A relaxed and briefly emotional Charlie Strong announced that he had turned down a job offer at Tennessee to remain the head football coach at Louisville during a press conference Thursday morning.
Here's the full transcript of his opening statement:
"Thank you for your patience. This was a decision that was made with a few minutes of deliberation, as you know. It was the toughest decision that I've ever had to make in my 29 years of coaching. It was a life decision for myself, my family, and for my school.
Since a child growing up in Batesville, Arkansas, I dreamed of becoming a successful head football coach. Coaching has been my entire life.
When considering my future here at the University of Louisville, I thought back to the first hours I talked to Tom Jurich. I remembered how he trusted me and how he was committed in helping lead 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. I was always on everyone's short list, but Tom let me know from the very beginning that I was the only one on his list. His unwavering loyalty in me and my vision has always been there.
I also thought back to the city of Louisville and how it embraced me, my family, this football team, from the very first day I arrived in town. They received us with open arms. They have continued to believe since day one.
From the beginning I asked the Cardinals team to believe in me and trust in me. I also had to have faith in the process and told them we would be a family. I told them we would grow together, through wins and losses, and to have loyalty and trust in one another. I also asked the same of my coaching staff and their families.
This wasn't something that was done over night. I think about last season when we beat Murray State, we lose to FIU, we beat Kentucky and we lose to Marshall. The athletic director come to me with a new contract to show his support for me and this program. His commitment to me by giving me a an extension asked me to continue to build for the future. The Big East championship trophy we brought home last week is as much Tom's as it is the rest of the team's.
I can remember coming in last week to our fans - we had a group of fans here - coach Moorer had the trophy in his hands, he passed it around and let the fans who waited around 4 o'clock in the morning take pictures with the trophy in their hands.
I didn't want this to be an emotional decision, or one based on my ego or my families' ego or the players' ego. "Lead" to me isn't about telling people what to do, it's all about serving others. It's about watching players coming to college as grown boys and to develop them into men. When I thought about leaving, I kept coming back -- we haven't finished the job yet, we're still growing together, we have a lot of work to do.
I knew this would be a big opportunity. One of the people was a no-brainer. But when I thought about all those people I've come across in Louisville over the past three years on the field, in the grocery store, on campus, in this community, at my daughters' schools, at my daughters' volleyball games; they're all a part of our family.
I celebrated in 2010 when our soccer team went to the national championship game. I can remember Sandy Pearsall going and winning a school record 55 plus games. Last year with the basketball team going to the Final Four, I was able to celebrate. Watching our swim team - I can remember me and my daughter going to the swim match and watch us win the Big East title. So much has happened in this program, and so much has been built in this program under the leadership of Tom Jurich.
As I talked with my family, it became crystal clear to me that I needed to stay here at the University of Louisville. Louisville has a special place in our heart. After reflecting the last couple of days, I know the best decision to stay here. We will continue to work and build a program, and to fulfill our dreams on the football field as well as in the classroom.
I close with this paraphrase by Stephen Covey: 'You can buy a person a lot, but you can't buy his heart. His heart is where his enthusiasm is, where his loyalty is.' My enthusiasm and heart are with the University of Louisville."
Strong momentarily fought back tears while reading the Stephen Covey quote, and then asked the media for questions.
Of particular note:
--He has not signed a new contract, in fact, he and Jurich haven't even sat down to discuss a new contract. That means this was a decision based purely on loyalty.
--His first contact with Tennessee was a phone call last Friday. There was then a meeting with UT officials on Monday and then a contract offer from UT on Tuesday. There was no counter-offering between Tennessee and Louisville. "I'm not about that."
--Admitted that he had some things about the fans that ruffled some feathers on Monday, but said the fans are both "great" and "super."
--When he first received the job offer, his ego had him thinking about all the things he thought he could do in the SEC. "It's not about that. It's about people and how you affect their lives."
--Because of things that have happened in the past, Strong thinks about 80% of the community probably thought he was leaving. We've only scratched the surface here.