The biggest question fans and members of the media had once Charlie Strong’s name came up as a possible successor to Mack Brown at the University of Texas was how will he deal with the media?
Strong’s always had a reputation of being a bit surly with the camera in front of him, and the attention and scrutiny at Louisville is nowhere near that of Texas. Heck, the 53-year-old was at a basketball school.
But today I realized that didn’t matter. It’s not important if I, ESPN, Longhorn Network viewers or anyone else is hooked on his every word like we were for the first 15 years of the Brown Era.
As long as he passes the test with the players in that locker room and coaches, he’ll be successful.
“It’s time to put the program back on the national stage,” Strong said.
It’s just an added bonus that he passed the initial test on Monday during an 45-minute introductory press conference at the Centennial Club within Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Full disclosure, I am a 2009 graduate of Texas and attend every game possible during the fall.
I studied my craft at UT during the apex of the Brown era when the Longhorns competed for national titles and had great players like Vince Young, Brian Orakpo, Jordan Shipley, Sergio Kindle, Colt McCoy, etc.
I’ve seen Brown own that room during game week. And on Monday, Strong did the same.
“You have a chance to build on the foundation that they’ve laid,” Strong said. “I can just add another brick to it. The bricks are there, I just have to add another brick to it.”
The new coach comes to a program that is in need of new energy after struggling the last four seasons. Strong was successful at Louisville, amassing a 37-15 record, including bowl wins over Florida and Miami.
Strong walked into the room along with athletic director Steve Patterson and school president Bill Powers amid flashbulbs and showed some signs
of nervousness during an opening statement.
From then on, he was on.
The coach talked about helping Austin reclaim its place as the college football capital of Texas. He listed closing off the borders to recruiting in the state to other schools and making sure that the best players in the state know that UT is their school.
I can tell you right now that the inner 17-year-old tackle (which I used to be) was ready to get into a three-point stance and run through a wall. Especially when asked what kind of offense the Longhorns would use.
“You have to realize it’s still all about physical toughness,” Strong said. “Can you go run the football? The ball will get thrown around, but at the end of the day, you have to line up and run the ball and it’s going to be building just in the toughness of the program.”
In the end, the concern came about because of Brown. Seeing the former Longhorn coach work a news conference was like seeing Walt Disney draw a cartoon mouse. He was the master at delivering a message.
Strong can deliver a bigger message by developing talent, graduating players, placing them in the NFL and most importantly, winning big games and conference championships.
That’s one message everyone will understand.