On Charlie Strong, Texas, cesspools and fairness

Photo credit: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

I realize this is about to be the third time the Kirk Herbstreit rant slamming Texas’s handling of Charlie Strong has been posted on this site in the last four days, but it’s a necessary jumping off point to examine all of the dynamics at play here.

First, it is not possible to have more support from a president and AD than Strong has received from Greg Fenves and Mike Perrin. Fenves went as far as to fly to Tulsa to secure an offensive coordinator and offensive line coach last December when Strong couldn’t close the deal on his own. President Fenves and AD Perrin have been unequivocal in their support for Strong, for a number of reasons:

1) On a practical level, coaching searches are painful, laborious and expensive processes that Fenves and Perrin, understandably, wish to avoid unless absolutely necessary.

2) Fenves and Perrin like Strong personally, believe in the message he’s selling and the culture he’s brought to Texas. Strong has recruited well, and his players adore him. Clearly, the path of least resistance is for the Longhorns to play to their potential from here on out.

3) Any notion that Texas, a school that has long been behind the times in race relations, was unfair to its first black head coach would be tremendously harmful to the Texas brand.

As for Strong’s relationship with Texas boosters, here’s what he told ESPN’s Chris Low yesterday:

“I know the guys to keep in touch with, and I do,” Strong said. “They’ve been great and always want to know if there’s anything they can do to help. Now, I don’t go to dinner with those guys, so I’m not going to be seen in public with them. I’m not a member of their country club and I don’t play golf, so I don’t go play golf with them. But I pick up the phone and call them, keep in touch.”

The Red McCombses, the hint-hint sources saying Strong won’t be fired this season and all the other noise that comes with the Texas job? That’s the reality of coaching at a place like Texas. This is a school that, legend has it, ran off a coach due to fan pressure…. in 1915. And he was 33-7.

That’s the downside of this job, but the upside is it handed Strong a $5 million salary after two good seasons at Louisville.

And, as we stand now, Strong has been paid $15 million and has won 13 games. Texas ran Mack Brown off, as Herbstreit mentioned, after four sub-standard seasons in which he still won 30 games, reached three bowl games and finished in the top 20 once. In fact, Texas forced Brown to resign one week after he had the Longhorns just 30 minutes of football away from winning the Big 12 championship in December of 2013. A repeat of that same 2013 season — which, I remind you, saw Texas finish the regular season 8-4, blow out Oklahoma and finish runner-up in the Big 12 — that got Brown fired would earn Strong an extension.

With Texas sitting at 2-3, Strong would need to win six of these seven games to match Brown’s eight wins of 2013.

Texas Remaining Schedule Note
vs. Iowa State ‘Horns beat Iowa State by 3 in 2014, lost 24-0 in ’15
at Kansas State Texas is 1-5 in Manhattan since joining Big 12
vs. Baylor Bears rank No. 4 nationally in total offense
at Texas Tech TTU scored 50+ in NCAA-record 9 straight home games
vs. West Virginia WVU ranks No. 16 nationally in total offense
at Kansas ‘Horns are undefeated vs. KU since joining Big 12
vs. TCU Cumulative score last 2 years: TCU 98, UT 17

 

Strong’s 13-17 record is the worst 30-game start for a Longhorns coach since Dana X. Bible’s 11-18-1 start in the late 1930’s. (Counterpoint: Bible did go 32-6-2 from 1940-43). Strong has demoted or dismissed eight of his nine original assistants. He oversaw the worst defense in school history in 2015, and this year’s group has allowed more yards per play and more points per game┬áthan its predecessor.

And still Fenves and Perrin will give Strong every opportunity to prove he should retain his job moving into 2017.

Is there noise around the Texas job that can be annoying to fight through at times? Absolutely. But has Texas been unfair to Strong? Based on this program’s history, absolutely not.