In what seems like a flashback to 2013, multiple sources told HornsDigest.com Tuesday that Charlie Strong might be able to save his job with a victory against TCU on Friday.
After appearing to be a lame duck following a stunning, shocking loss at previously 1-9 Kansas as a 24-point favorite, Strong may be getting another chance from school administrators who seem to be looking for reasons to bring Strong back for a fourth season despite a 16-20 record.
In 2013, Mack Brown found himself coaching for his job in the season finale against Baylor.
Win the game, and Texas would've won the B12 title - and Brown would've kept his job.
If Texas lost, Brown knew there was a group of Big Money Donors who wanted to go after Nick Saban.
The game was tied 3-3 at halftime before Baylor pulled away for a 30-10 victory.
If Texas wins, the Longhorns would be bowl eligible at 6-6 with a chance for a roster that returns 37 of its 44 in the two-deep next season to improve with 15 bowl practices.
If Texas loses, there is a group of big-money donors ready to go after Houston coach Tom Herman, a former Texas grad assistant (in 2000 under Mack Brown), sources told HD.
That group of donors has had its eye on Herman for nearly a year, dating back to when Strong’s hire of Sterlin Gilbert as offensive coordinator required school president Greg Fenves and athletic director Mike Perrin to board a private jet for a rescue mission to Tulsa to close the deal, sources said.
But the big-money donors and possibly even Herman’s agent, Trace Armstrong, are trying to get a read from UT administrators, namely Fenves, as to whether there is interest in Herman if Strong was to fall flat on Friday, sources said.
Two sources told HD Herman’s agent tried to get word to Texas on Monday asking if there was any interest in Herman, because Herman was already receiving serious interest from other schools. The sources said the most serious interest was coming from LSU.
While members of the big-money donor group at Texas have made their interest known to Herman, sources said, Fenves and Perrin have refused to engage directly in any backdoor negotiating until their evaluation of Strong is complete - after Friday’s season finale vs TCU.
Perrin reiterated that in a statement released Sunday night amid multiple reports, including HD’s account that two high-ranking UT sources expected Strong to be fired after Texas’ embarrassing loss at Kansas.
Texas had won 13 straight against KU dating to 1938 before losing to the Jayhawks, who had lost 19 straight Big 12 games.
“There are a number of rumors out there about the status of Coach Strong,” Perrin said. “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.”
I reported in HD ONLY last Wednesday that UT sources indicated to me Strong needed only to beat Kansas and play a “respectable game” - even in a loss to TCU - and Strong would return as head coach in 2017.
Sources said Strong made an impressive case for himself at his weekly press conference Monday and that he may need a fourth season to turn things around the way Colorado coach Mike McIntyre, who also needed to restock the roster, needed four seasons.
McIntyre went 4-8, 2-10 and 4-9 before going 9-2 this season with a chance to win the Pac-12.
“Everyone seems to agree Texas has a talented roster - but that it’s just young,” one UT administrative source told HD. “There’s a sentiment that there’s been defensive improvement this season and that the offense will improve as true freshmen at quarterback, center and receiver get a little more experience.”
“Last season, it was special teams blunders against Cal and Oklahoma State that did us in,” one big-money source told HD. “Then, after beating Oklahoma and Kansas State and looking like we are moving forward, we got shut out at Iowa State (24-0), which fired its coach at the end of the season.
“This season, we’ve had four extra points blocked, including three blocked in a loss at Oklahoma State and other field goals missed in 3-point losses to Kansas State and Kansas. Then, when it looks like improvement is happening in wins over Baylor and Texas Tech, there’s the collapse at Kansas.
“A lot of times, it hasn’t been just the loss, it’s been the way we’ve lost. It’s been embarrassing. Totally embarrassing. Any fan base can appreciate well-coached, hard-fought losses. But that’s not what it’s been under Strong. It’s been collapses in which the team looks poorly coached.”
UT sources said Strong’s $10.7 million buyout for the remaining two years on his contract as well as the $6.6 million in buyouts for assistant coaches’ guaranteed contracts are a concern. Especially with a legislative session starting in Austin in January with lawmakers trying to contain higher education costs (even though no state money is used for athletics).
Those sources said Fenves would do what he needed to do in paying for the buyouts if necessary.
I’m also hearing Charlie Strong talked to Mack Brown over the weekend to get his advice on how to handle his current situation after UT’s loss to Kansas. One source said they heard Brown helped facilitate the Kirk Herbstreit call to Strong that ended up on SportsCenter Sunday.
IN RELATED NEWS:
I’m hearing Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh is on the radar of UT intermediaries and that Harbaugh might have reciprocal interest. … I’ve also heard UT intermediaries are showing interest in Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.
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