Gil LeBreton

January 5, 2014

Strong coach, but not-so-sizzling choice

Charlie Strong has coaching credentials, but where’s the ooh and ahh?

Charlie Strong? That’s it?

That’s the new football coach at Texas?

OK, I get it. But where’s the sizzle? Where’s the Bevo? Where’s the big burnt orange boom that’s supposed to make the Aggies and Sooners and Baylors all tremble with shock and awe?

Charlie Strong? That’s it?

Apparently so. As the sun set on the 20th day or so of the Texas Longhorns’ coaching search, there was a private plane in the air that was transporting vacationing Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich home to Kentucky. Once there, Jurich met face-to-face with Strong, who wanted to handle this the proper way.

How Texas of him.

But, really, there isn’t an athletic director in the country who wouldn’t understand what comes next when his football coach informs him that he’d just been offered the Texas job.

(Coach drops microphone, walks away.)

True, there could have been a short list of reasons why a head coach would turn down a football program with a $140 million budget.

Wrong time zone. Entangled school politics. Eternally lofty expectations.

Or they may never have been officially offered the job in the first place. The reaffirmed loyalties of Art Briles and Jim Mora to Baylor and UCLA, respectively, are duly noted, but they must have smelled the coffee.

The Strong coffee.

OK, I get it. But where’s the wow factor? It’s as if the Longhorn Network fired Leno and hired Arsenio.

Maybe Strong will assimilate into the UT corporation and become the Longhorns’ next great football CEO. Maybe, though, he just becomes The Guy That Replaced Mack Brown.

It took Oklahoma what — three tries? — before it successfully replaced Barry Switzer. How did mighty Alabama do after Gene Stallings left?

As initial reports surfaced Friday night that Strong was Texas’ choice, some in the national media urged caution. Strong, they said, is not the kind that will fill reporters’ notepads. He just wants to coach.

That description, however, could apply to a lot of college football coaches. Longhorn Network will just have to adjust accordingly.

Unlike Briles, Strong’s calling card is defense. At Louisville, Strong also was conveniently blessed with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who some think will be the first player taken in this year’s NFL Draft.

Strong found Bridgewater at Northwestern High in Miami. Many of Strong’s recruiting successes have come from south Florida. This season’s Louisville roster showed 38 players from Florida, none from Texas.

Strong turned down a reported $3.5-million-a-year offer from Tennessee a year ago. With all due respect to the once-great Volunteers program, however, Texas is different. A different vibe, a different orange. The entire state of Tennessee likely doesn’t have as many high-level high school recruits as a Longhorns coach has within a one-hour drive.

Strong is no Briles, who knows the state’s recruiting landscape. But all a UT head coach really needs is a burnt orange golf shirt and Google Maps, right?

Comparisons with Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin unfortunately may be unavoidable. But please don’t go there — a coach is a coach. The idea of an African-American head football coach at Texas is long due.

As for the Sumlin comparisons, Strong’s résumé stands on its own, with a conference title and a 23-3 mark over the past two seasons and a BCS bowl victory.

Yet, there’s little sizzle in hiring a guy who just finished second in the former Big East. Where’s the next Nick Saban? Where’s the ooh and the ahh?

Only Charlie Strong will be able to answer that.

Go ahead. Wait for the boom.

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