The Texas Longhorns football program held its first Junior Day under new head coach Charlie Strong Feb. 22. It gave future recruits the chance to see the type of environment Strong is cultivating at Texas.
Many walked away impressed. Several committed to Texas on the spot.
For Strong and his staff, the business at hand is selling his brand of football – his culture if you will. First, he had to convince a 2014 class recruited by former head coach Mack Brown and his staff that coming to Texas was still the right choice. He then had to indoctrinate the current players on how things were going to be run on the Forty Acres (i.e. living on campus the first three years, no earrings, no guns, etc.). Next, hitting the recruiting trail to convince not only the best athletes in Texas – but the nation, too – that they can be part of the rebirth of the football program.
It has been 16 years since Texas had a coaching change. Texas hired Brown in 1997 to build a new foundation. Previous regimes had allowed it to deteriorate to the point that Texas had to start over. Relationships with high school coaches had to be rebuilt. Boosters and alumni had to be brought back into the fold. This was Brown’s specialty, shaking hands and kissing babies. He excelled as the program’s CEO. It took him a few years to get the program back on its feet. When it finally happened, fans were rewarded with two BCS National Championship game appearances, including a victory over the USC Trojans in the 2005 Rose Bowl.
The foundation being laid today is much different from that which Longhorns fans have grown accustom. Strong is all business. He is a football coach, through and through. You may see him at a university social function, but you can bet he would rather be on the phone with a recruit, or watching game film to see how he can maximize the talent he has on this roster. This is Strong, and this is the culture he is trying to build at Texas.
The 2015 recruiting class is almost a guarantee to look different from any class seen around Austin in over a decade. There will be Texas kids on the radar – lots of Texas kids – but there will also be players from Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, California and any other state where Strong and his staff find a recruit who wants to work hard, play by the rules and win.
Fans must now embrace this culture transformation. Change is never simple because it makes us uneasy. It is human nature to resist it whenever possible. It can also be the catalyst needed to bring Texas back into the national spotlight. That is what Strong is selling. Are you buying into it? Recruits are.