Ex-Texas HC Charlie Strong Fired by USF After 3 Seasons with Program

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2019

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 10: Head coach Charlie Strong of the South Florida Bulls is seen before the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium on November 10, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

South Florida has fired head coach Charlie Strong, the school announced Sunday.

"I would like to thank Coach Strong and his staff for their hard work and contributions to our program," USF Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly said in a statement. "I have tremendous respect for Coach Strong and his dedication to recruiting and developing young men of talent and character and leading them with integrity. He has represented USF with dignity and class and we wish Coach and his family the very best."

Strong wrapped up his third season as the Bulls' coach with a 34-7 loss to UCF on Friday. They went 21-16 under his watch but finished 4-8 in 2019.

The Strong era started off brightly as USF won 10 games, beat Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl and finished 21st in the AP Top 25 and Coaches polls.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse. Alabama transfer Blake Barnett struggled as the starting quarterback after succeeding Quinton Flowers. Barnett threw for 2,705 yards, 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2018 and then made four appearances in 2019 before undergoing season-ending ankle surgery.

The USF defense was also a mess despite Strong initially building his reputation as a defensive coordinator. The Bulls finished last year 80th in Football Outsiders' S&P+ defense rating. They entered Week 14 sitting in 51st in SP+ defense, per ESPN's Bill Connelly.

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Hiring Strong appeared to be a smart move, but few can argue with USF's decision on Sunday.

Bringing Strong aboard was a signal of intent by the program. He had just come off stints at Louisville and Texas, and he was the 16th highest-paid coach in FBS ($5 million), per USA Today.

The Athletic's Bruce Feldman and Tampa Bay Times' Joey Knight speculated Willie Taggart might be a target:

Florida State fired Taggart midway through this year after he had compiled a 9-12 record.

Taggart was responsible for laying the groundwork that Strong would later benefit from, however. Taggart took over at USF in 2013. The team saw its record improve over each of the next three seasons, culminating in an 11-2 campaign in 2016.