Texas football is interested in Louisville coach Charlie Strong but how interested should Strong be in Texas?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There are a few jobs where everything about them says that college football is the only thing that matters.
They have the mammoth stadiums, the practice fields that look more spectacular than the 18th fairway at Augusta National, the constant concern about the progress of the third-team quarterback, the trophy cases stuffed with Heismans and national championships and the bottom line that nothing less than four- and (preferably) five-star recruits will do.
Alabama is one of those jobs. So is Notre Dame. Do not forget Ohio State.
And, of course, Texas.
Howard Schnellenberger was once the beloved head football coach at the University of Louisville. Could have stayed forever. Two decades ago he said "Yes," to Oklahoma when he should have said, "No."
Charlie Strong is the head football coach at U of L today, the man who has benefited from and then clearly enhanced Schnellenberger's boldest visions. He can stay forever. Strong might have an opportunity to coach at a program that is Oklahoma football on steroids – the Texas Longhorns (Network, included).
Will Strong say, "Yes," when he should be saying, "No?"
Or will Strong say, "No," when he should be saying, "Yes?"
Great questions – and intensely personal ones at that. I believe Strong and his private nature fit better at Louisville than Texas. At Texas, you are more than the football coach. You're the ceremonial head of state, tugged on by folks miles beyond your tax bracket.
In Tom Jurich, he has a driven athletic director who wants to win championships as badly as Strong does – and will give him every tool he needs, including an energizing move into the Atlantic Coast Conference. Expectations here are not as grand as they are in Austin, but they are certainly more reasonable. Jurich, remember, was not interested in Texas and all the remarkable toys that it offers.
But Strong is not a guy who confides in the media, not even about why he won't open a few milliseconds of practice. Believe it or not, he's not returning messages on this subject.
For Strong, never forget this has to be a surreal experience – as well as potentially a very lucrative one. Remember that after the 2008 season Mississippi State did not consider Strong a serious candidate for its job – and Mississippi State should consider Bevo, Barney and Bert and Ernie as serious candidates for its job.
California passed on Strong. Minnesota picked Tim Brewster over him, leaving Strong with stinging disappointment and wondering if he had been used as a minority face in the hiring process.
Now it is Charlie Strong doing the turning down. He waved off Tennessee 13 months ago and finds himself as a legitimate candidate for a job once filled by Darrell Royal, a Hall of Famer.
It took Charlie Strong's career forever to go from zero to 10 mph – and now he's moving at hypersonic rates.
So what does Strong do?
First he has to wait for an official offer. But while he's waiting, I'm certain Strong is doing what he has always done: Pack his questions, pack his concerns, pack his ambitions and settle on his game plan.
He's a methodical, determined guy who rarely strays towards impulse. The reason reports from Austin that Strong has been talking to assistant coaches on the staff of former UT coach Mack Brown sound true is because that is textbook Charlie Strong preparation.
If Strong is looking for another voice with insight into the Texas football culture, all he has to do is step into an adjoining office. Vance Bedford, U of L's defensive coordinator, grew up in Beaumont before playing four seasons for Fred Akers with the Longhorns.
Oh. Did I just mention Fred Akers? Strictly coincidence.
For all the talk about Royal and Mack Brown, the last two coaches to win national championships at Texas, it should not be forgotten that there were three other guys who directed the UT program during the 22-season gap between their lengthy reigns.
There was Akers, who was bounced in 1986. Akers won better than 73 percent of his games, but was pushed toward Purdue after one losing season.
There was David McWilliams, a former Texas player and assistant coach who was dismissed without hesitation one season after he directed the Longhorns to the Cotton Bowl because of three losing seasons in five years.
There was John Mackovic, a non-Texan (which seems to matter there). He was given the bum's rush out of Austin one season after losing back-to-back Sugar and Fiesta Bowls (and getting clubbed by UCLA 66-3).
That is the part of Texas football that you do not see when they flash the snapshots of the 100,119-seat stadium, Earl Campbell, Vince Young, James Street, the national championships, Sixth Street, Ricky Williams, Tommy Nobis, Bevo and all the rest. It is also a part that Charlie Strong should remember.