William Wilkerson, Scout.com

CHARLIE STRONG'S HAIL MARY - HE MAKES HIS CASE TO RETURN AS COACH AMID REPORTS OF HIS DEMISE

Charlie Strong didn't sound like a coach who knew he was on his way out after an egregious loss at previously 1-9 Kansas on Saturday. On Monday, as he made his case to return as coach of the Longhorns in 2017.

Charlie Strong made the case for his return on Monday in front of dozens of his players and a handful UT administrators, faculty and former players.

Strong's players said they will give it their all on Friday against TCU by "having fun" - something they didn't do in a historic loss at Kansas on Saturday, according to senior LB Tim Cole, whose father has been released from the hospital after a heart attack prior to the West Virginia game.

"Guys weren't having fun (against Kansas)," Cole said. "They were playing for things we can't control  - like coaches' job security. And Coach Strong told us not to worry about it and to have fun. Still, guys were trying to do too much, and the game got away from us."

Strong said he hasn't been told about his job status and said he wants to return in 2017 because he's laid a solid foundation to the program with two straight Top 10 recruiting classes and a culture that focuses on graduating players and helping them become good men.

"Wins and losses are important," Strong said. "But the overall development of a young man is very important as well. Every player in this program is going to graduate. That's always my top concern. I don't have guys missing classes. That's not an issue. 

"A lot of people don't look at it from the players' point of view, but you're building the total person." 

After focusing on graduating players and building their character, Strong went on to say he told his team they were going to win a national championship before their time at Texas is through.

"I told them that," Strong said.

Strong also cracked a joke about how - with all the reports circulating that he had already been fired - when he walked into Sunday's team meeting, "I think half the team was surprised to see me. It was like they'd seen a ghost."

Fifth-year senior DT Paul Boyette gave a tearful endorsement of what Strong has meant to him in helping him become a better player and better man.

Cole said, "You asked the guy to come in and change the culture, and he's done that. It's not going to happen in three years. He's trying to build something solid that could become a dynasty, something that will last.

"The young guys are learning the process of going for see-ball, hit-ball to the technical aspects and concepts of the offense and defense. That takes time. I'd just say bear with us and have a little more patience."

 

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MY TAKE: By not taking swift action in dismissing Strong as the coach over the weekend, UT administrators have opened the door for this to take on a life of its own and go in a number of different directions from a PR standpoint - if the Longhorns were able to beat TCU on Friday.

Internally, it's already shaping up as a fight between the big-money donors and Fenves and Perrin. Strong also probably won Monday's press conference and became a bit of a sympathetic figure when Kirk Herbstreit's report on SportsCenter Sunday night said Strong hadn't been told anything.

There's perception and reality. In reality, Strong's team suffered one of the most embarrassing losses in recent UT football history Saturday in Lawrence. But perception on Monday already had the conversation moving away from the loss at Kansas to how Strong was being treated by Texas.

Hold on tight folks.

 


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