Texas taking predictable track with Strong
In college football, the practice is all too predictable: What the old man was not, the new man must be.
Winning is a must, and the new man better have a new way to skin that cat. The old cat was looking pretty unskinned, and that just can’t continue.
Mike Leach hated fundraising and showed up to Big 12 Media Days in wrinkled khakis and a polo.
After Texas Tech fired Leach, they hired Tommy Tuberville, who told me he once had his friend Arnold Palmer show up to breakfast during a trip spent schmoozing Red Raiders boosters at Bay Hill, Palmer’s golf course.
"The checkbooks came out pretty quick after that," he said.
Oh yeah, and he and his players wore perfectly pressed suits and matching ties to media days, complete with a Texas Tech logo pin on the lapel.
On the field, Tuberville was the defensive guru with a physical offensive philosophy to counter Leach’s offensive wizardry (and undying hatred of running the ball).
After Tuberville left for Cincinnati, Texas Tech hired Kliff Kingsbury. The program legend (and Leach’s first quarterback at Tech) handcrafts playlists for practices well-stocked with hip-hop artists that might leave Tuberville scratching his head.
Oh yeah, and the offensive whiz kid turned quarterback Johnny Manziel into the first-ever freshman Heisman Trophy winner in his lone season as a major conference coordinator.
Old Kansas coach Turner Gill didn’t say a single notable quote in two seasons at KU, and drew attention for forcing players to turn in cell phones on the day before game day.
New Kansas coach Charlie Weis had his team practice celebrating a game-winning kick in one of his first practices and famously referred to his first team as a "pile of crap" before the 2013 season.
This time around, it’s Texas playing opposite day with its new coaching hire. That’s perfectly fine, but predictable enough to draw a giggle when Strong’s "expectations" for his players surfaced. The Texas SB Nation blog Barking Carnival outlined some of the new rules, like no earrings (also a Tuberville rule, FYI), forcing some players to move back on campus and requiring players to sit in the front two rows of class.
"It wasn’t so much rules, those are my expectations. Just expectations and what this team is about. It’s about core values," Strong said. "You’re here to graduate, win championships and to be a better person."
Part of Mack Brown’s charm and skill as a recruiter was showcasing the personality that made him every booster’s oldest, best friend and every player’s kind grandfather.
Strong’s no-nonsense personality makes it easier to see him spending more time as every player’s demanding drill sergeant.
"I’ve had a chance to meet with the players one-on-one. Just to meet all the players and see what they’re about," Strong said. "And I just told them how unhappy I was with the program right now and that it will fall on us."
In other words, buckle up. Being a Texas player just got a whole lot less "fun."
"My goal was not to come in here and try and run players off," Strong said. "When young people fail, whose fault is that? When you run someone off, where do they go? I don’t want to see them fail."
Here’s a prediction: It’s about to get a lot more fun for players and fans who gauge how fun a season was by how big the number is in the win column.
Brown won a lot of games for a long time doing it his way. Then he didn’t.
Alabama coach Nick Saban once complained that playing in the national title game set his recruiting schedule back. Snoop Dogg frequented Pete Carroll’s practices at USC. So did Will Ferrell, and they weren’t strictly business visits, though some wear speedos and superhero uniforms to conduct business.
When the old way doesn’t work, people want a new way. Texas provided it, and the fans and boosters will be pleased with their new-look team.
Just pardon me if I can’t help but snicker at anyone who thinks one way is definitively better than the other.