Charlie Strong got a long-term commitment from Louisville on Wednesday that makes him one of the top 10 highest-paid Division I football coaches.
The Cardinals coach and the university agreed on an eight-year contract extension that will pay Strong an annual base salary of $3.7 million, plus performance incentives worth $583,333 if Louisville wins the BCS Championship Game.
Strong’s base salary places him seventh among Division I coaches, just behind Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz ($3.8 million). Strong earned $2.305 million in 2012.
Strong wasn’t available for comment, but Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said the deal follows his philosophy of long-term stability. In October, the school extended the contract of men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino five years through the 2021-22 season.
”I like stability,” Jurich said, ”I believe in stability and both coaches have shown us everything we could possibly want as great leaders of young men, and as ambassadors for the university and the community. I think they’re both great fits.”
Strong’s third season with Louisville ended with a 33-23 upset of Florida in the Sugar Bowl three weeks ago, the school’s second BCS bowl victory. The Cardinals (11-2) were ranked 13th in the final poll and won a share of the Big East Conference championship for the second straight year.
The deal comes more than a month after the 52-year-old Strong rejected an offer to become Tennessee’s coach, saying he was staying because of Louisville’s commitment to him and his relationship with players.
The contract extension is loaded with incentives, including a bonus of $308,333 for reaching a postseason bowl; $25,000 for winning the conference championship; up to $50,000 for a top-10 ranking; $100,000 for reaching a BCS bowl and another $100,000 if Louisville qualifies and wins the BCS championship.
Strong will also receive bonuses totaling $2.65 million if he remains Louisville coach from June 30, 2015 through June 30, 2018. The deal includes a buyout starting at $5 million if he breaks it this year.
”It’s a very hefty buyout, but we want to make sure this is a long-term contract for both parties,” Jurich added.