Will Strong stay at UF?


Charlie Strong has been the architect of some dominating defenses at Florida.

Brian W. Kratzer/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 2:37 p.m.

Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has been through this before.

It's nearing the end of the regular season and as head coaching jobs open, his name pops up.

But each year, Strong remains in Gainesville.

As he waits, he keeps his heart and mind in one area.

"I just have to work and continue to do this job, right now," Strong said. "This is my whole focus, making sure our defense goes out and plays well."

Strong delivers his feelings in a mundane manner, but frustration has emerged in the past.

During Florida's national championship festivities last January in Miami, Strong said his race and his interracial marriage might have played a part in some schools' reluctance to hire him as a head coach.

"Everybody always said I didn't get that job because my wife is white," Strong said during media day in January. "If you think about it, a coach is standing up there representing the university. If you're not strong enough to look through that (interracial marriage), then you have an issue."

Strong, who is black and whose wife his white, didn't bring up those remarks when asked recently about future jobs, but UF coach Urban Meyer was asked about race playing a part in Strong's inability to get a head coaching job in his 25-plus years of coaching.

Meyer could only speak for himself about race and the hiring process.

"I hate to think it would, but I just keep my head down and coach as hard as I can," Meyer said. "I would hope not, but I don't know that. It plays no part in the University of Florida."

Meyer said he and Strong had discussions over the summer about possible coaching opportunities. Through all the talks, the constant theme was that process would begin at the conclusion of the season and it wouldn't serve as a distraction.

With their strong relationship, Meyer would hate to see Strong leave Florida, but there's a part of him that's cheering him on.

"Charlie is more than a coach," he said. "We're very close friends and our families are very close. We've been that way since the mid-'90s when both of us were at Notre Dame. Every year we go away on a retreat as a coaching staff and I always talk about that.

"When you're at Florida that's part of the deal, however, your loyalty is to this football team, these players and this program. Once the season is over, let's handle this professionally ó the interviews, the phone calls and the other stuff, because people call them."

Aside from what Strong's defenses have done for him in his career, it's his interactions with players that have helped him along the way.

Junior safety Major Wright has been with Strong for three years and said he thinks Strong would make an exceptional head coach.

"He's a great coach on and off the field," Wright said.

"He helps you, he guides you through everything. He jumps on you as a father and gets you going. He'd make a great head coach because he shows his leadership, he shows he cares about you and he does things for the team."

Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Omar Hunter was first recruited by Strong in high school and said he's had a certain comfort level with him ever since.

"I really liked Coach Strong from the jump," he said. "Heís an awesome coach. He likes to have fun. He keeps it easy. Itís not always about intensity with him. You can relax with him and have fun."

His boss is rooting for him. His players have his back and even a former coaching buddy, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, recently gave him support.

Strong appreciates the support, but his true satisfaction will come with a chance.

"Thatís great," he said, "but we just have to wait for it to happen."

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