Between dodging multiple questions about the Judge Margaret Taylor incident a few months ago and explaining the geographical logic of an institution named “University of South Florida” being placed in Tampa (yes, he was asked about that), Charlie Strong had quite an eventful day on the ESPN campus.
By my count, the number one question asked was indeed about the Judge Taylor commotion. Of course, that was also the last time USF was mentioned on the ESPN airwaves, but Strong, much like then, handled the questions on Friday perfectly.
On ESPN’s most notorious program, “First Take,” Strong explained, “I had the chance to sit down with Judge Taylor and I told her what our program's all about, and then she understood it. I just told her, 'You just have to know who I am before you make that statement.’”
Strong was bombarded with the usual “What went wrong at Texas?” and “How will the Texas experience be different from the USF experience?” On the “Mike and Mike” morning radio show, he responded:
“I didn't have enough wins... you’re going to get fired there when you don’t win. We didn't get it done. But the thing it did was, I benefited and I grew as a head coach from that experience. ... I'm a better football coach now."
The guys on “First Take” (a backup crew with a vacationing Stephen A. Smith, mind you) continued their interview with my favorite question of the day. “How do you keep recruits away from the likes of Florida, FSU, and Miami? How do you pitch Southern Florida to them?”
You read that correctly, SOUTHERN Florida. I understand if they were still perplexed by the whole Tampa/South Florida thing... but give me a break! Get the name of our school correct. This should tell you what I think of the way ESPN handles their business, but that’s a different post for another day.
For what it’s worth, Strong did reply with “You're not gonna go in and beat Florida, you're not gonna go in and beat Florida State, you're not gonna go in and beat Miami. But there's enough players where...if you evaluate the right way, you're gonna be able to get the players that fit your program."
I mentioned that Stephen A. Smith was on vacation from "First Take" this week, but Strong did join the controversial host on his New York based radio show, where Smith just had to ask about the recent Ole Miss vacancy rumors.
"Stephen A., I have a great job. I really do," said Strong.
ESPN’s most popular program, “SportsCenter”, had a little more fun with Strong. Host Cari Champion asking questions like “What kind of car do you drive?” and “What’s on your playlist?” or “What’s in your wildest dreams?”
Strong’s answers? A Lincoln, Eminem, and becoming a pilot, respectively.
I’m sure the eight-hour media extravaganza was exhausting for Charlie Strong himself, but selfishly it was fun to see USF have the national spotlight for a day on the world’s biggest sports platform. With the season less than a month away from kicking off, I don’t think it will be the last time we see Charlie Strong and this Bulls football squad in the ESPN headlights.