After a somewhat haphazard process in which many fantastic names (Saban! Gruden! Harbaugh! Tomlin!) were floated, the UT football program has finally settled on their guy: Charlie Strong, who was an excellent defensive cooordinator at Florida, and a head coach who rebuilt Louisville into a national program in a few years.
By most accounts, UT is getting a football-focused guy who loves the Xs and Os, is a strong recruiter, and who doesn’t have a lot of use for the media or PR side of things.
If I were a UT fan, that would sound pretty good to me after the last few years of a CEO head coach who excelled at PR/media/booster relations, but seemingly lost the ability to assemble good staff (crucial to a CEO-style coach) and to evaluate talent (the last two Heisman winners had interest in UT that wasn’t mutual). As a Sooner fan, I think it’s a change that will make UT more formidable (which is good for the conference and ultimately good for OU, so bring it!).
Still, there is column space to fill in old media, and already we are seeing articles wondering about the new coach’s “sizzle” or putting him down because he’s apparently not much interested in playing media games. Here are links to a couple of the genre:
- Strong coach, but not-so-sizzling choice (Gil Lebreton, FWST)
- PR aspect of UT job unlikely to please Strong (Randy Harvey, Houston Chronicle)
It’s fair to say the media and PR responsibilities at UT will be more intense than they were at Louisville (although they are pretty crazy about college football in Florida, so he has seen that side of things), and wealthy UT boosters like to be part of the club. One suspects that part of the new responsibilities of UT’s abrasive new Athletics Director may well be keeping some of those boosters happy (THAT might be the bigger story at UT, since Steve Patterson may not have the right temperament for that task), which is probably the better arrangement anyway. But I suspect a coach who’s enjoyed the success on the field that Strong has will be able to handle the relatively tame Texas sports media.
Concerns about recruiting are perhaps more legitimate. Strong didn’t recruit Texas strongly at Louisville or Florida, partly because of all the Florida talent at his disposal. But Louisville’s turnaround under Strong would not have occurred if the guy couldn’t judge talent and get it to his place. It may take him some time to figure out Texas recruiting, but my bet is he’s a smart enough football guy that his staff will have some good Texas recruiters on it. And UT should be able to get an audience with most kids if it wants to. So having a coach who can judge talent and whether it fits his schemes (or whether the schemes should be adjusted) could prove to be an advantage — again, let’s recall that two guys named Manziel and Winston didn’t interest Mr. Recruiter, Mack Brown.
Oh, and there’s actually a pretty good example of a guy having a bit of success coming into the Big 12 after being defensive coordinator at Florida and not really having ties to Texas high school football: His name is Bob Stoops. He’s managed to recruit Texas pretty well. He’s also much more terse with media than they like (and much more so than Barry Switzer, who was and still is buds with all media it seems). It’s worked out okay.
I suspect it’s going to work out okay for UT, despite journo concerns about “sizzle.” Winning = Sizzle. I’m a Sooner fan, so that’s about all the “happy” UT talk I can muster with regard to Longhorn Nation. Ultimately, when UT is strong, it’s good for the conference (no offense to Tech and K-State and Baylor and OSU, but national outlets don’t get nearly so excited when you are the standard bearers and UT/OU are struggling to stay among the Top 20). Plus I also think it pushes Stoopsy a bit. So here’s hoping this pushes the entire conference to be better (ESPECIALLY after this past season, which saw too much bad football in the Big 12).