Charles Rene Strong (born August 2, 1960) is an American football intern and former player and coach. Strong was most recently the head coach at the University of South Florida. He held numerous assistant coaching positions before becoming head coach at the University of Louisville in 2010. During his four-year stint at Louisville, he led the Cardinals to a 37–15 record and reached a bowl game each season, including the 2013 Sugar Bowl. After the 2013 season he left Louisville to become the head coach at the University of Texas. He was fired by Texas after the 2016 season with a 16–21 record in three seasons. One month after leaving Texas, Strong was hired at South Florida where he led the Bulls to a 21-16 record before being fired in 2019.
Charles Rene Strong was born in Batesville, Arkansas, one of six children of mother Delois Ramsey. Strong's father, also named Charles Strong, was a teacher and coach in Luxora, Arkansas and never married Ramsey. The younger Strong grew up in a blended household with his aunt and aunt's six children. After lettering for four years (1980–1983) as a defensive back at the University of Central Arkansas, Strong joined the University of Florida coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 1983. He later served as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M in 1985. He received a master's degree from Henderson State University and also received a master's degree and education specialist degree from the University of Florida. He is a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.
Strong's first full-time coaching job was at Southern Illinois in 1986, where he coached wide receivers. He later assumed defensive coaching duties at Florida, Ole Miss, and Notre Dame.
Strong led Louisville to a victory in the 2013 Sugar Bowl over his former team, the Florida Gators, by a final score of 33–23. It was the biggest upset victory in terms of point spread in any BCS bowl game since the inception of the BCS in 1998, as Florida entered the game favored by almost two touchdowns.
In 1999, Strong joined the South Carolina Gamecocks as defensive coordinator. His stifling defenses and charismatic personality created buzz that he would be possibly the first black head coach in the SEC, but job offers were slim. Sylvester Croom eventually broke the color barrier in the SEC coaching ranks in 2004.
Strong was hired as defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators before the 2003 season. Florida head coach Ron Zook was fired midway through the Gators' 2004 season, but continued to coach until the bowl game; Strong served as interim coach of the Gators for one game, the December 2004 Peach Bowl. Florida lost the game, 27–10, to Miami. When Urban Meyer was hired as Florida's head coach, Strong was the only assistant coach retained from Zook's staff.
In a January 2009 interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Strong expressed his belief that race played a large part in the reason that he hadn't been offered a head coaching job in 2009. Strong, whose wife is white, especially cited prospective employers' discomfort with his interracial marriage. Strong was a 2009 finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach.
He became the 21st head football coach at the University of Louisville on December 9, 2009. In a telephone interview that day with ESPN.com columnist Pat Forde, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy said of Strong, "When they see what he can do, you're probably going to have a lot of people disappointed they didn't hire him sooner."
Strong finished the 2016 season with a losing record of 5–7, the third season in a row he had guided the University of Texas football program to a losing season, after inheriting a program from Mack Brown who had achieved an 8–5 record in 2013 and winning records in 15 of 16 seasons at Texas. The low point of the 2016 campaign came in the next-to-last game of the season when the Longhorns blew a 21–10 lead in a 24–21 overtime loss to a Kansas team that had won only one game all season beforehand.
On January 23, 2013, Strong was given a $1.4 million raise which brought his annual compensation to $3.7 million and raised his buyout to $5 million. At the time it made him 7th highest paid active coach in college football and highest paid coach outside the SEC, Big 12, and Big Ten conferences.
On January 5, 2014, the University of Texas announced that Strong would be leaving the University of Louisville to accept the head football coach position at Texas to replace Mack Brown. Strong's 5-year contract was worth $5 million annually. He was formally introduced as Texas' 29th head coach the next day and became the first black head coach of the Texas football program.
In 2015, Strong's coaching staff got a top-10, recruiting class, competing with rivals Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU in in-state recruiting. During the spring, the coaches switched the offense to a spread offense, as the quarterbacks Strong recruits are used to this style since it is extensively used in high school, Strong noted.
On November 26, 2016, Strong was fired from his position as head coach.
On December 11, 2016, Strong was named as the fourth head coach of the University of South Florida.