The Righteous Ascension of Charlie Strong

Trey JonesCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2009

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: Assistant head coach Charlie Strong of the Florida Gators watches the action against the Auburn Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium September 29, 2007 in Gainesville, Florida. Auburn defeated Florida 20-17. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

The relationship between a college football coach and his new employer is akin to trying to cook out with your five-year-old son for the very first time. 

On one hand, this new partnership could produce a fire that creates a delicious BBQ dinner that is appreciated, enjoyed, and approved by all.   On the other hand, one mistake with the lighter fluid and your guests leave hungry, Dad gets carted off to the emergency room, and Junior finds himself bound for a lifetime of therapy.

Most times, though, a raised voice keeps the house from burning down, Dad wipes the dirt off the chicken, and Junior gets to bring in a plate of yum despite the small tear running down his cheek.

Bottom line - You never know what’s going to happen until the match is lit.

Such is the spectacle known as “The College Head Coaching Shuffle."

The most volatile Human Resources event known to man.

But as much fun as we poke at this spectacle, to the participants it’s a very tense, stressful and sometimes humiliating process.  It has become an increasingly volatile mix of good-ol-boy networking, politics, negotiating, timing, and luck.

It’s also a process where qualifications are often overshadowed by emotional interests.

Such is the case of Charlie Strong – Florida’s Defensive Coordinator and Associate Head Coach/Linebackers – and “should be” leading candidate for most any NCAA Division I head coaching position.

We all know the story from last winter.  An apparently very frustrated Charlie Strong publicly suggests that his interracial marriage was a negative factor in his candidacy for several head coaching positions.  The credibility of his claim increased when other coaches with less than impressive credentials found homes at schools with very strong football traditions.   In the end, Charlie stays at Florida but the talk of race and head coaching opportunities makes big headlines.

For the most part, we haven’t heard a word from Charlie on this matter since.

His silence should not be confused with patience…

What is definitely not confusing is that Charlie should be THE leading candidate, with little or no head coaching experience, for a significant head coaching slot in the nation today.  

He’s due a “first timer” opportunity similar to Bob Stoops’ move to Oklahoma , Pete Carroll’s move to USC, Tommy Tuberville’s  move to Ole Miss, and Les Miles’ move to Oklahoma State. 

It will probably only take five to seven weeks into this season for some of those programs who opted to pass on Charlie to start thinking about calculating exit strategies…  Charlie can at least enjoy knowing that nothing corrects bad learned behavior like having a decision based upon that behavior blow up in your face. 


Charlie is definitely due a big move. If , though, he’s smart, really smart, he will take a lesser program under his wing and find an offensive identity to go along with his expertise on defense.  A strategy that could have benefited Ron Zook, Mike Shula, Sylvester Croom and many, many others.

Think of it… Charlie’s accomplishments include working with three very successful, yet extremely different head coaches - Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier, and Urban Meyer.   The exposure to offense couldn’t be any more extreme.  He even had a great special teams tutor in Ron Zook. 

The opportunities for creativity are endless.

Charlie is also keenly aware that recruiting is the cornerstone to any successful program.  Again, it would be to his benefit to learn how to man the helm of such an initiative by scratching it out with a lesser program rather than attempt to meet the demands of a high-profile team right off the bat.

All he needs is time… time to develop and implement his schemes.

But time is the enemy of big name programs and the margin for failure is growing smaller every year.

It’s pretty clear that Charlie won’t pick the Mickey Andrew career path and stay with the Gators for decades to come.  Gator fans would love it and Mickey’s record of putting college players into the pros might be in jeopardy but Charlie is too ambitious for that.

Charlie will probably leave at the end of this season and the betting money is that he will be asked to head a progressive, major program.  His decision-making process is hidden to us all. But one has to wonder if the snub of last year would be a compelling reason to take the most prestigious offer presented.

Next January, it would be a crowning testament to hard work, patience, brains, and imagination to see Charlie make his first press address wearing the colors of a well-recognized and tradition-rich program.  However, it would even be better to see him accept a similar introduction four years from now with his huge grin radiating confidence rather than nervous anticipation.


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