Mac Engel

January 6, 2014

Hiring Strong is first step in changing culture at Texas

Feelings may be hurt, but the football now comes before having a CEO coach.

The job Charlie Strong accepted best not be the one that Mack Brown created. If it is, epic fail. You don’t want this guy running the Mack Brown show at the University of Texas — you just want him coaching ball.

Strong said he spoke with Mack on Sunday night, and that the old coach told him, “Don’t try to be me.”

Sage advice.

Mack invented a job that was more than just about winning football games. It was about some Coach CEO nonsense that we all bought. In the massive expansion that Texas football enjoyed under Mack, we forgot that all of those perks up to and including The Longhorn Network don’t work if Bevo is a giant loser.

Monday’s formal announcement better be about a change in the culture at UT, and in the job description of Longhorns head football coach. Quit screwing around and start winning games. You’re Texas. What else do you need?

This change will not be easy, and it may be painful because Mack was just so good at playing a room. Strong has to change the culture at UT if Bevo wants to do something other than make a ton of money.

Strong may have “won” Monday’s press conference, just like all coaches do in their first appearance, but it is apparent he is not here to hang with Red McCombs, Thomas O. Hicks, Frank Denius, Joe Jamail, Jim Bob Moffett, Tex Moncrief and the other trillionaires who bought a stake in UT football.

Coaches who are not politicians, baby-kissers or cash-kissers better be good at results. Even egomaniacal boosters can deal with guys who deliver wins over Oklahoma and T. Boone State and put Baylor in its place.

If pushing Mack out the door is for someone who does anything other than just football, it is a pointless and expensive exercise.

If UT’s power brokers were going to have an open-records-act flirtation with Nick Saban’s agent, they best be prepared to see this through and commit to a coach whose mission in life is winning on Saturday, and not giving them the inside scoop on the backup quarterback’s love life.

Appearing on The Longhorn Network four times a day can’t be Strong’s objective.

National columnists, most notably Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, who lives in Louisville, have expressed concern that Strong is not a good fit and that UT is all wrong for him. That the outside responsibilities will eat him up. That Texas is too big for Charlie Strong.

“I was told I’m going to be the football coach first,” Strong said. “If I have the time, I will [do the other stuff]. Let’s make sure we get this football thing going.”

I asked Strong if all of the peripheral duties that come with this job are in his comfort zone.

“No one ever knows your comfort zone until you are placed in that position,” he said. “I will be able to handle it. I’ll be able to handle whatever responsibilities that come.”

Some of this will fall on the plate of director of athletics Steve Patterson, and his ability to manage the people who are going to want Charlie’s cellphone number, and his time.

Patterson said the responsibilities of the head coach at UT are no greater than anywhere else. Yeah … I don’t believe him, either.

Expect Steve to work like a dog at this, beginning today; if this hire flops, he’s fired. And Patterson will have Strong’s back, provided the coach does what he says and wins games.

That will start with Strong shutting down Country Club Mack. This is 2014, and big-time college football is not too different from the pros. Feelings are going to be hurt, and some kids may be gray-shirted, or run off.

When UT retired Mack, it said it’s green-lighting a Coach Mean Guy.

On Monday, Strong repeatedly emphasized being physical, something UT was never known for under Mack. He stressed recruiting. He also stressed some stuff about graduation and good kids, blah blah blah.

Mack did that, and it would be nice if UT continued graduating its athlete-students and produced good young men, but Monday was about one thing and one thing only — UT no longer wants its football coach to be a butt-kissing CEO but a ball coach who wins football games.

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