They used to have caravans at the University of Louisville. The last one, I believe, made six stops around the state. Strong made one of them. He talked to a crowd in Shelbyville for about 20 minutes, then declined to take questions from the media.
Now picture this. At a place called Joe T. Garcia’s, which, according to the Austin American-Statesman’s Brian Davis, is near the Fort Worth Stockyards, Strong and his custom bus rolled into town on the first stop of the tour, with an inflatable Bevo, a pack of Texas administrators and assistants wearing “Roadie” badges and Rickey Williams signing autographs next to his Heisman Trophy out back. I’m not clear on whether they took the actual Bevo, though given the proximity to the stockyards, I can see why they wouldn’t.
Does the Longhorn Network televise these things? Because if it does I need to call my cable company. That lineup is one Kardashian or the Honey Boo-Boo kid away from being reality gold.
“We have everything available, and I don’t know why we can’t be successful,” Strong said. “There’s no reason for us not to be. Now, I can’t tell you how soon it’s going to be. Don’t hold me to that. Don’t say, ‘Ooh, coach said next year we’ll be in the national…’ We will not be in the national championship game.”
Burp. Come again?
Realizing what he just said to hundreds of fans, Strong laughed nervously, looked at emcee Ahmad Brooks and said, “OK, you ready to go?”
Now, for my money, I like Strong’s brutal honesty. I always did. It may not exactly fan the flames after getting the boosters all lubricated and full of fajitas and enchiladas, but give Strong this — he gave it to them straight. Of course, that’s not exactly the message Texas fans wanted to hear, even if it’s one they need to hear. Regardless, Strong killed the buzz in that establishment quicker than a carload of sheriff's deputies.
Still, it’s been a tough stretch for Strong. How tough? Well, there’s already a website called “ImissMack.com.” You can buy an “I Miss Mack” T-shirt for $15, or a wristband for $5.
Last week, after the spring game, Texas linebacker Steve Edmund, who missed last season’s finale against Baylor, still felt compelled to weigh in on the 30-10 Bears victory.
"Baylor sucks," Edmond told reporters. "I don't understand how we lost to Baylor. The defense was playing good but the offense just wasn't scoring. . . Even though I didn't get a chance to play in the Baylor game, I really feel like we should have beat Baylor. I really don't like Baylor. I still think they're trash. . . . I'm mad as I can be. I knew we were a better team than they were. Baylor gets the win and acts like they had never won before. Even in high school, you know how to react when you win a game. It's not like you never won a game. I'm like, 'They won it, so what?' They still suck to me."
Now, there’s brutal honesty, and being verbally brutal. That’s about as un-Charlie Strong a statement as a person can make.
“He’s got to be smarter than that,” Strong said of Edmond’s comments. “I’ve got a lot of respect for (Baylor) Coach (Art) Briles. He’s done an unbelievable job there at Baylor, and right now, that is the way it is. We haven’t beat Baylor.”
Strong has talked of still needing to get a segment of players to buy in.
But he’s getting a taste of the kind of distraction a program of the magnitude of Texas can offer. He also remains what he always has been — a coach who knows what it takes to win at the highest level, and a man who is not going to take any shortcuts to get there.
Whether he’s successful in all of the public relations duties that are laid out for him in the offseason, it’s on the field, first and foremost, where he will be judged. And in that environment, he is quite in his comfort zone.