Texas coach Charlie Strong’s tour of the state kicked off Monday night in the heart of TCU territory.
Strong spoke and took questions from a sold-out crowd of 470 Longhorns fans at Fort Worth’s venerable Tex-Mex institution Joe T. Garcia’s.
Strong, however, might have tempered immediate expectations when he told fans that although the Longhorns will be better, they’re not going to be in the national championship game next year.
The new coach and a cavalcade of Longhorns gameday fixtures such as cheerleaders, Bevo, the Horns’ steer mascot, and Hook ’em, the team’s costumed mascot, will hit 11 cities over the next month. They’ll be at Union Station in Dallas on Tuesday night.
“I’m just going to talk about the team and say what needs to be said,” said Strong, who replaced Mack Brown in early January. “This has always been a big area for us. You just look at the talent and there’s a lot of good football players here. It’s always been a good home for us and we’ll always continue to recruit here.”
The “Comin’ on Strong Tour” is a way for fans and alumni of the state’s flagship school to not only get to know their new football coach, but to hear from him how the team looks this spring.
The idea was hatched soon after Strong arrived after coaching the past four seasons at Louisville. Former Texas Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams attended Monday’s stop. Another Heisman winner, Earl Campbell, is expected at stops in Tyler and Houston.
“The key thing is to get around the state and let the fans know how important they are to the program,” he said. “I know it means a lot to them and let them know how our players have been working and what we’re trying to get accomplished.”
One of the lingering questions from Longhorns fans is, who will start at quarterback? TCU fans could relate, at least until Matt Joeckel announced his intentions to transfer from Texas A&M last week.
“We’re all concerned about the quarterback position,” Strong said. “You just make sure the positions around him play well enough and once we’re able to get that position going we’ll be pretty comfortable.”
Strong got to know TCU coach Gary Patterson when they both were finalists for the 2000 Frank Broyles Award, which goes to the top assistant coach in the nation. Patterson was then TCU’s defensive coordinator. Strong was the defensive coordinator at South Carolina.
“Our paths have crossed many times,” Strong said. “He’s an outstanding football coach. He’s done an outstanding job at TCU. He’s a fiery coach.”
The tour will take Strong across the state, including stops in El Paso, Amarillo, Corpus Christi and Beaumont. But Fort Worth is the only stop that’s also the hometown of a league opponent.
“I know where we are,” he said. “Fort Worth is a great city. There are a lot of our alums here so it’s a key for us to get out and speak with them and hear our voice.”