Univ. of Texas President Bill Powers yesterday called the hiring of Charlie Strong, the school's first African-American football coach, a "very important moment" for the school, according to Jimmy Burch of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. Powers said, "It is important that we be a diverse university. We’re educating our students to be living in a diverse world. And in all aspects of what we do ... it’s important that we reflect the diversity of our state and our country. So I think this is a very important moment for our university" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/7). UT men's AD Steve Patterson said he did not set out to hire an African-American coach, but noted he and his father, former Rockets GM Ray Patterson, "have a reputation of trying to take the best candidate." Patterson: "I genuinely try to look at the best person for the job and who had the best overall attributes. We didn’t hire Charlie Strong because of the amount of melanin in his skin" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/7). SPORTS ON EARTH's Susan Elizabeth Shepard wrote Patterson's hiring of Strong is "a statement about the direction of athletics at the school and is in line with the way UT and Austin like to position themselves as progressive bastions within conservative Texas." It is "the marker of great change at a school where only a couple of generations have passed since athletics were integrated" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 1/6). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said UT hiring a black coach "shocked the hell out of me." Wilbon: "This is an important hire, at least in part because of the culture. I applaud the Univ. of Texas. I'm stunned and I am glad that the whole world is not as cynical about this as I was" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/6).
GOOD SHOW: In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw writes Strong yesterday "did an excellent job in his 30 minutes with the media ... walking that delicate tightrope of praising [former coach Mack Brown] and the great Texas tradition while acknowledging he was here to get things back on track" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/7). Also in Dallas, Chuck Carlton writes Strong "won the news conference" yesterday. Everything about the UT program -- "from what people see on the field to what they don’t see on the Longhorn Network -- will be a reflection on Strong’s choice." Brown is a football coach "with remarkable PR and political gifts," while Strong is "a football coach. Period" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/7). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes Strong "has to change the culture at UT if Bevo wants to do something other than make a ton of money." Yesterday's news conference "was about one thing and one thing only -- UT no longer wants its football coach to be a butt-kissing CEO but a ball coach who wins football games" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/7).
COVERING ALL THE BASES: In Austin, Brian Davis writes Strong during his press conference "addressed various topics in straightforward fashion." However, UT alum and COTA Owner Red McCombs "wasn't impressed." McCombs said, "I don't have any doubt Charlie is a fine coach. I think he'd probably make a fine position coach, maybe a coordinator" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/7). In Louisville, Jonathan Lintner notes UT "aired the news conference live on its Longhorn Network, which earns the school millions through a deal with ESPN." Patterson said of Strong, "We wanted to make sure we had someone with charisma and reality and someone who can project that charisma through all the various media." Strong said, "I’ve been told I’m going to be the football coach first ... then we can handle where someone else needs us ... Everyone’s more interested in (media obligations) than anything else" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 1/7).
JUST WIN, BABY: SI.com's Andy Staples wrote Strong's hiring "suggests Texas leaders did not place Longhorn Network concerns ahead of football ones." The "prevailing stereotype concerning Strong is that he hates dealing with the media, hates gladhanding boosters." Strong basically "despises all the things" Brown "did exceptionally well." Staples: "Does that make Strong a poor fit for a football program that plays the biggest role in the athletic department's ESPN-partnered television network? Not necessarily." Strong "in a vacuum, absent the meddling millionaires who chased off" Brown and AD DeLoss Dodds and the Longhorn Network "might have been the best possible candidate." UT boosters "will want their egos stroked, and the Longhorn Network will need to fill the hours, but just because Brown did those things doesn't mean Strong has to." Staples: "Let Patterson deal with the boosters and be a presence on the network" (SI.com, 1/6). In Austin, Kirk Bohls writes Strong is "media-shy, but his media demands are about to go through the roof." He "won't do himself any favors if he disregards the press and boosters" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/7).