The whistle sounded to end the game, and the two head coaches walked purposefully to shake hands at midfield.
The shorter one with the rosy cheeks and the raspy voice, hoarse from an afternoon of shouting out defenses, clearly appeared to greet the other coach with compassion.
The irony of the hug and handshake was unmistakable. TCU coach Gary Patterson had just beaten Texas coach Charlie Strong for a third consecutive time. Not just beaten him, but steamrolled Strong’s Longhorns with a second-half performance that left Texas weary and wanting it to be over.
TCU, the school that legendary Texas coach Darrell Royal once likened to “cockroaches,” crawled all over the once-mighty Longhorns 31-9 Friday, in large part by running the football for 287 yards in the second half.
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And the thought was inescapable:
Good grief, Texas, how did you let it come to this?
How did you manage to lose a seventh football game for the third season in a row? How did you lose to Kansas last week? How have you managed to lose to the TCU Horned Frogs three years in a row by a combined score of 129-26?
With uncommon grace, Strong held what may have been his final postgame press conference as Texas football coach late Friday afternoon.
He didn’t have any answers when questioned about his coaching fate. Strong said he expects to meet with athletic director Mike Perrin and university officials Saturday.
No, he said he didn’t think the 31-9 pounding that his team absorbed from TCU on Friday will have anything to do with what Perrin and the group decide.
“If the decision has been made, it’s been made,” Strong said.
Instead of talking about firings, though, Strong talked about the foundation that he had laid.
“Our record does not speak for how good we are,” he said.
“The foundation has been laid here. We’ve been building it for three years. It’s just like baking a cake. The only thing you need to do now is put the icing on it and slice it.”
Strong reflected on the housecleaning, the inconsistencies and the injuries that marked his three seasons.
If there was one constant, however, Strong identified it.
“I just felt like every year it turned into being all about me, and it should never have been about me,” he said.
“They felt it. That’s what’s so disappointing, that they felt they had to defend me at every turn.”
As talk about Strong’s coaching fate swelled this week, he felt “too much pressure” was placed on his team.
But the emotions of the week only carried the Longhorns so far Friday.
Strong talked about one of his goals at a high-profile football program such as Texas being to impact young men’s lives. He need not fret about that. Strong’s positive influence on his players is evident.
If he’s about to be fired, however, let me suggest that the reason won’t be the family values that Charlie Strong imparted or the recruiting classes he compiled.
If he’s fired, it will be for the same reason that most head coaches get fired, because he didn’t win enough football games.
In Strong’s case, it will be because he failed to get the Longhorns to a bowl game. And because he stopped beating the cockroaches of the college football world.
Strong had his detractors from the beginning among the moneyed Texas alumni. What started as a fracture, though, became a fissure.
Who’s in charge of Texas football, anyway? Who will be making the decision to replace Strong, or not?
And when will they make that decision, since Houston’s Tom Herman, among others, seems to need an answer?
Strong may be right. Maybe the decision has already been made.
But nothing should surprise anyone anymore, not after yet-another afternoon of Texas football looking nothing like once-mighty Texas.
Good grief, Texas. How did it get like this?