Louisville gaining confidence Charlie Strong will stay as coach

Pat Forde
Yahoo! Sports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – On a day when media reports identified Charlie Strong as the leading candidate for the vacant Tennessee job, there was a quiet confidence here that the third-year head coach will remain with the Cardinals.

A decision from Strong on his future could come as soon as Wednesday, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Multiple sources who spoke with Strong on campus Tuesday said he seemed committed to staying with the Cardinals – through the Sugar Bowl and beyond. They expect him to coach Louisville in 2013.

"Unless he's the greatest poker player of all time, I don't think he’s going anywhere," one Louisville source told Yahoo! Sports.

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However, Louisville sources said they were taking nothing for granted and would wait to hear a definitive public declaration from Strong to be sure. The school has been burned by football coaches in the past, particularly Bobby Petrino, when it came to commitments to the school.

Around the same time Louisville people were feeling assured, reports on ESPN.com and other locations surfaced saying that Strong was at the top of the Tennessee wish list to replace Derek Dooley.

Sources said the Volunteers previously had interviewed Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Strong, and that North Carolina coach Larry Fedora also was on the Tennessee radar. There were conflicting reports Tuesday about whether Fedora was interviewing in New York with Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart.

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The Volunteers did not want to announce a coach until Wednesday at the earliest, sources said, to avoid overshadowing the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame enshrinement of former coaching great Phil Fulmer.

Strong caused some consternation in Louisville at a Monday Sugar Bowl press conference by failing to commit to the Cardinals. When asked whether he would return as the coach of the Cardinals, he responded, "I will say that at the right time."

Strong also criticized Louisville's fan support and made a significant political misstep by comparing it, unfavorably, to the fan support of hated rival Kentucky. Some Cardinals fans saw that not only as an insult, but as a sign that Strong might be greasing the skids for his exit.

That speculation only intensified during the day Tuesday, when Strong's name continued to be linked to Tennessee.

But by Tuesday night, program insiders were optimistic that they would keep their coach for a fourth season.

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