KNOXVILLE – Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, who was thought to be a top target for Tennessee’s open head-coaching position, will remain with the Cardinals, according to SportsIllustrated.com.
Strong mulled a contract offer from the Vols and is now in the process of finalizing a long-term extension with Louisville, according to the report.
Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich told CBSSports.com in October that he was prepared to match any offer for Strong.
“We’ll make him No. 1 if we have to,” Jurich said concerning how much money he was willing to spend to keep Strong in Louisville.
It appears he backed up that talk on Wednesday night.
Sources have told Nooga.com throughout this process that Tennessee could be willing to spend over $4 million for the right candidate. If Louisville matched an offer in that range, it would make Strong one of the highest-paid coaches in the country.
Strong, a former defensive coordinator at South Carolina and Florida, has a 24-14 record through three seasons at Louisville. The Cardinals are preparing to play the Gators in the Sugar Bowl after winning the Big East this year with a 10-2 record.
Strong emerged as a top target for the Vols over the past 24 hours. It appears the Vols will now need to re-focus their search elsewhere.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was thought to be another potential top choice, but multiple outlets in Oklahoma City reported on Wednesday morning that Gundy had decided to stay with the Cowboys.
Where does Tennessee turn next?
First, it should be mentioned that neither Gundy nor Strong have made any sort of official announcement about their future plans as of Wednesday night.
However, if they remain out of contention as reported, the Vols might turn their focus to North Carolina coach Larry Fedora. The first-year coach of the Tar Heels has an impressive offensive background and was 34-19 in his four-year tenure at Southern Mississippi (2008-2011). He posted an 8-4 mark this season at Chapel Hill.
Other names that could emerge as candidates include Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones and former North Carolina coach Butch Davis.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.