on athletic director Jeff Long's short list during Round 2 of the great Replacing Bobby Petrino saga, having entered 2012 two-for-two in winning seasons after the Cardinals suffered three years in a different kind of post-Petrino lurch.
And with Louisville ranked No. 19 and knocking on the door of 6-0 (and Arkansas crossing John L. Smith's name off its list nearly a month ago), chatter will intensify, as chatter does. He's already consistently one of the highest-handicapped potential hires, and the former Florida DC's frequently alleged desire to return to the SEC as a head coach makes for an easy story line.
But is he ready to leave just yet? Strong's either committed to staying or setting himself up with awkward quotes to live down later on.
"You don't just walk away when you're building a program," Strong said Wednesday to Jim Rome. "I look at the players I recruited here. I told them to come here for me and for this university. And then all the sudden I get a shot to go somewhere else and I walk away from them? I'm just not cut like that, Jim. I am happy where I am."
And his boss, athletic director Tom Jurich, is singing the same tune:
"I will match anybody's salary," Jurich said. "I will match anybody in college. I will be supportive of whoever's here. Do they want to be here? When someone is being talked about, that's a compliment to our program. I've had it where [we have] coaches and they're not talked about."
The appopriate response to anything said on career matters by any coach ever is, of course, OH PISH POSH. But are we sure Strong should go all in on the Arkansas job instead of waiting on the next hand?
Strong already makes at least $2.3 million, with six more years on his deal. That's about a million less than what Petrino was making at Arkansas. But Jurich is right that Louisville has the money to pay Strong more. And with the Cards expected to be even better in 2013, Strong might be wise to wait one more year anyway before seeing which SEC jobs open up later on.
Which would you rather have next year: Teddy Bridgewater's junior year against a Big East schedule, or the Tyler Wilson-less Hogs in the SEC West? If the money's really no different, it stands to reason Strong could turn a big 2013 at Louisville into a better gig than Arkansas. If everything lined up right, that could be two successful seasons followed by two 10-win seasons at Louisville, which isn't far from the resume that got Petrino into the NFL, let alone the SEC.
And that's if Jurich ever lets Strong leave.
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