SBD/January 6, 2014/Colleges

Charlie Strong Hire Seen As Culture Shift For Texas, But Some Question Personality Fit

Strong is said to dislike dealing with the media and PR duties of coaching
In one of the "most significant moments ever" for the Univ. of Texas, school officials yesterday announced that Univ. of Louisville coach Charlie Strong would become the new football coach, making him the "first minority head coach of any men's sport in school history," according to Brian Davis of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Sources said that Strong will "receive a five-year contract" worth $5M annually. Some UT officials "privately hoped Strong would get the job because the school has such a checkered past in race relations." Now for many, Strong "will become the public face of the university." He is "likely to change the culture within the Texas athletic department." In former coach Mack Brown, the school "had a skilled public relations master who excelled under klieg lights." Some have "labeled Strong the 'anti-Mack,'" and it has been "widely reported how Strong dislikes the politicking that goes along with these types of high-profile jobs." The UT media relations office will "probably shield Strong for a little while, mainly because he must get to work" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/6). In Austin, Davis & Bohls noted UT has had "only one black coach lead one of their four major programs," in former women's basketball coach Rod Page during the '70s. An eight-person selection committee designated by AD Steve Patterson had been "kept in the dark throughout this whole process." Patterson "conducted the entire search almost by himself, with some help vetting candidates" from search firm Korn/Ferry Int'l Vice Chair Jed Hughes (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/5).

PATTERSON'S PICK: In San Antonio, Mike Finger noted the eight-person committee "never formally met." A source said that it is "clear Strong's selection is that" of Patterson. The source said, "It's Patterson's pick. Obviously, he's pretty confident about it" (MYSANANTONIO.COM, 1/4). In Austin, Kirk Bohls writes, "Here’s a look at the final scoreboard after the Texas football coaching search: Steve Patterson 1, Old Texas Way of Doing Things 0. Score one for the new Longhorn athletic director, who showed his swagger." Boles: "Like his hire of Charlie Strong or not, it's refreshing that an athletic director actually runs things" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/6).

TAKING A RISK? In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote this is a "gutsy, massively risky hire." Strong is "not a wine-and-cheese, country club head coach." He may be "exactly what UT needs to break its reputation as a softy, Hallmark card program." But he also could "blow up and be overrun by the massive political machine that is Texas Longhorns football." Engel: "Many a savvy political animal have died in Austin before" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 1/4). In Houston, Randy Harvey wrote the "real question is not whether Texas is ready for Strong," but whether Strong is "ready for Texas." The UT job is "not merely about X's and O's," but also "about P and R, as in public relations." The UT coach must "not only win games but win over the boosters whose wealth and willingness to share it with the university buys them access and influence." Strong, by "all accounts, likes playing politics even less than most coaches" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/5). ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel wrote how Strong "handles the public and private demands that he just agreed to take on will define his tenure in Austin." Strong in four years at UL "has risen from a guy who thought his race had held him back to one of the most visible jobs in the game." He "got there on merit," but his new job "expects merit and something more." How Strong handles the "something more will call on skills that he hasn't shown in a long, distinguished coaching career" (ESPN.com, 1/5).

THE EYES OF TEXAS: In Dallas, Chuck Carlton writes Strong "hit all the right notes" in his introductory press conference yesterday. He praised Brown for a reputation of winning "with class and integrity" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/6). ESPN.com's Travis Haney wrote Strong is an "odd fit for a program that has a lot of moving parts beyond X's and O's." Several coaches said that they see Strong as a "football coach and not much beyond that, as far as internal politics and media go." Strong at times has been "surly with local reporters in Louisville," and the "media corps in Austin is larger and far more intense in its coverage." Unless Strong "changes course, that figures to be a serious tug-of-war." Strong also "shies away from national-media interview requests," and that is "not even considering whatever TV responsibilities he might have with the Longhorn Network." It seems "unlikely that he would allow the network open access to practices the way Brown did" (ESPN.com, 1/5). In Ft. Worth, Gil Lebreton writes, "Where's the wow factor? It's as if the Longhorn Network fired Leno and hired Arsenio." The LHN will "have to adjust accordingly" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/5). But in Austin, Cedric Golden wrote, "I'm certain he has been made aware of certain requirements that come with the gig, namely the Longhorn Network" (STATESMAN.com, 1/5).

WORK STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE: ESPN’s Rod Gilmore discussed the lack of African-American coaches in college football and said, “The NFL is way ahead of the college game on this and ... how do you change or fight through some of this? The NFL uses the Rooney Rule, requiring teams to actually interview a minority candidate whenever they have an opening. We don’t have that at the collegiate level, and we have, as many reports have shown, a real good ole-boy -- or all-white essentially -- network of administrators. That makes it tougher for African-American coaches to get into that circle.” Liberty Univ. football coach Turner Gill, who previously coached at Kansas and Buffalo, said, “We are really representing the people in our society that are minorities and it gives people hope. To sit there and see someone on TV that has the same skin color as they do that they can say, ‘Hey, one day I can be a part of something being a leader,’ whether a head football coach, whether it’s the president of the United States, or any place” (“Outside The Lines,” ESPN2, 1/5).
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