The University of Texas has reportedly decided to fire Charlie Strong – but not until after Saturday’s game against TCU. Strong is 16-20 in nearly three full seasons at Texas, including 12-14 in Big 12 play. If Texas (5-6) cannot beat TCU (5-5), it will finish with seven losses for the third straight season.
“I think they’re going to let go of Charlie Strong,” hornsdigest.com Longhorns insider Chip Brown said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think they’re going to fire him. I think the president and the athletic director think that it’s the right thing to wait until after the TCU game, but when you know, especially after Kansas happens – that was the worst-case scenario.”
Texas lost at Kansas, 24-21, in overtime this past Saturday. Kansas entered the game 1-9.
“I think the president and the athletic director were looking for every reason to bring Charlie Strong back, and they were planning on bringing him back,” Brown said. “I was told all he had to do was beat Kansas and play close against TCU, even at 6-6, and he would keep his job. And then Kansas happened. So you have the situation where now they’re scrambling because they were planning on bringing Charlie back.”
Of course, a program as big and as storied as Texas should never be scrambling – or consider a win over Kansas to be a program-altering event.
“Right, but that’s what you’re dealing with: a first-time school president and an athletic director who was a lawyer a year ago,” Brown said of Mike Perrin. “He is a big-money guy himself, but he’s got no experience as an athletic director. He was brought in to help sort of bring the big-money guys back together after the failed athletic directorship of Steve Patterson. So Texas, you’re right: they are football royalty, and yet they’ve got first-time guys learning on the job in a situation like this.”
Assuming Strong will be fired, the Longhorns will either win back – or further alienate – a large portion of their fan base depending on who they hire.
“I think people were hopeful that Charlie would be their answer as football coach, but the fan base has been divided for really about seven years,” Brown said. “That’s why this situation now is so critical. . . . I think that the big-money donors obviously thought they had a shot at Saban (a few years ago). I think Saban waited to sign his new agreement with Alabama until that Friday night, when Mack Brown met with the school president and the AD, so who knows? But the bottom line is they are now in a situation where I don’t think the president or the athletic director thought that he would be in this situation, and now here they are.”
Tom Herman is an attractive option but by no means a consensus choice.
“There’s a group of powerful big-money guys who want Tom Herman,” Brown said. “(He’s) a former grad assistant at Texas, a guy they feel comfortable with who’s won some big games. Now he’s lost some big games this year to Navy and SMU that (gave everyone pause). But that’s a guy who I think the Texas big-money guys feel comfortable with. Now school president Greg Fenves, I’m hearing, may want his own guy, and that would set up a whole other set of fights internally. I don’t think (he knows who he wants yet) because he believed that he was bringing Charlie back.”
Well, if the reports are true, he’s not. Strong was, in many ways, a knockout hire in January 2014. Fans suffered through a disappointed 6-7 campaign in Stong’s first year, but they knew improvement would come.
Only it hasn’t – at least not in terms of wins.
“That’s what’s so frustrating,” Brown said. “Charlie represented so much of what Texas needed. He cleaned up the program. He stocked the cupboard. He just couldn’t get his offense and defense pulled together at the same time, and he was slow to react on coaching decisions and then demoted play callers during the season each of the past two years and just had some embarrassing losses, capped by Kansas. That’s the catch. Texas – the fan base, the big-money guys – can handle hard-fought, tough losses; they cannot handle embarrassment, and there have been 10 losses of 18 points of more and the loss to Kansas, who they had not lost to since 1938 and who had a 19-game Big 12 losing streak. It was like the bottom fell out Saturday night.
“I don’t think anyone realized, especially Charlie, how bad off Texas was when he took over that job,” Brown continued. “Steve Patterson will go down as one of the worst athletic directors in Big 12 history. He hired Charlie Strong but then didn’t give him what he needed. He didn’t give him money for quality-control coaches, fought him tooth and nail on budget cuts, all this stuff. It’s just been a comedy of errors in terms of the leadership of the school. Lack of leadership is more like it. It just ended up being a bad time for probably any coach to come into this situation.”