LOUISVILLE, Ky. (GoCards.com) - The University of Louisville has extended the contract of football coach Charlie Strong to 2020, the school announced Wednesday.
Strong, who was named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year for the second time in his tenure in 2012, has turned the Louisville program around in three seasons, going 25-14, guiding the team to a pair of BIG EAST titles and its third-straight bowl appearance, which featured a win over third-ranked Florida in the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl. The win delivered Louisville its first BCS victory since the 2006-07 season.
The 2012 season was remarkable, as the third-year coach guided the Cardinals to an 11-2 record, only the fourth 11-win season in school history. Louisville won its second consecutive BIG EAST title and third in school history, and was capped off with a remarkable win in the school's second BCS game.
Strong's teams also have shown a dedication to academics, as 47 student-athletes in the fall achieved a 3.0 or better grade-point average, the highest total since 2010. In December, nine of Strong's current players received their diplomas at the fall graduation ceremony.
Strong was hired Dec. 9, 2009, and made an immediate impact on the program. Strong guided a senior-laden team to a 7-6 overall record and a 31-28 win in the Beef `O'Brady's Bowl versus Southern Mississippi. It was an improvement of three games, which was one of the best in the country.
Taking over after three-straight losing campaigns, Strong guided the Cardinals to shutout wins over Memphis and Connecticut, and stopped the Cardinals' 11-game BIG EAST road losing streak with a 28-20 win over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. The Cardinals became bowl eligible with another big road win, a 40-13 victory over Rutgers. For his efforts, Strong became the first U of L head football coach to garner BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors when he was tabbed the 2010 co-BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
Off the field, Strong put an immediate emphasis on showing improvement in the classroom. Under Strong's eye in the spring of 2010, 40 football players were named to the athletic director's academic honor for achieving at least a 3.0 grade-point average, 13 were named to the dean's list (requires semester GPA of 3.5-3.999 and no grades of `C' or below) and, collectively, the team secured a 2.7 grade-point average.
The following semester, the fall of 2010, the Cardinals' football team had 37 student-athletes recognized on the athletic director's academic honor roll, with 11 earning dean's list status and one capturing the dean's scholar award.
In the spring of 2011, two student-athletes were named dean's scholars, 12 reached the dean's list and 36 Cardinals were tabbed athletic director's academic honor roll members. The team maintained a 2.65 grade-point average. With the completion of the summer courses, the Cardinals' freshman recruiting class posted its second-straight above 3.0-grade point average. In 2010, the group earned a 3.44 GPA, and this summer, the newcomers finished with a 3.185 mark.
Strong brought two national championships, 20 different appearances in bowl games and over 27 years of experience to the sidelines at U of L. Prior to taking over at Louisville, Strong spent seven seasons as the defensive coordinator at Florida, including his last two as the associate head coach. It was his fourth different stint at UF, having coached at Florida from 1991-94; 1988-89 and 1983-84. He served as Florida's interim head coach in 2004, falling to Miami 27-10 in the Peach Bowl.
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 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.