The logic is simple.
If you want the players on a team to feel close to each other, as if they were part of a family, then have them live close to each other. If you wouldn’t do something in a team meeting, like send a text message, don’t do it in class.
“I don’t want to walk in a classroom and see a guy in the back row when you could be sitting in the front,” Texas coach Charlie Strong said. “If you don’t have a hat on in my meetings, don’t have a hat on in class. If you don’t have a cellphone out in my meetings, don’t have your cellphone out. Give your professor the same respect you give me.”
And if you don’t think Strong will check to see if his players really are treating their professors with the same respect they give him, think again. He did just that while he was at Louisville. Fortunately for the player, he was there, sitting up front.
“Oh, we have a guest,” the professor said as Strong entered the room.
“No, ma’am,” Strong said. “I’m not a guest. You see that man up there? You see that man in the gray sweats up there? Last semester, he couldn’t find a classroom. I’m just making sure he’s in class.”
Efforts in the classroom are among many of Strong’s expectations for his players, which he outlined to them in a team meeting recently. He also expects players to live on campus.
“When guys start spreading out … there’s a separation because the younger guys don’t get a chance to know who the older guys are,” Strong said. “There’s a group here and there’s a group here and you’ve got all these different cliques. … Why would I ever play for you if I don’t know you?”
Although Texas has a new coach, there is still pressure to win, especially after struggling by its standards for the last four seasons. Strong has been meeting with players individually and is encouraged they feel the same as he does — that they have plenty of work to do.
“They want to win. They know right now we need to raise the standards,” Strong said. “They understand that. The program is not where they want it to be. When they admit to it, you know you have a way to go to change it now because they realize it’s a problem.”
Despite the changes, Strong insisted he’s not trying to weed anyone out. He wants his players to be committed on the field and in the classroom, just as he’s committed to helping them be successful in both places.
“I’m not about coming and trying to slam the hammer on someone,” Strong said. “When young people fail, who’s fault is that? If you run someone off, what have you accomplished? Where do they go? We’re trying to get them off the streets and you just put another one on the streets. That’s not what we’re about.”
Strong promised that if he starts to tear down a player, he will build him back up before he leaves the field. And he wants to build them both as football players and as students.
“It’s about core values,” Strong said. “Be honest, treat others with respect, no drugs, no stealing, no guns. You’re here to graduate. You’re here to go win championships and you’re here to make yourself a better person. If we don’t get that accomplished as a coach, then we’ve failed that young man. That will not happen.”