Charlie Strong has preached loyalty and commitment since he arrived in Louisville.
We have not only heard him speak these words, but we have seen him act out these words, most recently in his decision to turn down an opportunity to go to Tennessee. When he made that choice, we knew a long-term extension would soon follow.
Well, now we have the details of that extension and it seems pretty clear that both Strong and Louisville are committed to each other.
For the long term.
Louisville extended Strong through 2020, the school announced Wednesday. When athletic director Tom Jurich repeatedly said money was no object in retaining Strong, he meant it.
Sources told Brett McMurphy of ESPN that Strong will earn $3.7 million in base salary -- a whopping $1.4 million raise over what he made last year, and more money than Tennessee offered him last month.
That salary easily makes him the highest-paid coach in the Big East and the ACC, his future league. According to 2012 figures obtained by USA Today, Strong is set to earn $1 million more than Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, currently the highest paid in the ACC at $2.75 million.
But what makes it pretty clear that Strong has long-term plans to stay is the buyout. According to the contract term sheet McMurphy obtained through a source, Strong must pay a $5 million buyout if he leaves in 2013. So any school interested in Strong is not only going to have to go near the $4 million neighborhood to pay him, it is going to have to deal with a hefty buyout to boot.
The buyout decreases by $625,000 as the years go on. But it is not as if that number looks much better in 2014, when the buyout remains over $4 million.
"Charlie did not balk at anything," athletic director Tom Jurich told reporters in Louisville on Wednesday. "It's a very hefty buyout, but we want to make sure this is a long-term contract for both parties."
Strong is among the rising stars in the coaching profession. His name has been circulated around the coaching rumor mill for the last two seasons, so there is no question Jurich wanted to do everything he could to make sure Strong knows just how committed Louisville is to him.
A new deal is not going to stop speculation. And a new deal does not necessarily mean Strong will be on the Louisville sideline when the Cardinals hope to open ACC play in 2014, much less at the end of this deal in 2020. There are never guarantees in the coaching profession.
But there are $8.7 million reasons (his base salary plus the buyout) keeping Strong in Louisville, huge dollar signs for his loyalty and commitment. At this point, it seems pretty clear it is going to take an armored Brink's truck backing into Papa John's Stadium to lure Strong away.