Charlie Strong's Developing His Own 'Process,' and It's Just What Texas Needs

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Charlie Strong's Developing His Own 'Process,' and It's Just What Texas Needs
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The world of college football was introduced to "the Process" two years ago when Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated wrote about "Sabanization" spreading across the sport.

Now, new University of Texas coach Charlie Strong is introducing a process of his own. 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was coming off his second BCS National Championship with the Tide (21-0 over LSU) when SI published Staples' article in August of 2012. Four months later, Alabama won its third BCS National Championship in four years under Saban, a 42-14 throttling of Notre Dame. 

Like alternate uniforms, the process has become its own trend in college football. Every coach has his own process and has had it for years, but only recently has it come under the more popular title.

In essence, Saban has updated the college football dictionary. 

So what is the Process? Staples explained: 

In its most basic form, the Process is Saban's term for concentrating on the steps to success rather than worrying about the end result. Instead of thinking about the scoreboard, think about dominating the man on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. Instead of thinking about a conference title, think about finishing a ninth rep in the weight room. Instead of thinking about graduating, think about writing a great paper for Intro to Psych.

The dividends of the Process began paying off when Alabama won its first BCS title against Texas in 2010. As it so happened, the 37-21 loss to the Tide marked a turning point for the Longhorns.

Four years later, head coach Mack Brown resigned because he failed to win enough—and Texas failed to hire Saban as Brown's successor.

Still, traces of the Process have made their way to Austin. 

A set of 11 rules and expectations developed by Strong began sweeping the Internet last week, courtesy of SB Nation's Barking Carnival. The rules are rooted in responsibility, accountability and camaraderie. 

  1. Players will attend all of their classes and sit in the front two rows of all of their classes. GAs, academic folks, position coaches will be checking constantly now.
  2. No headphones in class. No texting in class. Sit up and take notes.
  3. If a player misses a class, he runs until it hurts. If he misses two classes, his entire position unit runs. If he misses three, the position coach runs. The position coaches don't want to run.
  4. No earrings in the football building. No drugs. No stealing. No guns. Treat women with respect.
  5. Players may not live off campus anymore, unless they're a senior who hits certain academic standards. The University will buy out the leases for every player currently living off campus and put them in the athletic dorm.
  6. The team will all live together, eat together, suffer together, and hang out together. They will become a true team and learn to impose accountability on each other. The cliques are over.
  7. There's no time for a rebuild. "I don't have time for that." The expectation is that Texas wins now.
  8. Players will learn that they would rather practice than milk a minor injury.
  9. The focus is on winning and graduating. Anything extraneous to that is a distraction and will be stamped out or removed.
  10. Strong met individually with seniors and key leaders and re-emphasized that the plan is to win now. They can lead the new culture or be run over by it.
  11. "I don't want to talk about things. I'd rather do things. We just talked. Now it's time to do."

Strong is setting the tone, that's for sure. 

"Each player on the team, I met with them one on one," Strong said last week via the Associated Press (h/t USA Today.) "I told them how unhappy I was where the program is right now. It's going to fall upon all of us to go get it right ... They want to win. They sense we need to raise standards."

Texas lost five games in 2013 by an average of 21 points. While injuries and quarterback development played a role, the edge necessary to win had been lost. Strong is trying to find that edge again. 

Are the rules realistic, though? Can coaches reasonably keep tabs on 85 scholarship players (and more than 100 total players) to make sure they attend every class, sit in the front row paying full attention?

As Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News noted, academics actually weren't an issue under Brown. 

The rules may sound like a stretch in that regard, but consider the level of involvement for the coaching staff. If a player misses class three times, his position coach runs until it hurts. It's one thing for a player to disobey a rule; it's another for the consequence to affect his teammates and coaches. 

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
Nick Saban

For as high as the new standards are for the players, it is implied that they are even higher for the coaches. If the coaches fail, the players will fail. If the players fail, the coaches will pay. 

All of this sounds great, but offseason stories are usually filled with posturing. Just as every coach in history has won their first press conference, every culture change is exactly what was needed to turn things around—up until the moment it doesn't work. 

It's possible that things won't go as planned right away. Players fed up with the new regime may transfer, or the team may not respond to the expectations as soon as Strong would like. 

That doesn't mean Strong's intense philosophy won't work, but he has to stay the course every day. 

Saban is a perfect example.

He's hard on his players, but he carries the same intensity every day, and the players respond. Consider this story about Saban and Tide quarterback AJ McCarron from ESPN's Alex Scarborough last August.

"AJ was on our team for 11 days, and he thought he should be second team and we played him on third team," Saban recalled. "He came fussing and kicking and cussing up to my office after the scrimmage because he was disappointed he didn't play with the second team." 

Saban's message to his young quarterback: "We're only evaluating you on one thing today and that was leadership, and you failed dramatically." 

McCarron has led Alabama to a pair of national titles and was a Heisman finalist in 2013. He's an example of the Process at its finest. 

Strong and Texas are about to embark on their own process. The question is whether it will yield championship results. 

 

Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. 

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