Charlie Strong needed more time at Texas

If Texas has decided to fire Charlie Strong – as CBS has reported – it’s making the wrong choice. He deserved another season to turn things around.

Make no mistake about it: Strong walked into a very bad situation at Texas. After playing for the national championship in 2009, the team struggled with mediocrity, losing five or more games in three of Mack Brown’s final four seasons. While his last Longhorn squad managed to win eight games, the blowout loss to BYU showed that the program was going in the wrong direction. Given how rapidly things deteriorated, it was evident that the next coach would need time to turn things around.

With all due respect, three years wasn’t enough time. Considering that the cupboard was completely bare when Strong arrived, he deserved the opportunity to build a roster comprised entirely of players that he recruited. If he didn’t have a winning record after four recruiting classes, no one would fault Texas for dismissing him at that point.

Yet, if Strong had another season to prove himself, the UT brass probably wouldn’t want to fire him. Even though the Longhorns are only 16-20 under Strong’s leadership, the team has shown flashes of brilliance during his tenure. In 2014, Texas upset a ranked West Virginia squad, which allowed the team to qualify for a bowl game. The next year, the ‘Horns defeated Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry, handing the College Football Playoff-bound Sooners their only loss of the regular season.

Of course, the critics will point out that Texas hasn’t beaten anyone of substance this year. Although that’s definitely true, it’s important to note that five of the Longhorns’ losses were by a touchdown or less. Whether the UT brass likes it or not – and I’m sure they don’t – young teams tend to lose games like that. It’s not a sign of bad coaching; it’s simply a case of players not having enough game experience. Remember, Texas started eight sophomores on defense yesterday. There’s no doubt that these players will improve with an extra year of seasoning, which could mean the difference between winning and losing in a tight contest.

At this point, some will still say, “big deal. Strong didn’t win enough. You can’t have a losing record in Year 3 at Texas and expect to keep your job.”


It’s happened before, and it actually worked out quite well for the Longhorns. In 1987, longtime assistant David McWilliams took over as the head coach. Like Strong, he led the ‘Horns to a bowl game in his first year, but finished with a losing record in each of the next two seasons. Rather than listen to the calls for McWilliams’ head, Texas decided to stick with him. He responded by leading the Longhorns to a 10-1 regular season mark, a Southwest Conference championship, and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.

I have no doubts that Strong would do something similar next season.

Unfortunately, if the reports are true, we’ll never get the chance to find out. Whoever takes over for Strong will walk into a great situation and will have the team ready to compete for both the Big 12 and national championships next season.

About Terry P. Johnson

Terry Johnson is the Associate Editor for The Student Section. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.