Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has emerged as the leading candidate for the Louisville head-coaching job, multiple sources have told ESPN.com.
Cardinals athletic director Tom Jurich has had no contact yet with Strong, sources said. Jurich told his counterpart at Florida, Jeremy Foley, that he will not interfere with the Gators' preparations for the SEC championship game Saturday against Alabama. However, shortly after that game is over, Jurich is expected to contact Strong, and an interview could take place as early as Sunday.
Jurich is expected to spend time this week traveling to do research on other prospective candidates for the job, but Strong is the clear front-runner, according to multiple sources.
Others who have expressed interest in the Louisville job include Central Michigan coach Butch Jones and former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer. Sources said Fulmer had a telephone discussion with Jurich Tuesday to discuss the job, but he is not considered a prime candidate for the position.
The fact that Strong has not been hired as a head coach yet has been an enduring mystery to many college football observers -- and an enduring frustration to the Black Coaches Association, which seeks to promote minority candidates for jobs.
Strong's current Florida defense leads the nation in fewest yards and points allowed per game, and last year's national championship unit was ninth in total defense and fourth in scoring defense. Strong has carte blanche from head coach Urban Meyer to run the defense; after the Gators held LSU to three points earlier this season in Baton Rouge, Meyer referred all questions about the defensive game plan to his coordinator. He has also been a vital part of Meyer's recruiting machine in the state of Florida and around the South.
If Jurich hires Strong, it would be a departure from his previous two head coaches -- Bobby Petrino and the freshly fired Steve Kragthorpe both have offensive backgrounds.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.