The USF Bulls have just concluded the second season under coach Charlie Strong in dismal fashion. Although they finished with a winning record, obviously having been 7 – 0 and then losing the five remaining games, has left much of the fanbase outraged at how the program regressed the second half of the season.
The question becomes: what is Strong’s future with the program? This is in light of a couple of significant factors:
The first one, as we have written previously, is that Strong’s third year and beyond in his contract is now mostly the financial responsibility of USF. This is after 2017 and 2018 contract years being mostly covered to the tune of almost $5 million each season by the University of Texas. That was part of Strong’s buyout from having been fired in Austin in December of 2016.
So now, his salary which will top out at around $3 million will now have to be paid through USF funding and donations. It’s also significant that Strong (unless he gets a re-worked contract) is agreeing to take a pay cut in the short-term to still coach the Bulls.
The second biggest factor is: Would Strong look to jump to another job shortly?
The obvious place where he could return is the University of Louisville, which has an opening after firing Bobby Petrino with a 2 -10 record this season. Strong successfully brought Louisville into prominence, including a BCS Sugar Bowl win over Florida January of 2013.
There has been much discussion and debate amongst Bulls fans on social media and the internet about what the truth is with Strong’s interest in going elsewhere, and what the actual buyout in his current contract is?
An item in the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday afternoon only touched on the reported buyout and provided no real insight into what the actual number is, if Strong where to try to leave or if the school was looking to fire him. USF is shielding that info from a public records request, because the private USF Foundation is paying a large portion of Strong’s deal and isn’t required to release the details.
It is believed that Strong’s buyout to try to leave is at least seven figures for him, because that’s common in contracts were a coach is making $3 or more million a year.
It’s not clear whether Louisville’s new athletic director Vince Tyra really has interest in Strong, but he does have a history there and a lot of positive memories for their fan base, should he want to return. Louisville was turned down by former player and now Purdue coach, Jeff Brohm earlier this week, and they continue their search.
Also, the Louisville job is much more attractive than the USF job, because of the revenue at the school and through the Atlantic Coast Conference and their television deal. This includes, the ACC television network that will be coming on next season.
New USF athletic director Michael Kelly has got to manage the situation with Strong, his deal, but most importantly, with getting back to winning, especially at the end of the year.
Bear in mind Strong inherited a 10-win program, when Willie Taggart left for Oregon in 2016. This included the best quarterback in the history of the school, Quinton Flowers, who helped lead them to another 10-win season in 2017 and a bowl game victory over Texas Tech.
Strong’s forte’ is defense and unfortunately, as 2018 unraveled with five consecutive losses against the tougher competition, his defense was repeatedly riddled and exposed. That must improve too, if he’s sticking around.
It all remains to be seen what if any interest, Strong has in trying to jump to another school and how committed he is to the Bulls.
We will know those answers soon.
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