Why Charlie Strong’s job at Texas was unsavable

Getty Images
Chris Covatta/Getty Images

The drama at Texas took its wildest turn yet over the weekend when the Longhorns were shocked at Kansas, losing to a Jayhawk team that had lost 19 straight Big 12 games. Head coach Charlie Strong had already been on the hottest of seats before the stunning overtime defeat.

UT's loss at home to West Virginia the week before, which dropped the Longhorns to 5-5, had already doused much of the momentum Strong had built up in the previous few weeks. It also didn't help his cause that Tom Herman, a former UT graduate assistant pegged as the likely top candidate to take over should Strong be ousted, also had a huge win Thursday night when his Houston team dominated No. 5 Louisville.

By Saturday night, it was apparent Strong would likely be out at Texas after three seasons. The only question that remained was just how soon would it happen?

On Sunday afternoon with rumors swirling, I spoke to a Texas source close to Strong, who said he had no idea how Texas president Greg Fenves would handle the situation. “I know he loves Charlie so he will try and do it as classy as possible if there is such a thing,” the source said.

A few hours later, the Austin Statesman reported that the decision had been made to fire Strong and said the official announcement could come by Monday. Texas AD Mike Perrin put out a statement contradicting that report and others like it: “There are a number of rumors out there about the status of Coach Strong. I've said it all along, we will evaluate the body of work after the regular season. We have a game to get ready for against TCU on Friday, and I hope our fans will come out and support our team. We'll discuss where things stand after that.”

Amid all that, a source told Fox Sports that the Longhorns' coaching staff “knows nothing” and is working on game preparation for Friday's regular-season finale against TCU.

“Charlie is preparing like he always does.”

“It's a sad deal.”

I asked the source how the Longhorn players were holding up, he responded.

“They are all blaming themselves. It's a sad deal for all.”

It is. I've covered Texas a few times over the past month working sidelines and will have them again this week for the TCU game. UT's star player D'Onta Foreman is a prime example of the dynamic in Austin. Going into their Texas Tech game, I spoke with the big RB and asked him what his goals were for the remaining month of the season.

The first thing he told me was he wanted to make sure that Coach Strong keeps his job.

“I've tried to block out all that talk but every time you turn the TV on, it seems like they're talking about whether Coach Strong is gonna keep his job or not,” he told me, “but we love him and we want to do everything we can to try and make sure they keep him here.”

Foreman went on to rumble for 341 yards in the Longhorns' 45-37 victory over Texas Tech, UT's first road win of the season. A key moment in that game occurred in the second quarter. UT was down 16-14, Foreman was carrying a pile towards the end zone, about to punctuate what would've been a 99-yard drive. However, somewhere in that scrum of Red Raider defenders on the Foreman Express, the ball was yanked out as he was about to cross the goal-line. A Tech player grabbed it and ran it back 100 yards to give Texas Tech a nine-point lead. Foreman was determined to make up for it and responded with a huge second half.

The 250-pound Foreman ran as hard as any running back in college football, especially over the past month. He's averaging 253 rushing yards a game in November. Against Kansas, he carried the ball a staggering 51 times–a school-record–and ran for 250 yards, but he had two costly fumbles.

I suspect that's a by-product of when college players try too hard and are trying to make too many things happen. That can be a tricky situation especially when you have a team as young as the Longhorns are. Ultimately, I think that was a big part of why you saw a lot of two steps forward, two steps back in Austin, and why a coach the team loves so much couldn't win big fast enough at UT.