In the next few days, the University of Texas will announce former Louisville Cardinals head football coach Charlie Strong will be the new head coach of the Texas Longhorns, replacing the legendary Mack Brown for the upcoming 2014 season. The 2014 season is one rife with implications for a program keeping its head above water after a long run of success.
During his 16-year tenure on the Forty Acres as head football coach of the Texas Longhorns, Mack Brown established a pattern of behavior which helped bring a former college football power back to national relevance. He was masterful at handling the local and national press with a sly sense of humor and a genuine desire to provide information when asked to do so.
He entrenched himself with the state’s high school football coaches, knowing those relationships would be invaluable from a public relations standpoint, but more importantly, for recruiting in an ever more difficult and complex landscape.
He made the Texas program about Texas first-and-foremost both for better and worse.
Charlie Strong’s strengths are an amplification of Brown’s in some areas, while his weaknesses will be obvious, but of little concern should the Ws appear in the right column. Strong has a wealth of strategic knowledge. At heart, he’s an X’s and O’s guy who will demand respect of the game’s intricacies of his players with a no-nonsense, business-like style. While at Lousiville, there was no doubt who was in charge, and while the Cardinals at times had off-the-field issues– as any major college football program does– they were rarely long-term or repeated.
Some have argued what was lacking over the past few seasons on the Forty Acres was a collective sense of discipline, and a common cause to be worked toward, shaped by a structure which was set in stone. Charlie Strong will absolutely bring this along. With it, comes comparative youth, and a well-documented desire to work the hours, to embrace the grind and the day-to-day which must be second-nature for Strong to help Texas re-take its place as the state’s flagship football power.
Where the Longhorns have lost some ground in-state in the recruiting battles which have become more intense with the rise of programs like TCU and Texas Tech and the buzz around the Texas A&M Aggies, there is “market share” to be earned in other regions. Before this is even possible, however, the connections have to be there. One has to figure this is part of Strong’s attractiveness to Texas and played a large part in his hire.
Strong’s recruiting ties to the South — and most intriguingly, Florida (in particular Miami) — open some new doors for Texas which have been closed prior to now. Sure, Texas may no longer have its pick of the litter in the Lone Star State — and to a degree, for good reason — but this certainly doesn’t suggest that poaching the occasional four-star or five-star out of the South and the Sunshine State won’t make up for that as the Longhorns re-calibrate. And don’t assume Texas is giving up on, well, Texas. It’s possible Strong will bring with him Defensive Coordinator Vance Bedford, who is a former Longhorn, and will also keep members of the Texas staff on board as well.
The Longhorn Network and its trappings will look very different with Strong at the helm, on this you can rest assured. Mack Brown went above and beyond with LHN, offering additional time to the network beyond what was expected of him. This extended to the local media as well, and to a lesser extent, national media who were always looking for his next down-home, but sincere quotable. This isn’t Charlie Strong. While Strong is genial and polite with the press, it’s obvious he won’t be bending over backwards to make a writer’s day. If there’s an area where John Bianco and those in charge of the “communications” side of the Texas football business in Bellmont will have their hands tied to some degree, it’s here.
For any potential challenges, however, the arrival of Charlie Strong brings with it a wealth of positives. In simplest terms, Strong’s hire is a massive net positive. He isn’t Mack Brown, he isn’t a politician who happens to be a first-class football mind, but that’s a great thing.
The program will be re-shaped over time, in Charlie Strong’s image, for better or worse, but with an energetic new outlook and structure which should give the Longhorns every chance to regain some lost traction.
Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer, Business Analyst and College Content Coordinator for Rant Sports.