In our recent discussions about which candidates are primed to be the next head coaches in the Big 10, the name of Charlie Strong hasn't come up. But it comes up now. A reader, an avowed SEC fan, recommended Strong, Florida' defensive coordinator.
"Not only is he widely respected as one of the nation's best defensive coordinators, he also is an awesome recruiter and developer of athletes into great defensive football players," the reader e-mailed.
"The fact that he is an African American coach in the SEC plays to Illinois' favor. He has been a legitimate candidate for multiple head coaching positions in the SEC and time and time again he has either not been interviewed or passed over for less proven or resume impressive candidates who were white."
The reader points out that Strong would be an effective recruiter in the talent-rich Chicago area. He likely is available because the SEC isn't going to hire another ethnic head coach for a while after the Sylvester Croom experiment at Mississippi State. At Florida, Strong's defensive teams are overshadowed by Urban Meyer's offense.
I think Charlie Strong has been ready to be a head coach for several years. But there are reasons why he hasn't been hired, all pertinent to racial feelings in the SEC. They wouldn't be a factor in the Midwest, it says here.
Strong is more than qualified. He should have had a head coaching position at least three years ago, when he was defensive coordinator for Florida's first national championship team.
Would he be a candidate at Florida State or Miami? He knows Florida very well. He worked under Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. This is his second tour of duty at Florida. His name pops up, maybe only in a token manner, but he never is taken seriously when a big-time job opens up.
For example, Strong's name surfaced at Mississippi State but the offensive coordinator at Florida was hired. And his name was mentioned at Auburn.
"(Illinois coach) Ron Zook has been so worried about tapping into other states for talent that he hasn't locked up his own," the reader said. "With an African American like Charlie Strong recruiting in Chicago, he could lock up athletes. And the state's top players would start going to Illinois instead of Notre Dame or Ohio State or USC or Arizona."