Charlie Strong to stay in Louisville

Charlie Strong will remain as the coach of the Louisville football team, he announced Thursday.

Strong had been deciding whether to accept an offer from Tennessee worth at least $3.5 million annually, sources said, but Strong turned down the Vols and will return to UL.

"I know the best decision is to stay here to continue to build and work to fulfill our dreams. My enthusiasm and heart are with the University of Louisville," Strong said Thursday.

Strong has been Tennessee's No. 1 target, and sources said the Vols thought they had Strong locked up Monday. However, Louisville was working on extending Strong's five-year deal, worth about $2.3 million a year, sources said.

Louisville has not yet announced an extension agreement with Strong.

"All I'm gonna say is I'm not worried about my coach," Louisville center Mario Benavides tweeted after Wednesday's team meeting. "We are a family."

Ever since Strong's name has been linked to other openings, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich has said multiple times he would do whatever was necessary to keep Strong.

In three seasons at Louisville, Strong is 24-14. This year, he led the Cardinals to a 10-2 record, a share of the Big East title and a berth in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Florida, where Strong was a former defensive coordinator.

ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson, Chris Low and Joe Schad contributed to this report.