The University of Texas announced that it has hired former Louisville coach Charlie Strong to coach its football team. I think it was a good hire for the Longhorns, as Strong will bring his defensive acumen and his ability to recruit top athletes.
The problem is, I do not know if the move itself will be good for Strong in the long run.
For those who are not familiar with the state of Texas, allow me to enlighten y’all a bit. I spent four years in a place called Big Sandy, TX which is near the small cities of Longview and Tyler, and an 1 1/2 hour drive from Dallas. Football – professional, college AND high school – is king in the state of Texas. It doesn’t matter that the Houston Rockets (1994 and 1995), San Antonio Spurs (1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007) and Dallas Mavericks (2011) won NBA titles. It doesn’t matter that the NHL’s Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999 (damn, has it been that long?).
All that matters to Texans is how the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Longhorns – and to a certain extent, the Texas A&M Aggies – do.
Speaking of the Longhorns, a coach at the University of Texas has to be more than just a master of the Xs and Os. That coach is to be able to be do everything from smooth egos of rich, powerful boosters to kiss babies (and asses) and a media darling for ESPN’s Longhorn Network. Legendary coaches Darrell Royal and Mack Brown perfected the art of doing such things at Texas. In other words, he has to be more politician and showman than football coach.
This is where I worry about Strong fitting in as the coach of the Longhorns.
I am not doubting Strong’s ability to coach – his record at Louisville proves that. Let’s count the ways:
- A 37–16 record in four seasons
- A 3-2 bowl record, including curb-stompings in the Sugar Bowl (over Florida) and Russell Athletic Bowl (over Miami)
- Two Big East titles
However, I am worried about Strong’s ability to handle the ancillary stuff that comes with the Texas job. He is not a part-time politician and showman. He has a quieter public persona. He does not possess the backslapping, shoulder-rubbing personality needed to massage the massive egos of rich donors. He does not possess the charismatic personality that would occupy the airwaves for the Longhorn Network. He prefers to let his coaching speak for itself.
The problem is that’s not going to be good enough at Texas.
Look, we all know that Texas hired Strong on his merits. Hell, the more cynical fans may believe that Texas hired him because it wanted its own black star coach to counter Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin (you know there are certain folks from certain parts of the country who feel that way).
Ultimately the way Strong handles the ancillary stuff will determine how well he will do as the head coach of the Texas Longhorns.