It's one thing to talk about culture change, but it doesn't really hit you until you arrive in the weight room for your 5:30 a.m. workout only to see your head coach covered in sweat from his own workout. That, needless to say, did not happen under Mack Brown.
New Texas head coach Charlie Strong has taken a number of symbolic steps to signify the culture change that came with his hiring. Taking the locks off all doors in the football offices. Making players jog the half a mile from the locker rooms to the practice fields (the previous regime hired a charter bus to shuttle the team to and from practice). Tasking players with earning the right to throw the 'Horns up.
They say motion creates emotion, and now the symbolic measures Strong has asked his players to take is starting to result in real change, starting with those now lock-less doors leading to players now hanging out in their coaches' offices.
“I’ve told the players that now, when you come up, you can just walk right in,” Strong told Max Olson of ESPN.com. “I just want them to know who we are. When a young man knows that you care about him, he’ll do everything you ask of him.”
You know what else gets a player willing to do anything a coach ask? Completing an early-morning workout before your players get out of bed.
“He’s real. He’s really real,” senior defensive end Cedric Reed said. “He won’t embarrass you in front of everybody, but he’ll come up to you and tell you exactly what he wants. It’s a motivational, ‘I’ll tell you want I want’ kind of thing.”
Of course, culture change is just a means to an end. The change Strong was ultimately hired to effect is in the Longhorns' win-loss record. With spring practices now underway, that work has already begun.
"The screw has been tightened from day 1," Strong said.