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Ivan Maisel: Is Strong Ready for Texas' Demands?

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Good and fair article.



Is Strong ready for Texas' demands?



Updated: January 5, 2014, 3:48 PM ET

By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com



Charlie Strong is a bright coach, a proven winner and an obvious choice to take over one of the marquee programs in college football. Texas zeroed in on him and lured him away from Louisville, the university that gave Strong a chance to be a head coach when other schools had passed him by.


Strong is 53 years old, old enough to have his coaching career impeded by the reluctance of universities to hire African-Americans. He served as a defensive coordinator in the SEC for 11 seasons, including on two national championship teams at Florida, before he got a job offer from Louisville four years ago. Strong went 37-15 (.712) with the Cardinals, including that epic Allstate Sugar Bowl upset of the Gators a year ago.


On the day before that game, Strong explained why he had weeks earlier turned down Tennessee to stay at Louisville.


"I think about the University of Louisville and [athletic director] Tom Jurich and our president, Dr. [James R.] Ramsey, they gave me the first opportunity and it's all about loyalty," Strong said.


"And a lot of times when you have a little success, everybody starts saying, 'Hey, let's go try to go hire this guy away.' But because of them giving me my first opportunity, it's hard to say and walk away and then for the players that I recruited there, you know, talked to them about trust, talk to them about commitment.



"And a lot of times I tell those players that a lot of people have walked out of their life. Now all of a sudden here I am the head football coach, I'm going to walk away from them, who will they ever trust. I couldn't do it to that university. I couldn't do it to that group of players."


It would be easy to pin those words on Strong on Sunday. But this isn't a political campaign. Playing "gotcha" ignores reality. By word and action, Strong explained how he felt about Louisville. Texas is Texas, the biggest, richest athletic department on God's green earth. Louisville is an oasis of excellence in the college athletics desert. But it's not Austin, Texas.


Whether the metric is football or the coaching ladder, the hire of Strong is a strong hire, and I apologize for the obvious pun. But there's something else obvious about the Texas job, something that gives me pause about Strong moving into Mack Brown's expansive office.


No other position in American sports is expected to be the public face of an institution as often as the college football head coach. It speaks to the grip that college sports have on their fans, to the emotional investment that fans make in their school's teams. The pluses in this system are measured by the coaches' status as public figures, by the commas in their salaries.


The minus is that a coach can be tripped up by job demands that have nothing to do with football and everything to do with being a football coach.


Every head-coaching job has different demands. The bigger the job, the more the demands stray from the whiteboard. USC, the marquee football program in the entertainment capital of the world, expects its coach to cater to the media, to be that public face. Ask Lane Kiffin what happens to a coach who botches the task.


It is certainly possible to bend the demands of the job to the coach's personality. Nick Saban remade Alabama football and dared anyone to challenge his decisions. By sheer force of personality -- and with a lot of winning -- Saban backed down any grumblers. But there aren't a whole lot of Nick Sabans out there.


Don't ask me to define the booster politics in which a coach must engage in a state with a constitutional amendment banning limits on ego. All I know is that the two coaches who won national championships at Texas, Darrell Royal and Mack Brown, possessed the backslapping, shoulder-rubbing personalities that kept a lot of rich, powerful people at bay. Royal and Brown didn't have to fake it. That's who they were.


That's not who Charlie Strong is. He has a quieter public persona. How he handles the public and private demands that he just agreed to take on will define his tenure in Austin. It is not as important as winning. If Brown's predecessor, John Mackovic, had won enough games, he might still be coaching the Longhorns. But when Mackovic faltered, his cool reticence had pushed aside support that might have helped him.


In four years, Strong has risen from a guy who thought his race had held him back to one of the most visible jobs in the game. He got there on merit. His new job expects merit and something more. How Strong handles the something more will call on skills that he hasn't shown in a long, distinguished coaching career. Here's hoping he has them.



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we FINALLY have a COACH....we did not need another CEO, if Strong can recruit and coach a defense like they had a UF with some edgier type athletes with some attitude, then we will be back on our way to National prominence, He will have no excuses because he will have full support from the BMD's and the AD....all he needs to do is win over the fans that peruse these fan forums, and he can do that quickly by putting a fire breathing, thunder crapping team on the field...That and beat the crap out of OU

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If he recruits well, avoids scandal, handles the OU rivalry appropriately (it is NOT just another game), and wins conference championships then he will be forgiven any deficits in his backslapping skills.


the "standard" should be Natty's . ..though I'll settle for some playoff appearances . ..


Just saying. . .

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This article has some validity to it. Mackovic could coach circles around Mack Brown, but he was never adopted by the BMD's, and at the 1st site of trouble he was gone. Of course, it also helped that fielded some horrible defenses, and his recruiting classes, were usually 5-8 deep.

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This is my only worry. I just hope we all let him coach, and go easy on the other stuff.


In terms of personality and style, the guy is a lot like Saban. Strong, tough, disciplined. That is what is needed for a great program. The PR stuff is just icing on the cake. We need to be forgiving in that regard.

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This article has some validity to it. Mackovic could coach circles around Mack Brown, but he was never adopted by the BMD's, and at the 1st site of trouble he was gone. Of course, it also helped that fielded some horrible defenses, and his recruiting classes, were usually 5-8 deep.


Mackovic was not a better coach than Mack, and never fit in at Texas. We didn't need a white wine drinker at a beer and barbeque place.

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In terms of revenue (not including BMD donations), the Texas program is the largest in the nation. It is over twice the size of TAMU and over four times the size or Baylor's. The financial scope, along with the size of the fan base and the expectations at the program that trails only Michigan in all-time wins is going to take a toll on the coach at Texas. The amount of assistance Strong is given in dealing with these demands will largely define Patterson's leadership of the football program. So far, I'm not impressed how Patterson has handled the PR aspects of this coaching change. Let's see how he handles providing Strong the assistance he needs in managing distractions and having sufficient time and energy to manage the football program.

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Masiel writes a great article. I look forward to seeing what Strong does in all facets of the game. It'll be nice to have an HC with a strong defensive background-- it's pretty rare to ever see a top 5 team with a terrible defense.

Much like the article stated, my biggest question mark is not his abilities on the field, he's solid there, but his time off the field. The HC of Texas football has so many off the field obligations and commitments. I don't want to see these dilute Strong's time with the X's and O's and recruiting. I fully expect a transitional period with the first season, and I hope he finds a way to balance it all.

This next season can't come soon enough! Time to get back on top. Hook'em Strong! :)

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