Gil LeBreton

‘Save Charlie Strong’ Bowl awaits Patterson, Frogs

Being an Xs and Os kinda guy, TCU coach Gary Patterson can’t be happy at the notion of being the designated guests for Friday’s Save Charlie Strong Bowl.

Though he publicly offered the standard disclaimer, “I can’t worry about it,” Patterson feels for what his fellow coach is going through.

“If you think about being here 19 years, 16 as the head coach,” Patterson said, “except for Texas, every other place has had 4-6 head coaches. And at some point in time I’ll be going through that scenario myself, because that’s just the way of the life. It’s part of our business.

“It’s a sad part, because as I’ve said publicly before, I think Charlie is a good man, a good football coach.”

Patterson was only responding to a question about the underlying melodrama that awaits the TCU-Texas game Friday afternoon in Austin. He neither offered any insights, nor critiqued the Texas administration’s handling of Strong’s situation.

Both teams would dearly embrace a sixth victory, making them bowl eligible. It’s the sincerity of the embraces that surely would be different.

Can a victory over TCU save Strong’s head coaching job?

Not likely, according to published reports, including a hard-to-dispute one in Sunday’s Austin American-Statesman that said the decision to fire Strong had already been made.

So why are the people at Longhorns, Inc., doing this? Why not tell Strong last weekend, after (wince) losing to Kansas, that Friday’s game will be his last?

Because it’s Texas, I suppose. Because firing a coach in the middle of a season, even in late November, isn’t the way they do things on the Forty Acres.

Fair enough, except to Strong.

But by following their own self-imposed protocol, Longhorns, Inc., has left itself vulnerable to public commentary from the media to the Texas statehouse. Except for Longhorn Network, distaste for the handling of Strong has been rampant.

In the end, though, Charlie Strong just didn’t win enough. And no matter how much Kirk Herbstreit or the other national TV guys want to talk about the “impossible conditions” in Austin, even Strong seems to know that his report card has been lacking.

He swept the program of bad eggs. He changed coordinators. He changed quarterbacks.

And in the end, when only some deus ex machina intervention could have saved him, the Longhorns lost to Kansas.

Game over, or so a reasonable Texas fan would think.

Patterson said that he saw only TV snippets of Strong’s somber press conference Monday. He praised the Texas players who showed up at the session to support their coach.

For better or worse, the Horned Frogs will have to contend Friday with those same players.

“Sometimes that plays to your advantage,” Patterson said, “and sometimes it plays to your disadvantage.”

Players, without a doubt, do feel for an embattled coach. But history tells us that those heightened emotions can fade quickly once the game begins.

A fast start by TCU could take the starch out of the Save Charlie party.

Patterson is correct. Both teams will just be trying Friday to get to six victories.

But the storylines diverge there.

Longhorns, Inc., has business to attend to. The Frogs just want to win the football game.

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