Charlie Strong is a man who needn’t look in the mirror, and ask “Who is the fairest of them all?”
That wasn’t the reflection that Charlie Strong needed nor sought when faced with the question that, sooner or later, we all must ask.
When Charlie Strong had to decide whether he was the man he represented himself to be, he looked in his heart.
He answered Yes.
Charlie Strong assumed the head football coaching position at Louisville with a true sense of humility, grateful that an opportunity for which he’d worked so long finally came, dedicated to the values we espouse. Loyalty. Responsibility. Neighborliness. Hard work.
He has proven his words were not lip service.
As we all are at some point along the paths we take, Charlie Strong faced temptation.
As a young black kid growing up in the rural Ozarks desiring to be a baseball player, how could he ever have imagined that one of the hallowed traditions of college football would one day beseech him to sit in the seat of legends? Yet here he was, sitting with his family and conflicting emotions, considering the implausibility of it all.
Is it possible, he must have inquired of himself, that I really will pass on the opportunity to coach at one of the premier programs in the land?
To his eternal credit, Charlie Strong, Man in Full, man of his word, answered Yes, there is work still be to be done where I am. Yes, there are thousands of people here who have put their faith in me, who have trusted me, to whom I owe this moment.
Who of the ambitious among us can say we would have made the same decision? That we would have been so firmly seeded in our dedication to loyalty and trust that we would have spurned an improbable to comprehend chance of a lifetime?
This week Charlie Strong proved he is the man he said he is. He proved himself the man we have always hoped him to be.
Charlie Strong is a Man in Full.
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Much has been made of the fact that football at U of L has been different than basketball. That, despite some minor slippage in the declining years of the Crum Era, the Cardinals have been in the upper echelon of college hoops since the 1960s. That football has been an athletic afterthought, a wannabe program without the intangibles to rise to the top.
So I’m thinking of the Sunday of that weekend in San Diego in 1975. Denny Crum had taken U of L to two Final Fours in his first in his first four seasons. The Cards had just been blindsided by Crum-mentor John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins in the national semi-finals. After which the Wizard of Westwood announced his retirement.
It made that loss the day before even more bittersweet. There was no doubt that Denny Crum, who had obviously learned well at the side of the master, who obviously was well along the road to becoming a coaching legend himself, would move to his teacher’s seat in Pauley Pavilion.
But Denny Crum stayed in Louisville.
Consider how momentous that decision has been not only for Cardinal basketball, but for the entire athletic program, the university and the City of Louisville. What might our city be like today had Crum moved back to Cali?
Charlie Strong’s decision to stay is arguably more resonant.
Not only for the football program, though the events of the last week herald an entirely new momentum there. But for the university and the City of Louisville.
Charlie Strong said this is my home. Said you in Louisville have believed in me and I must honor that.
What a stand up guy.
* * * * *
Lee Corso left for Indiana.
Howard Schnellenberger left for Oklahoma.
John L. Smith left for Michigan State.
Bobby Petrino left for the most recent suitor that called.
Charlie Strong stayed.
– Seedy K