Update: Charlie Strong will reportedly be fired at his scheduled Saturday morning meeting with Texas administration, according to Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel. Texas is expected to immediately move its focus to Houston coach Tom Herman to replace Strong. The Longhorns plan to meet with Herman and his agent, Trace Armstrong, “as early as Saturday afternoon or evening,” according to Chip Brown of Horns Digest.
Realistically speaking, Texas coach Charlie Strong sealed his fate in Week 12 by blowing a fourth-quarter lead and losing to Kansas 24-21 in overtime. That’s just not something you come back from. Not in Year 3.
But if there were any doubts about Strong’s future — some reports from this week indicated the embattled coach may be safe if he beat TCU as a poll of 100 Texas fans showed a majority wanted to keep Strong — there shouldn’t be following a 31-9 loss to the Horned Frogs. It was all too clear when TCU running back Darius Anderson burst 70 yards for the final touchdown midway through the fourth quarter while Longhorn fans, or what was left of them, looked on solemnly.
Strong was able to coach through the season, just like Texas said it would allow him to do. However, with Houston coach Tom Herman reportedly the top target at LSU, it’s probably only a matter of when Texas opts to cut its ties with Strong and move forward.
Though some believe Texas could cut ties with Strong late Friday in order to pursue Herman more feverishly, Strong expects to meet with Texas president Greg Fenves and athletic director Mike Perrin on Saturday, according to Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News.
There are some things about Strong that should be said, however. First, he is loved by his players. This was no more evident than when several of them lined up to meet Strong after last Monday’s press conference. The relationship he has with them is one of commitment.
Second Strong did well recruiting in Texas despite initial concerns of his unfamiliarity with the region. Unlike his predecessor, Mack Brown, Strong was a hard closer and did his best work from December to National Signing Day in February.
Third, Strong undeniably put his stamp on the program. He stuck to his “core values” and gave his players time to adjust. If/when they didn’t, he parted ways with them. This was most visible in his first year in 2014 when the number of players suspended or dismissed reached double digits. Over time, though, those dismissals and suspensions went down. That doesn’t mean no one ever got in trouble or transferred, but not at the rate seen three years ago.
Finally, Strong is a good coach who never had all the support he needed. You don’t get the personal recommendation of Urban Meyer, who once called Strong “arguably the finest coach in the country,” or Lou Holtz without having done something right. And you certainly don’t turn Louisville from a tire fire to a solid program churning out NFL talent without being good at what you do.
But what worked at Louisville didn’t work at Texas. Strong was loyal to a fault with assistants like former offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford. Strong never came close to establishing an identity on offense until Year 3, and even then, he continued to make numerous poor in-game decisions.
The bottom line is that Strong was 16-21. He didn’t inherit a program in great shape, and in a perfect world, he gets a fourth year. This isn’t a perfect world, though, and three years is enough time to show more progress than what was made. His players may love him, but that didn’t translate into wins. That’s what he needed.
Texas hasn’t had three consecutive losing seasons since 1936-38.
— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) November 25, 2016
If/when Texas decides to move on from Strong, it will be the right move for both sides. Strong should have an opportunity for a fresh start and Texas may get the coach it actually wants in Herman. But if that happens and Texas succeeds, it will be largely because of what Strong did in three tough years in Austin.