About 40 hours after the first reports emerged that the Texas Longhorns would hire former Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong to fill the position vacated by Mack Brown following the longtime coach's December resignation, the school officially announced Strong's hire on Sunday afternoon.
Texas will introduce Strong, the school's 29th head football coach, at a press conference at 11 a.m. CT on Monday. He was one of two coaches to interview for the job -- Vanderbilt's James Franklin was the other.
"I'm excited and my family is excited to have the chance to lead one of the premier football programs in the country," Strong said in a statement. "Texas is one of those places that is always on your radar and a program anyone would dream of being a part of because you have a chance to compete on a national level every year. It's special because it has such great history, pride, tradition and passion for football."
Strong helped turn around Louisville's program, which had languished under Steve Kragthorpe, winning only nine games total in 2008 and 2009. The longtime assistant coach took advantage of his long-awaited opportunity, trudging through two seven-win seasons before breaking through in 2012 with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the helm, going 22-3 over the last two seasons, including a resounding victory over Florida in the 2013 Sugar Bowl and a win this year in the Russell Athletics Bowl.
The Cardinals' 11-plus win seasons in 2012 and 2013 were the fourth and fifth in school history and the first back to back. Louisville is also on pace to finish among the nation's top 15 for a school-record second straight year. It will be just the Cardinals' ninth top-25 finish in school history.
"To follow a future Hall of Fame coach like Mack Brown, who built a program that had great success and a reputation of doing it with class and integrity, is extra special," Strong said. "The National Championship, BCS Bowl wins and all he accomplished in 16 years built on the Longhorn legacy and makes it such an exciting place to be."
"Coach Brown developed such a strong bond with his players, the lettermen, community and high school coaches in this state, and that's something I hope to build on. He made everyone feel at home. I had the opportunity to speak at the High School Coaches Clinic in Austin a few years ago and Coach Brown introduced Coach (Darrell) Royal, and everyone gave him a standing ovation. Meeting Coach Royal and being around him that day is something I'll never forget."
To be sure, Strong would be wise to embrace the legacies of both of those coaches and perhaps even spend some time speaking with Brown about the demands of the job and how to deal with the media, known as one of the weak points for Strong, who is said to be more interested in coaching and developing players or watching film than managing the political aspects of the job.
And despite all the positives about Texas as a school, Strong said the decision to leave Louisville was not an easy one -- perhaps he truly was undecided on Saturday mooring when he met with his assistant coaches.
"This was a difficult decision because the University of Louisville gave me my first opportunity as a head coach," Strong said. "I have so much respect for President (James) Ramsey and (Athletics Director) Tom Jurich. They have been great to me and my family, and it was very hard to say goodbye, but they know this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."
However, by the time that Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich made it back to Kentucky after his vacation in Colorado was interrupted, he knew that Strong was going to leave.
Still, Jurich appreciated Strong meeting with him before leaving.
"I know he wanted to see me face to face, and I give a man a lot of credit for that," Jurich said during a Sunday press conference. "I'll have other days to ski. But I give him a lot of credit for that."
Jurich went on to call Strong a "very fine football coach" and praise his resurrection of the Louisville program.
From the Texas side, the hire of Strong was the first of athletic director Steve Patterson's tenure and will likely be the one that defines his legacy at his alma mater.
"I am excited to have Charlie Strong here to build on the proud tradition of Texas football and the 16 great years that Mack Brown gave to the program," Patterson said in his statement. "Our committee and former lettermen helped create an extensive selection criteria and after visiting with Charlie, it was clear he met them all."
"He led championship defenses as an assistant, a resurgence at the University of Louisville with double-digit game winning seasons, and twice been selected conference coach of the year. Most importantly, Charlie is a man of great integrity, with a wonderful family, who is well respected inside and outside the game. He is committed to the development of the total student-athlete both on and off the field."
"Charlie will represent the program and University extremely well. We look forward to a long and successful tenure for him here at Texas. I'd also like to thank President Bill Powers, our search committee, Jed Hughes and others who helped us select Coach Strong."
Texas has their next football coach, so now it's time for the forces that splintered at the end of Mack Brown's tenure to align behind Strong to help return the program to the lofty standards set by Brown during that incredible run from 2001 to 2009.