The Charlie Strong era in Tampa is over.
After three full seasons, the University of South Florida parted ways with its embattled head football coach on Sunday following the team’s 34-7 loss to rival UCF in the War on I-4 on Friday.
Update 12/1: 4:02 p.m. ET
Official statement from USF Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly:
“I would like to thank Coach Strong and his staff for their hard work and contributions to our program,” Kelly said. “I have tremendous respect for Coach Strong and his dedication to recruiting and developing young men of talent and character and leading them with integrity. He has represented USF with dignity and class and we wish Coach and his family the very best.”
“I met with our student-athletes and staff today to inform them of my decision and to make clear USF’s commitment to a championship-caliber football program that recruits and develops student-athletes and provides the resources and support for them to achieve great success in competition, in the classroom and in the community.”
“We are now engaged in a national search to identify the next head coach of USF football. Be assured that process will be deliberate and will move with necessary speed. I will have no public comment regarding candidates or the progress of the search until it is complete and we introduce the new leader of our program.”
Hired in December of 2016 following his dismissal from Texas, Strong capitalized on inheriting a senior-heavy roster from former head coach Willie Taggart by posting a 10-2 record in 2017. However, the cracks began to show in his second year as an unimpressive 7-0 start quickly gave way to a six-game losing streak to end a tumultuous 2018 season.
Optimism abounded this past off-season after a staff overhaul, a new offensive identity and an influx of transfer players had many believing in the program trending back into the right direction. That optimism came crashing back down to earth immediately with an embarrassing 49-0 season-opening loss to Wisconsin giving way to a frustratingly inconsistent season characterized by injuries, poor offensive line play and questionable coaching decisions. During USF’s 49-21 loss to SMU on Sept. 28, even ESPN commentators openly questioned Strong’s grip on the program.
And it all came to an end with the aforementioned 27-point loss at UCF, a listless performance where the Bulls were penalized 11 times for 80 yards and got into several skirmishes both before and during the game.
Strong finished his stint in Tampa with a 21-16 overall record with an 11-13 mark in American Athletic Conference games and a 4-15 mark against bowl eligible opponents.
We’ll have more analysis on the firing, Strong’s tenure, the financial implications with his alleged buyout, recruiting implications and possible replacements in the coming days.