Coach-Speak vs. Strong-Speak

The past few weeks have been interesting ones for Cards and Vols fans. One school tried desperately to get someone to be its new coach, while the other tried desperately to hold on to its current one.

We’ve all heard coach-speak: “It’s all about the players.” “I am only focused on the upcoming bowl game.” “This is the only job I’m interested in.” And, if you’ve been a Card fan long enough, you remember the epitome of coach-speak — Bobby Petrino telling everyone how happy he was here and how he planned on staying in Louisville for a long time, even as he was interviewing with Auburn.

So when Charlie Strong didn’t knock down the rumors in his press conference on Monday, only saying that he would address things “at the right time” — and then proceeded to compare Cards fans to that other school in Lexington — many people assumed that he was both gone, and bad at PR.

As it turned out, HCCS was doing something new: honest-speak. He hadn’t interviewed for the UT job, but he knew it was on the table. He wanted to give himself time to think it through; for someone who had always wanted to coach in the SEC, what bigger decision could there be?

And his comment about UK fans? Honest feelings, honestly expressed. Not the best way or the best timing, a fact that Coach would surely agree with. But, not coach-speak.

Most amazingly of all, when it came time to make the decision and to share it, we discovered a new depth to Charlie Strong. All that coach-speak about values, and family, and being there for the players, and investing in young men? It was actually real-speak — our coach not only talks about those things, he lives them out.

I have to admit, over the past few years I have gotten somewhat jaded about college athletics. When college presidents and other so-called leaders can lie in order to get their school into a new conference — a conference that makes no sense in terms of tradition or geography — for the sole purpose of the Benjamins, it is hard to believe anything else they say. Ohio State, Penn State, Miami — the list of big-time programs with big-time scandals just keeps growing. It’s a big business, and often a shady one, and coach-speak just goes with the territory, like cheating.

So it was refreshing, and even inspiring, to have a coach turn down a big-time job offer for loyalty, and family, and of all things, student-athletes. We are fortunate to have Charlie Strong as our coach, and those young men are fortunate to be able to play for him. Thank you, Coach Strong, for restoring a little bit of the honor to college athletics, an area of endeavor in need to it.