What’s the reality of Charlie Strong’s hot seat at Texas? The Campus Insiders staff breaks it down in this roundtable.
With a second consecutive loss dropping Texas to 2-2 on the season, Charlie Strong’s previously cooler seat is once again hotter than hell. Reports have even begun to surface that the Longhorns are closer than ever to firing Strong after this season. Obviously, that could all change if the Longhorns finish, well, strong, but that’s a big “if.” So what exactly is the actual reality of Strong’s status in Austin?
On a scale of one to five fire emojis, I give this six. This seems similar to a Les Miles situation in the fact that Texas has seemingly been discussing firing Strong for over a year, didn’t pull the trigger when it probably should have and now has a huge distraction that won’t go away until he’s actually canned. Strong isn’t doing himself any favors by demoting Vance Bedford and taking over defensive play-calling duties, essentially throwing Bedford under the bus. Texas brass isn’t going to take much more of this, and if the Longhorns get embarrassed by Oklahoma in Dallas this week, Strong might be traveling on his own back to Austin with a pink slip in hand.
As I wrote on Saturday following the Longhorns’ loss, athletic director Mike Perrin knows that Tom Herman is going to be in play at LSU. What he has to decide is whether Strong or Herman gives the Longhorns the best long-term stability. A move to part ways with Strong is not out of the question if a deal can get brokered to bring Herman to Austin. There is no question Texas must be an upper-echelon team in the Big 12 this year for Strong to survive, especially because he has already taken play-calling duties away from DC Vance Bedford, who was brought back after a poor 2015 campaign. The next move, fair or not, would be to relieve Strong of his duties if the defense doesn’t start playing much better.
Do I think Charlie Strong should be fired? No. Do I think his seat is burning hotter than Timbuktu? Yes.
I do truly believe Strong is a good coach and can do big things in Austin, but there’s a once-in-a-decade diamond out there Texas doesn’t want to miss on, one Thomas Joseph Herman. That’s the kicker right now. There’s no doubt Strong’s seat should be extremely hot, with a 6-7 and 5-7 finish in his first two seasons and a 2-2 start this year. But this was billed as a rebuild process, not a win-right-away type job. Strong needed time to recruit and develop talent, but what Tom Herman has been able to accomplish in Houston with talent he inherited and in just one year’s time has quickly minimized logistics of a rebuild.
There are good coaches in college football, and then there are elite coaches. The latter consists of guys like Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and, despite the small sample size, Herman. Whichever school is able to woo him away from Houston, if at all, is going to find itself immediately and regularly competing for championships. That’s something Texas can’t miss on, because coaches of Herman’s caliber don’t come around too often.
Knowing the circumstances at hand, Strong has to win and show considerable improvement and promise for the future this year. If a university wants to move on from its head coach, three years is an acceptable sample size with which to part ways. Texas could pull the trigger without, for the most part, any negative backlash. Potential coaches, like Herman, wouldn’t be deterred by the Longhorns rushing to a decision.
As for what Strong needs to do to stick around, well, eight to nine regular season wins would likely keep him in town. That would be a three-to-four win increase from last season, and mean that the Longhorns would have won six or seven of their remaining eight games. That’s a tall order for a team currently sitting at 2-2 and that can’t seem to stop anyone from scoring.
Hot Seat Status: All of the fire emojis.
It is Texas, and they expect nothing less than being the absolute best. Charlie Strong has yet to come close to delivering that, so of course he is now on the hot seat, and the seat will get to a boiling point if the Longhorns can’t take down Oklahoma this weekend. Lose that, and the Strong tenure could be over.