Not to be outdone on a day when Arkansas bizarrely hired Bret Bielema and Auburn tapped Gus Malzahn, Tennessee is apparently zeroing in on a coach a bit to the north of Knoxville. Charlie Strong has become the prohibitive favorite, according to ESPN. That is -- if he wants the job.
Nothing has been finalized, and Louisville is expected to do what it can to keep Strong, who guided the Cardinals to a Big East Conference championship and an Allstate Sugar Bowl berth this season.
Even with Arkansas hiring away a coach who's headed to the Rose Bowl, getting Strong might be the coup of the year in the SEC head coach sweepstakes. Almost every major AQ program looking for a coach has been connected to Strong, whether justified or not, and it's no small task to take Louisville to a BCS bowl.
The hiring would also be a bit of an irony, giving that Strong started being viewed as a potential head coach during his stints as a defensive coordinator at South Carolina and Florida, two teams he would be facing on a regular basis if he were to go to Knoxville. And it would take the most logical candidate for South Carolina off the board when Spurrier retires, though his recent extension makes it look like the Head Ball Coach will hang around for a few more years.
The big question, of course, is whether Strong is a true candidate or if he's using the job as leverage for better pay and other concessions from Louisville; in his most recent remarks to the press, Strong indicated he was open to changing jobs and said he wanted more fan support. If that's more than just the kind of talk you do to get an extension, then Tennessee might also have found its man.