Three years ago, Charlie Strong served as the Florida defensive coordinator in his final game in the Sugar Bowl.
On Jan. 2, Strong and the Gators are returning to the Louisiana Superdome — on opposite sidelines.
Florida, which got its first BCS bid since Strong's departure thanks to being the second-highest SEC team in the BCS standings, earned the spot after Alabama's 32-28 SEC title game win against Georgia on Saturday handed the Bulldogs their second loss of the season.
Florida (11-1), more than a two-touchdown favorite to beat the Cardinals, is No. 4 in the AP and coaches' polls and No. 3 in the BCS standings.
Louisville (10-2) is No. 22 in the AP and 18th in the coaches' polls.
Strong, who left Florida to take over as the head coach at Louisville after the 2009 season, led the Cardinals to the Big East's slot in the BCS.
"Seems like it was yesterday we were in the Sugar Bowl playing Cincinnati,'' Strong said.
In Strong's final game on the Florida sideline, the Gators beat Cincinnati 51-24 on Jan. 1, 2010. Urban Meyer resigned before the bowl game, then changed his mind and stayed on for another season. It was also 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow's final game at Florida.
Strong said he "really enjoyed my time there'' and he checks on the scores of the Gators' games every week.
The Louisville-Florida matchup became possible because of Northern Illinois busting its way into the BCS. That left Oklahoma on the outside and moved Louisville from an Orange Bowl matchup with ACC champion Florida State to New Orleans. Since the Orange is also the site of the national title game, it got the last BCS at-large pick and had to take Northern Illinois.
Strong served as the Gators' head coach in a previous bowl game — in an interim basis after the 2004 season when Ron Zook was fired, losing to Miami 27-10 in the Peach Bowl. Strong stayed on to work as the defensive coordinator under Meyer for the 2006 and 2008 national championship teams.
Florida coach Will Muschamp called Strong a "good friend'' and called him "one of the good guys in this profession.''
Strong coached many of the current UF players, saying linebacker Lerentee McCray "has been there forever.''
The Cardinals, who announced last week they are leaving for the ACC, will be going to a BCS bowl for the second time, the first since 2006.
"I'm just so happy for this program,'' Strong said. "I'm so happy for this university.''
This will be the ninth Sugar Bowl appearance by the Gators, tied for the third-most in history. Florida is 3-5 in its eight previous Sugar Bowl appearances.
This will be the third meeting between Florida and Louisville. The first came Oct. 25, 1980, as the Gators topped the Cardinals, 13-0, in Gainesville. On Oct. 24, 1992, Florida upended Louisville, 31-17, also at home.
The Gators will be making their 22nd straight bowl appearance, which ranks first in the SEC and second nationally. This will also be Florida's 19th January bowl game since 1993, the highest total in the country.