I must admit, I’m somewhat surprised the Charlie Strong is likely to be the next head coach of what is arguably the most powerful college football program in the country. While I think Strong is a quality head coach who has obviously done a good job at Louisville, he has not proven–at least in my opinion–that he is the elite coach that most people expected Texas to hire. When it was rumored yesterday that Texas was down to Strong and James Franklin, I expected that a decision would be made in favor of James Franklin. Franklin has done a tremendous job at a cellar-dwelling program while being (somewhat) shackled by the academic standards at Vanderbilt. Before I go any further, I want to make clear to the Louisville folks that read this blog that I am not poo pooing what Charlie Strong has done at Louisville. He took a team that hadn’t had a winning season in three years (surprise of Card Nation, you have not been a perennial powerhouse for years now), and immediately began winning.
With that being said, when you have an excellent quarterback, you have a chance to win games in college football. Charlie Strong was 14-12 at Louisville prior to Teddy Bridgewater’s arrival in Louisville. Before you point out that Charlie Strong secured Bridgewater’s commitment to the Cards, let me admit this is true and thus he deserves the credit for Bridgewater’s performance. Still, an argument could be made (and indeed it is being made by quite a few wary Longhorn fans), that Strong’s astounding success at a traditionally unsuccessful school is directly correlated to the heroics of his star quarterback. Would Strong have been able to duplicate this level of success with a Reggie Bonnafon or a Kyle Bolin? Would Strong have been able to compete week in and week out against a higher level of competition similar to that which would be afforded to him in the ACC, and now possibly the Big 12? These are huge unanswered questions that I am surprised the Texas Longhorns are willing to leave unanswered.
If I were a Texas fan, here are some tidbits that would make me cringe:
1. In four years as the head coach, Strong and the Cards have played THREE teams in the top 25–Strong’s record in those games is 2-1. Look, I get that you can only beat who you play. I’m truly not trying to knock Strong or Louisville for that matter. But this is Texas and I am surprised they wouldn’t set their sights on a more proven commodity.
2. The Texas job is similar to the Kentucky basketball coaching job. The position is bigger than just coaching his team on Saturday’s. Strong would not merely be a head coach but also an important state figure. Even Card fans have knocked Strong’s ability to deal with the media. Being a public figure might not suit him. In the end, winning football games would rectify that but as a result of this shortcoming, Strong’s shelf-life at Texas might not be as long if the success isn’t almost immediate.
3. Game management has been an issue under Strong. While he has undeniably compiled an impressive record in the past two years with Teddy Bridgewater at the reins, many supposedly ‘gimme’ games have been a lot closer than Louisville fans would have liked.
In the end, I’m assuming that the people running the Texas coaching search are smart. Presumably, they have done their due diligence and have decided that Charlie Strong is the best man for the job. If he takes the job, I hope that Charlie Strong succeeds. He has carried himself well, seems likable and outside of the infamous five core values of Louisville football (no drugs, guns, hitting women, etc.), hasn’t given Kentucky bloggers much to make fun of. These are all issues that Bobby Petrino would happily rectify–I hear Louisville’s basketball coach is already planning a welcome home party at Porcinis.