Stop crafting all your Strong pun headlines, Knoxville copy editors. Louisville copy editors, you may proceed. Charlie Strong is staying in the Bluegrass State, spurning Tennessee for Louisville and leaving the Volunteers' head coaching search reeling once again.
Charlie Strong is staying at Louisville, according to a Louisville source. Strong received a contract offer from Tennessee on Wednesday, but declined it after pondering the decision for a few hours. ...
"It was Charlie's desire to end this constant speculation and re-commit long-term to Louisville," said a source.
This might be a bit of a rude awakening for Tennessee fans and the administration, who were not without some reason to think that their job might be appealing for a guy that spent most of his coaching career in the SEC and whose stock might not get much higher anytime soon than it is right now. I've said over and over on Twitter that unless you're one of about 10 teams -- and Tennessee is (likely only temporarily) not on that list -- your program's head coaching job is not as good as you think it is. But even I would have given the Vols a decent shot at getting Strong. Not a slam dunk, but a decent shot.
Getting beyond that, the question is where Tennessee goes from here. Jon Gruden is out. So's Mike Gundy, according to media reports. Butch Jones is reportedly sorta kinda thinking about taking the Colorado job. (And that name would not have been credible for Tennessee 24 hours ago.) John Chavis' name is already getting bounced around again. The Phillip Fulmer idea that some have floated has to be absurd -- right?
But most of the names at this point are a little bit out there. Bobby Petrino? I would seriously doubt it, though it looks like much more of a possibility than it did a few hours ago. Butch Davis? With the program under NCAA sanction, the Vols might be painting a target on their back, but it might be better to have a good coach and a target than a subpar hire. (Then again, fighting with FIU for a head coach would set off cackles across the SEC.)
Tennessee is not out of options yet, but it's getting to the point where the Volunteer faithful might have to settle for a triple or even a solid double instead of a home run. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with a triple or a solid double; you can eventually build a championship-caliber program with that. But it's a lot less than Tennessee fans probably thought they were getting when the Vols fired Derek Dooley a few weeks ago.