Charley Strong didn’t coach his team to enough football wins to suit the boosters, the athletic director and the fans who follow the University of Texas Longhorns.
UT fired the coach, sent him packing. Then the coach landed another gig, at the University of South Florida, where he succeeds Willie Taggart, who has headed off to coach the University of Oregon.
Despite the dismal win-loss record, Strong left the University of Texas football program better off. Why? Because of what he did in his first season in Austin. He cut loose a bunch of bad boys on the team, student-athletes who weren’t acquitting themselves properly off the field. He tossed them over, telling them, in effect, that they needed to live by certain standards to play for his team.
When it happened, I recall some of the players were stars on the team, gridiron studs, big men on campus. Coach Strong believes that character matters.
The loss of that athletic talent might have hurt the Longhorns’ football performance. It helped the team understand what their coach stood for: integrity.
I am not a UT grad. I didn’t attend school there. Neither of my sons attended UT; one of them graduated from Sam Houston State University, the other from the Art Institute of Dallas. I don’t have any particular vested loyalty in the program.
I do have an interest in seeing young men develop the right way when they are given a chance for a fully paid college education. Athletic scholarships aren’t just tickets to sports stardom. They also give these young people a chance to obtain a good education — paid for by their athletic skill — that will shepherd them through the rest of their life.
Coach Strong, by my way of thinking, sought to imbue that ethic in young men who play big-time college football.
He didn’t win enough football games. Big deal. I’m betting he likely produced a sufficient number of winners who played football for him — and will do so again at his next stop.
Thanks, Coach, for setting a great example.