The Texas Longhorns, one of the most proud college football programs of all time, has been in a prolonged slump. A few years ago, they hired a man whom they thought would turn the program around in Charlie Strong. Strong took a floundering Louisville Cardinals program and turned them to a national power, including a Sugar Bowl win in 2012. Well, after three short years, the hourglass on Strong’s tenure in Texas may be coming to and end.
Today, the Longhorns lost to Kansas State 24-21, and this game ended like so many others have under Strong: frustrating, mistake-riddled and with the Longhorns on the wrong end of the scoreboard. On the heels of an inspired win at home over Big 12 basement dweller Iowa State, Texas faithful came into this road game looking for a well-coached, well-prepared team and found one. Wearing purple.
In a match-up of identical 3-3 teams, the Wildcats were clearly the better average team. Neither of these teams are going anywhere, but Texas is getting to its destination faster. The Longhorns played miserably in a first half that may well have been Charlie Strong’s worst in his 32 games, and that’s saying something.
Texas might not fire Strong on Sunday. It may not fire him next week or the week after. But Saturday’s loss all but officially sealed his fate in Austin. There are five games left on the schedule, and Texas needs to win three to be bowl eligible. Frankly, Strong needs to win all five — including games against No. 9 Baylor and No. 12 West Virginia– to keep his job. The odds of that happening are grim. Just read these comments — or the lack thereof — from Texas athletic director Mike Perrin after the game.
Any impartial observer who watched the proceedings would come up with the inevitable conclusion – Texas is a bad football team. It’d be one thing if Texas had a bad day in an otherwise encouraging season, but these things have been problematic for some time now. Quite literally, the Longhorns have been the same team to start each of the last three seasons.
It cannot be denied that Strong is actually a good football coach. He was the architect of a great defense in Florida, he rebuilt the reputation of Louisville, and he has cleaned up the mess that was left at Texas when he was hired with good recruiting and solid values. However, it is in the overall player development that hasn’t been Strong’s best area. Guys are making the same mistakes in Week 8 as they were making in Week 3 — and those are the same mistakes they made last year and the year before that.
The play-calling on both sides of the ball hasn’t been much better, and as we have seen, Strong demoted multiple coordinators during his time at Texas. But once again, the Horns were calling runs late in the game without timeouts and down on the scoreboard. It took nearly three quarters for Texas to convert a third down. There some things you just can’t do, and Strong was doing them.
The fact of the matter is this, we are in a “win-now” and “What have you done for me lately” era of sports for coaches. It is pretty obvious that Texas hasn’t shown it can get better under Strong, and it’s unlikely the next five games are going to prove otherwise. While Strong didn’t inherit a great situation (actually, it was pretty dire), and wasn’t offered full support by prominent boosters, he’s had enough time to at least show the program is headed in the right direction. It’s hard to say that’s happening.
The clock is at 11:55pm, and its almost midnight for Charlie Strong.