Texas Football: Charlie Strong Already Seeing Political Challenges in Austin

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterJanuary 6, 2014

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Texas booster Red McCombs has apologized for his comments about new Texas head coach Charlie Strong. Speaking to the San Antonio Express-News, McCombs says he has spoken to Strong and fully supports him.



Legacies of a coaching career are almost always defined by wins. For new Texas coach Charlie Strong, it's about winning and fitting in. 

Strong hasn't coached a single down of football for the Longhorns, or finalized a recruiting class, yet there are already concerns about how he "fits" with his new job. He's not known to be the glad-hander or back-slapper like his predecessor, Mack Brown. Strong is an intense coach whose first and only interest is football; all other obligations are frivolous. 

Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde wrote as much on Sunday when Texas announced Strong's hire. 

For all his on-field credentials, he is a complete misfit for the spotlight that accompanies the Texas job. Strong hated dealing with both the small media following at Louisville and the modest core of boosters who were important to the program.

There's nothing modest about Texas, including the egos of those behind the scenes. Appearing on ESPN Tuesday, Texas booster Red McCombs called the Strong hire a "kick in the face." The comment came one day after McCombs appeared on ESPN Radio-San Antonio to express his dissatisfaction with athletic director Steve Patterson's hire. 

The first thing to acknowledge for contextual reasons is that McCombs says he was shut out of the hiring process by Patterson. 

McCombs is selling Strong's credentials so short it's insulting. In four years at Louisville, a program that failed to have a winning record during the Steve Kragthorpe experiment, Strong compiled a 37-15 record. Strong led the Cardinals to back-to-back bowl wins, including last season's Sugar Bowl over Florida. The quarterback whom he recruited, Teddy Bridgewater, is likely to be one of the top picks in the upcoming NFL draft.

Strong proved his mettle as a position coach, and later as a defensive coordinator, at Florida. He was a part of two BCS National Championship teams in 2006-07 and 2008-09. 

His resume is just fine. 

But McCombs would rather have a coach, ESPN NFL color analyst Jon Gruden, who hasn't recruited a high school kid since his days as a wide receivers coach at Pitt—22 years ago. 

Whether McCombs is right or wrong about Strong matters little, though. He's a high-profile and outspoken member of a group of people who have money to give. And Patterson just alienated him. 

This is Patterson's first and most critical hire and he's going all in for it. It's a completely new direction, too. Strong is the anti-Brown, personality-wise. Maybe that's what Texas needs to return to a championship level. For Patterson's sake, for Strong's sake, that better come to fruition. 

How long it takes Strong to get the program to that level is another important factor. The attractiveness of the Texas job is that it has every available resource to be successful. By that same consideration, however, there are no excuses not to be. 

Red McCombs with Dennis Green
Red McCombs with Dennis GreenTom Pidgeon/Getty Images

Texas is also a unique job because the politics and media circus surrounding it are magnified. If nits are really being picked, Strong's first encounter of that came in the 36 hours or so of media coverage leading up to his hire. 

Whether Strong can handle the additional responsibilities remains to be seen, but if his opening press conference Monday was any indication, he'll be able to hold his own. 

Granted, every coach in the history of existence has "won" their first presser, but Strong showed he was not the introverted, awkward man in front of the cameras he's been made out to be. Though clearly a bit uncomfortable at first, Strong eventually opened up with honest, thoughtful answers. He even threw in a few jokes. 

During one response, Strong spoke about maintaining success by using the classic brick-building analogy, where a program is built brick by brick. Strong's first brick was getting through the press conference. His next may be coming face-to-face with McCombs. 


Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval