NGSC Sports

Still Strong

 

 

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/charlie-strong_1389037739880_5071900_ver1.0_640_4801.jpg” alt=”Charlie Strong” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-3148″ ]

Culminating his career at Louisville with a record of 37–15 and four straight bowl appearances, the University of Texas announced on January 5th 2014 that Charlie Strong would become the school’s next head football coach. Strong’s coaching career spans several years and warrants considerable recognition.  His coaching career began in 1983 as a Graduate assistant at the University of Florida. In 1986 he earned his first positions coach opportunity becoming Wide Receivers coach at Southern Illinois.

Regarded as a passionate leader, Strong displayed steady growth and aptitude as a positions coach. Admirably fulfilling a myriad of positions coach vacancies on both sides of the football uniquely qualified him to become Assistant Head Coach at the University of Florida in 1994 under Steve Spurrier. A year later he coached the defensive line at Notre Dame through 1998 before joining Lou Holtz’s staff at the University of South Carolina in the capacity of Defensive Coordinator.

In 2003 he would once again lend his services to the University of Florida during the Ron Zook coaching regime, but this time as a Defensive Coordinator. Just prior to the Peach Bowl in 2004 against the University of Miami, Ron Zook was relieved of his duties as Head Football Coach at the University of Florida. Charlie Strong served as the interim Head Coach during this time. In 2005, the University of Florida subsequently brought Urban Meyer into the fold to assume Head Football Coach responsibilities.

As one of the few remaining staff members from the Ron Zook coaching era, Strong went on to enjoy tremendous success as the team’s Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator under Urban Meyer, winning National Championships in 2006 and 2008. Florida’s stifling defense finished the 2008 season 9th in the country holding Ohio State’s offense to just 82 total yards in the National Championship game. Accomplishing various feats from the realm of recruiting to the field of play, Strong’s talents at this juncture were palpable and worthy of promotion. Coming off of three straight losing seasons, the University of Louisville turned to Charlie Strong to reinvigorate their program and it wasn’t long before Louisville’s athletic administration began to see desired results.

In his inaugural season as Louisville’s Head Football Coach, Charlie Strong would earn Big East Coach of the Year honors. The 2010 Cardinal’s went 7-6 on the season with a victory over Southern Miss in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.  In 2011, the Cardinals would finish again with the record of 7-6, which would conclude with a loss to NC State in the Belk Bowl. However Charlie would rebound and rebound strong. In 2012, the Cardinals posted a record of 11-2 becoming Big East Champions. Strong was once again named Big East Coach of the Year. The Cardinals would later go on to upset the 4th ranked Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl by a score of 33-23 finishing the season 13th in the BCS rankings.

Lead by Heisman Trophy Candidate Teddy Bridgewater and a vaunted defense emblematic of a Charlie Strong coached team; the Cardinals completed the 2013 season 12-1 which included a 36-9 victory over the Miami Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Following the Bowl game, three coaches in Jim Mora, Charlie Strong and Art Briles (seemingly the frontrunner) emerged as candidates for the University of Texas Head Coach position. With both Jim Mora and Art Briles turning down the position and returning to their respective schools, Charlie Strong humbly accepted the offer to become Texas’ 29th head football coach; later stating, “This was an opportunity I could not pass up.”

The Elephant in the Room

In the year 2014 there is still a great disparity of minority Head Football Coaches in Division 1 college football. While it can absolutely become uncomfortable to broach the topic of race, it must be addressed until further progress is made. With that said the hiring of Charlie Strong marks the first time in University of Texas’ illustrious football history in which they’ve hired an African-American Head Coach.

Strong’s abovementioned successes are certainly indicative of a coach ready to take the helm at one of the major powerhouses in Division 1 college football; however there were some that disagreed with that assessment. Unfortunately, his appointment as Head Coach managed to draw the ire of one of the university’s more generous boosters in Red McCombs who has donated nearly $100 million to the school.

January 7, 2014 Red McCombs stated, “I think the whole thing is a little bit sideways. I don’t have any doubt that Charlie is a fine coach. I think he would make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator.”  McCombs went on to say, “It’s a kick in the face. We have boosters who have a lot of knowledge about the game.”

If I’m in Charlie Strong’s shoes, I’m asking Mr. McCombs, what about my résumé suggests that I’m merely a fine assistant or positions coach? Is it my two National Championships as a Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach? Or is it my ability to turn around the Louisville program faster than Mack Brown could’ve ever imagined turning around the University of North Carolina?  When Strong was made aware of McCombs comments he did not seek to validate himself by becoming haughty or arrogant, he simply took the highroad and exemplified exactly why he is in the position he’s in today. Strong’s lone response to McCombs comments was, “Winning will take care of that.” He is class personified and is a great example of how to handle adversity.

It should be noted that McCombs has since apologized, and was able to speak to Charlie Strong and assured him that he’d continue to support the university. Hopefully McCombs lives up to his promise and his contemporaries follow suit in continuing to support the University of Texas just as they did during the Mack Brown era. Please see below table for further illustration as to why the University of Texas’ boosters should continue to support the school in their decision to hire Charlie Strong.

 

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/charlie-strong-mack-brown1.jpg” alt=”charlie strong-mack brown” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-3137″ ]

 

Recruiting

Accumulating and cultivating talent has never been an issue for Charlie Strong but he will first have to learn the lay of the land for Texas high school football in order to secure some of the top talent in the state. While this could prove to be challenging with coaches like Sumlin and Art Briles established in the Texas high school football recruiting trail, there are many positive attributes to Charlie Strong’s make-up that might interest a young man coming out of high school to want to play for the University of Texas.

A master motivator and outstanding communicator, there is no question that he will be able to forge many long lasting relationships across the high school ranks that will aid him in the Texas recruiting battle. Strong labeled Texas, “the hotbed of recruiting”, but also plans to keep his Florida pipeline flowing. An encouraging sign is that he is already getting buy-in from recruits previously committed to the University of Texas prior to his arrival, selling them on brotherhood, family atmosphere and previous successes.

Strong is already a force to be reckoned with in states such as Georgia and Florida. Armed with greater tools to pitch to young recruits such as outstanding facilities, television exposure (Longhorn Network) and program tradition the University of Texas might regain its stronghold it once had on the Texas recruiting landscape.

Projection

When the smoke clears and the dust settles, there will be little debate as to who was the right man for the Texas job. Once he gets a couple recruiting classes in and he stabilizes his coaching staff, I could certainly see the Longhorns contending for a title in the next two years. While there might be some doubt regarding hiring Charlie Strong, it will be short lived.

Strong has long awaited an opportunity such as this and is prepared to win and win often. He is battle tested and has won everywhere he has gone. With history being the best predictor of future success, it would be wise not to bet against Charlie, as he is still standing, still Strong.

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