Strong: Always Roots for Razorbacks

Charlie Strong grew up pulling for Arkansas. The Texas coach recalls being "crushed" in 1969 when Texas rallied past the Razorbacks.

Charlie Strong recalls the Great Shootout, when Texas fought back to beat his team, the Arkansas Razorbacks. Strong brought up that famous day during the Advocare Texas Bowl head coaches press conference on Tuesday.

Arkansas meets Texas in a battle of 6-6 teams in the Houston bowl at 8 p.m. Dec. 29.

Strong, the first-year Texas coach, was a youngster in Batesville, Ark., when Texas came from behind for a 15-14 victory over the Hogs in the final regular season game of 1969. The Longhorns went on to the national championship. He said he was pulling for the Hogs, as he does in all games except when he's on the other sideline, like in this bowl game.

“Well, my opinion of Texas then is you remember that game," Strong said. "That 1969 game and it was such a big buildup. You had No. 1 vs. No. 2 and then just to watch Arkansas go up 14 and then to end up losing that game, you are just crushed. Now you are sitting there and worried. You didn’t really like the Longhorns because you’re memory just always goes back to that game. Being the head coach at the University of Texas, this will be the first time I will be rooting against the Razorbacks because now, you know, I’m sitting on that other sideline.

"You know what’s really amazing is when you think back, I grew up in Arkansas and I was a Razorback fan. I remember that 1969 Game and just to renew that rival is truly amazing. I know a lot of fans out there are really excited."

Strong said he's known Arkansas coach Bret Bielema for many years, going back to some chance meetings on the recruiting trails, that neither can exactly pinpoint. It's exciting for Strong to see where Bielema has taken the Hogs in such a short time.

"To Bret, I have really followed his career," Strong said. "He is right I don’t know exactly when we met, but its’ been many years. In this coaching circle, you just never know where you may end up. Just really happy the way he conducts his program and just so happy for the University of Arkansas. This is going to be a really good matchup. You look at two teams that started off tough, but we both ended up heading in the right direction.

Bielema has learned some of the history of the rivalry in short fashion since arriving at Arkansas.

"To be a part of this Southwest Conference rivalry being rejuvenated is absolutely awesome," Bielema said. "First, a lot of credit to Texas.

"Coach Strong, I don’t know when we met a long time ago, but to share this stage with somebody who has high integrity. You have built an unbelievable reputation, not just where he is at now but where he came before and the reputation he stands for and the way he runs his program, I have been a huge fan.

"To share the stage with him is awesome. To represent the state of Arkansas and to represent those who came before us. I think about this game a lot when I first heard the possibility of this happening.

"To be a young coach, I played for a guy by the name of Hayden Fry who is from the state of Texas. I learned very early on in my life that everything from the state of Texas, if you’re from Texas, is bigger and better, right?

"So to be here today and see it come full circle is awesome. To think about Coach (Frank) Broyles and Coach (Darrell K.) Royal and the history of the game that they shared for so many years and they gave a perspective on college football when it was really beginning to grow and to be here today as 6-6 team, I think Coach Strong and I both envisioned bigger and better days for our program, but to be able to come together and renew that.

"I got a lot of players from Texas that I know are excited about the matchup out of respect more than anything, so we are excited. We will be down here probably on the 26th. Have a chance to do a few events with the bowl and represent our program with a lot of great players, lot of great fans, and a great tradition. So thank you very much and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

Bielema hopes to find more players from Texas and hopes the Texas Bowl is helpful in that regard.

“Absolutely. You know, I think it started off early for us," Bielema said. "We came over and played Texas Tech. Obviously, a program in the state that we wanted to make a good statement. We came out of there pretty well off.

"We had an opportunity to play (Texas) A&M in Texas. It’s a huge recruiting tool for us. Obviously, we recruit against Texas but don’t have the opportunity to play them year in and year out. We have 10 straight years where we will be in Cowboys Stadium against A&M. We use that a lot in recruiting.

"It’s a big deal to kids in the state of Texas to be able to come home and do that. We call them our Tex Hogs. We want to continue to expand that. I think it’s a symbol of respect to get a kid to compete against Coach Strong and Texas.

"I mean, you got your work cut out for us. We’ve always recruited against each other, even when he was at Louisville and I was at Wisconsin. We went after the same type of players. Both of us had a strong affection for South Florida, so that part is still true. But I think the number one thing is to get a program and to get a matchup like this on a Monday night. It steals the Monday Night Football slot for the University of Texas and for the University of Arkansas is huge for the progress of our programs trying to build our brand.

"That’s been a little bit different. Both of us taking over programs that were in a little bit of a struggle and getting to where we want to be."

Strong was asked if he's been able to tell what recruits think of the Texas program as it stands now.

“Well, you know, all the time we are recruiting is all about you still have to sell your program because they have an opinion but they really aren’t going to tell you what they really think about you," he said. "It’s all about us continuing to sell our program and them understanding that it’s a great academic institution.

"You have the best of both worlds when you about the athletics side also. But also, when you’re dealing with recruits, it’s all about building relationships. You have to convince those parents that this is the right place for them and the reason why it’s the right place. There’s so much into it and your players have to play a major part in it.

"The players see the program turning and when they take them out, that’s where they are going to get all their information from because the players are really going to talk. They are going to be the ones who really sell the program, so it’s all about the relationship that we can continue to make with the players and the recruits. And also, you got to look at it, when they see that there is something good happening and when they see progress is being made, then you’re going to have a chance.”

Strong was asked if he will allow his players to embrace the moment or treat it as just another game.

“It’s a combination of both because you want them to really enjoy the moment," Strong said. "You have a chance. You worked hard to get to a bowl game. You made a run there at the end to get to a bowl game and you’re playing an outstanding opponent, but also it’s all about the work, too. You have to go to work now and just make sure that you continue to prepare and that you work hard enough. You know, a lot of times people take bowl games and they think it’s a time off. You know, well we’ve made it, coach. That’s fine, you’ve made it but you’re still going to go to work. We’re going to make sure that we get our work in and the preparation is going to be there.”

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