TAMPA, Fla. – USF Director of Athletics Mark Harlan announced today the appointment of Charlie Strong as the fourth head coach in USF football program history.
A two-time Big East Coach of the Year and a vital part of two national championships at the University of Florida, Strong served head coaching stints at the University of Texas (2014-16) and the University of Louisville (2010-13). Overall, in his 34 seasons as a collegiate coach, Strong spent 15 seasons working in the state of Florida.
“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Charlie, his wife, Vicki, and their children Tory, Hailee and Hope, back to the state of Florida and to our Bulls family,” Harlan said. “Charlie is a tremendous leader and mentor for our student-athletes and a widely-respected coach with a resume full of achievements at the highest levels of college football. He combines a drive to win with great integrity and deep, long-standing connections in the state of Florida. The future of USF football is very bright under his direction.”
Established as a charismatic leader, strong recruiter and one of the best defensive minds in college football, Strong experienced great success as a defensive coordinator in the SEC for 11 seasons, including helping the University of Florida and head coach Urban Meyer win national championships in 2006 and 2008.
“I would like to thank President Genshaft and Mark Harlan for their confidence and belief in me,” Strong said. “I am humbled that we have a shared commitment to take this university and this football program to even greater heights. Some of the best football talent in the country is right here in the Bay Area and throughout the state of Florida, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with the young men in the USF football program and build on the strong foundation already in place.”
As a head coach, Strong led Louisville to back-to-back Big East Championships in 2011 and 2012 and posted a 37-15 record in four seasons leading the Cardinals. He reached a bowl game every season, including a 33-23 victory over Florida in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, completing an 11-2 season. Strong’s 2012 Louisville team finished 13th in the final Top 25 rankings and his 2013 team, which competed in the American Athletic Conference, finished ranked 15th with a 12-1 mark, and posted back-to-back bowl victories for the first time in program history.
“We are especially excited to welcome Charlie Strong to the University of South Florida,” said USF System President Judy Genshaft. “He joins our football program at an incredibly exciting time, and we look forward to seeing him build on our ongoing foundation and momentum. The board of trustees and I beleive he brings outstanding leadership and experience, and is sure to be a tremendous resource to the entire USF System.”
Strong departed Louisville for the University of Texas in 2014. At Texas, he rebuilt the roster, put his stamp on the culture and elevated the program’s infrastructure while posting a 16-21 record, leading the Longhorns to one bowl game in three seasons. His tenure at Texas included wins over No. 10 Oklahoma (2015), No. 12 Baylor (2015) and No. 10 Notre Dame (2016) while securing two Top-10 ranked recruiting classes. Overall, as a head coach, Strong has coached in six bowl games (3-3) during his career.
Strong also held positions on the coaching staffs at Florida, Texas A&M (1985), Southern Illinois (1986-87), Mississippi (1990), Notre Dame (1995-98) and South Carolina (1999-2002).
He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Florida in 1983. Strong spent 15 seasons as an assistant at Florida over four stints, including seven years as the defensive coordinator, the last five of which were under current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. Strong also served on two of coach Lou Holtz’s staffs, spending the first two years of his Notre Dame tenure under Holtz, as well as four more as defensive coordinator at South Carolina under the Hall of Famer.
From 2003-09, Strong’s defensive units at Florida produced 13 All-Americans and seven first-round NFL Draft picks. His units regularly ranked among the best in the nation statistically and allowed an average of just 17.6 points per game over that span, which ranked ninth in the country.
A native of Batesville, Ark., Strong was a three-year letter winner (1979-81) and three-time all-conference safety at Central Arkansas, which reached the NAIA Playoffs each of his final two seasons. He was also a two-time all-conference performer in track and field and graduated in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in education. Strong was inducted into the Central Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. He and his wife, Vicki, have a son, Tory, and two daughters, Hailee and Hope.
The No. 22/25-ranked Bulls (10-2; 7-1 AAC) will take on South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field on Dec. 29. Interim Head Coach T.J. Weist will lead the Bulls in the bowl game. USF begins bowl practices on Sunday, Dec. 11 on the USF campus. USF will compete in the program’s eighth bowl game in just its 16th season of FBS football.