Auburn has interviewed Louisville head coach Charlie Strong as a candidate for its head coaching vacancy, according to a report by Al.com's Charles Goldberg. Per Goldberg, the interview took place sometime in the last two days.
Strong has long been rumored as a possible replacement for Gene Chizik, but news on the former Florida and South Carolina defensive coordinator had slowed down recently. As Jimbo Fisher, Gary Patterson and Bobby Petrino have seen their stocks rise in the last few days, Strong's name has been put on the back burner. Now, he's right back in the hunt.
Strong took over as head coach at Louisville in 2010, and he has 23-15 record overall and a 12-8 mark in Big East play. This season, Strong led the Cardinals to a 9-0 start, but his team has lost its last two games. Before his time at Louisville, Strong spent 11 years as an SEC defensive coordinator with Florida and South Carolina. In his time at Ganesville and Columbia, Strong's defenses often ranked near or at the top of the conference.
It's obvious that Auburn has at least some interest in Strong, but the Louisville coach's interest is unknown. Strong likely feels a strong sense of loyalty to Louisville, the school that gave him his head coaching break after years of waiting, and Cardinals athletics director Tom Jurich has said he'll pony up however much money it would take to keep the 52-year-old. With Louisville's impending move to the ACC, Strong has the extra incentive of coaching in a better conference than the Big East. He'll have a greater chance of reaching a national title game from the Cardinals' new conference.
We would still call Petrino the front runner for the job, but Strong's interview increases his odds.
Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel, a journalist for which Auburn fans have a great affinity, says Strong has denied Goldberg's report:
Just spoke to Charlie Strong. He's angry. He says he did not interview at Auburn and has not spoken to them. "It's not true."— Pete Thamel(@SIPeteThamel) November 29, 2012
So maybe Strong isn't a candidate after all. Or maybe he is. Who the hell knows? Either way, we still say Petrino is the front runner.