Charlie Strong Is a Great Football Coach, but Is He Ready for Texas Politics?

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterJanuary 5, 2014

USA Today

Charlie Strong, who got his first shot as a head coach at Louisville, is now leaving the Cardinals for the big-time atmosphere of the University of Texas. The Longhorns have hired away Strong, who went 37-15 in four seasons at Louisville, to lead their rebounding football program. The move became official with a tweet from Longhorn_FB:

Strong notes, with the press release at Texas Sports, his enthusiasm for the job:

Texas is one of those places that is always on your radar and a program anyone would dream of being a part of because you have a chance to compete on a national level every year. It's special because it has such great history, pride, tradition and passion for football.

This is a great hire for Texas because Strong is a truly solid coach. However, Strong meshing with the politics of the position may present quite a problem.

Strong, who just led the Cardinals on a 12-1 campaign and was set up to transition Louisville into the resurgent ACC, will be trading the bluegrass of Kentucky for the greener pastures of talent-rich and just plain regular rich Texas.

But don't let the smooth taste of Austin fool you; there is also some mud that comes with the job. After working with Tom Jurich, the U of L athletic director, how Strong handles that grime is going to be the biggest question mark about him taking the position.

At Louisville, Charlie Strong was simply one thing: a football coach. At Texas, with new athletic director Steve Patterson, the head coach is going to be asked to do so much more than just coach.

Around the nation, every man in Strong's position has to control and work to elevate his program. That means working on things at the schematic level and the week-to-week game-plan level. It also means developing a culture that fosters success, as well as a plan for strength and conditioning, including offseason programs.

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 07:  Calvin Pryor #25 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates after intercepting a pass during the game against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo b
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Every football coach also needs a recruiting battle plan to get out to schools and get kids interested. It is vital to the program's success that they take the time to build relationships with high school coaches and influential players in recruiting circles.

These are the parts of the job that coaches love doing. They want to game-plan. They want to develop the best players they can. They want to go out and recruit.

Then come the little things that coaches "have" to do for the job: the weekly television shows, the coaches' carousels, the radio spots and the media tours. All things that take coaches away from the true core of the job. These little things are relatively easily manageable, and coaches know they are a part of the business everywhere.

Mack Brown was great at the extra part of the job
Mack Brown was great at the extra part of the jobRonald Martinez/Getty Images

Enter the next phase of the job: the schmoozing. The ego-stroking. The palling around with boosters and power players in an effort to appease them and keep the money train flowing.

This is much more important at some schools (Texas) than others. Every school has powerful boosters, but all power players are not created equal. At some places, simply winning is enough to keep the checks coming. 

Yet, at places like Texas, winning is merely a start. These folks need to feel the love. In some instances, these folks need to know that the coach "likes" them. They want to feel as though the program belongs to them as much as it does to the coaches and players who spend the majority of their time at the facility.

Kelly had issues with availability to Oregon folks
Kelly had issues with availability to Oregon folksRich Schultz/Getty Images

The nation got to see this ugly side of booster-coach relations at Oregon with Chip Kelly, as the Willamette Week pointed out in December of 2012. The Ducks boosters' frustration with Kelly's aloofness is hardly a unique situation.

Schools with deeper tradition and deeper ties are faced with similar issues, but to a higher degree. Texas certainly fits into this space. There's a reason the school needed an eight-person search committee: juggling the input and voices to arrive at a choice that pleases the masses.

Strong is moving from an athletic department that insulated him from the outside and allowed him to simply do the coaching element of his job, into a space that wants so much more.

Mack Brown gave the Texas fans plenty of extra. He was a brilliant crowd pleaser who made everyone feel welcomed and as though they mattered to the program. Flipping from Brown to Strong is going to be quite the culture shock for folks.

Keep in mind, as WHAS's Adam Lefkoe pointed out back in 2012, Strong likes to control the message. He likes to be in charge of the media, much like guys like Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Jim Mora. If Strong is displeased with what the media is doing, he's going to make their job more difficult.

Controlling the message at Louisville was relatively easy because people just wanted to win ballgames. At Texas, winning comes first, but information is a must. With the Longhorn Network as part of the package, the reserved and football-focused Strong will be thrust into doing the things that he worked to avoid at Louisville—most notably, giving more access.

More access to his process. More access to his football team. More access to himself. Mack was an available guy, whereas Strong has been less so during his time as a head coach. Juggling that quality with the demands at Texas is going to be the biggest challenge with the new job.

Seeing how much Strong truly wants to do the little things that grease the wheels at Texas is going to be intriguing. The man can coach, but shaking hands and smiling for boosters has never been his forte. If Patterson can insulate the coach from the ancillary elements, things should run smoothly, but if Strong is forced to try and duplicate Brown's efforts, there will be some feathers ruffled.