Mac Engel

TCU will decide if Charlie Strong remains at Texas

Gary Patterson and TCU will hold Charlie Strong’s future at Texas in its lizard hands.

Whether or not he is granted a fourth year at UT will be determined how his team plays against TCU on Nov. 25 at DKR.

The third-year head football coach at the University of Texas is a good coach and a good man, but he is not the right man for this job. He never was, but the two sides are stuck.

The Big 12 is a national joke and yet UT again will not finish near the top of this weak league. If UT is going to have all of this money, all of these facilities, its own TV network, play in a weak league, have all of these “5-star recruits” ... what is the point?

After his team compiled Xbox-type stats Saturday they were again trying to defend another loss — this time, 24-20 against No. 16 CFP West Virginia.

“We gotta keep getting better,” receiver Collin Johnson said. “Wins come a dime a dozen.”

Not for Texas under Charlie Strong they don’t. Under Charlie the ’Horns are 16-19 and staring at a third straight losing season. Things in Austin look increasingly like the David McWilliams’ era.

#TexasStrong will come down to the day after Thanksgiving against a team that has defeated him by the combined score of 98-17 — his first two meetings against TCU.

Assuming Texas defeats Kansas next week in Lawrence — which if the Longhorns lose that one, Charlie shouldn’t be allowed back in the state — UT will be 6-5 entering the season finale against The Gary Patterson Show.

If UT defeats Gary, the ’Horns are guaranteed a bowl berth and a winning record, their first under Charlie. It would be the type of tangible proof his AD needs to justify keeping him around.

Of course, AD Mike Perrin won’t be making this decision, so what he thinks is largely irrelevant.

The question is: Is Strong staying ultimately the right development for UT long term?

Sadly, no.

What the ’Horns want and need is a Bob Stoops, Jim Harbaugh, Urban Meyer or Nick Saban. For whatever the reason, this guy just ain’t it.

Strong is a good person and his efforts to do right by the players is admirable, but the results are inexcusable. The one constant for UT in the Strong era is that it’s always some dog-ate-my-homework reason.

Maybe the kicker misses a point-after attempt. It’s a botched punt. It’s questionable play calling. It’s poor quarterback play. It’s a nonexistent offensive line. It’s dumb plays. It’s horrendous tackling.

There is always some reason why UT does not win.

Whatever progress we (me, too) thought the program gained during a gloriously fun evening on Sept. 4, when UT defeated then No. 10 Notre Dame in overtime, has proven to be mostly fraudulent.

Notre Dame (4-6) played out to be wet garbage, and the intense big-time college atmosphere at DKR for the Irish that night has been replaced by the hungover 11 a.m. kickoff for West Virginia.

Even though it was a comfortably mild November morning, the atmosphere on Saturday bordered on depressing; there were thousands of empty seats at the over-expanded DKR, as students stayed away in droves.

This is Texas under Charlie Strong, and it’s growing increasingly harder to defend.

At one point in the first half, West Virginia coach Dana Holgersen was caught on a referee’s microphone chewing out officials about a controversial call and said “because our guys have bigger [man parts] than their guys!”

There were some other expletives involved, but the point is he called out UT and ... well, you do the math.

Against the Mountaineers, it was more of the maddening same. The ’Horns ran 100 plays on offense for 536 yards.

Running back D’Onta Foreman tied Earl Campbell’s school record for consecutive 100-yard rushing games with 11. Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele threw for 318 yards. The defense intercepted three passes of former Brewer quarterback Skyler Howard and forced four turnovers.

And somehow not only did Texas lose, but it only scored 20 points. That’s impressively sad.

“You look at a young team, it’s very easy, in the past it could have gotten ugly,” Strong said after the game, “and it didn’t get ugly. We just continued to hang in there.”

When you are 5-5, this is what you say — lean on the youth, commend the effort, insist the team is improving. And then you make sure to insist none of the above is an excuse, even though it is.

And maybe all of it is true, but the results are not there. Other coaches — like Saban, Harbaugh and Meyer —have turned power, big cash programs, around faster. That’s what UT’s thinks its money should buy, but has not under Strong.

Entering the final two games of his third season at Texas the loud speculation that Strong’s job is in jeopardy is legitimate and not going away.

“We definitely hear it. We hear it all the time,” UT defensive back John Bonney said. “It’s not something we can’t ignore. It’s something we have to move past. We have to understand is play for ourselves and in doing that we’ll play well and it will be good for Coach. We don’t try to get too worried about it.”

With an annual salary of $5.2 million, Strong is the sixth highest-paid college football coach in America and the highest-paid employee in Texas. That type of salary brings certain expectations.

I asked Strong about it and he says he does not worry about it, which is a lie. This lack of job security is killing him in recruiting and he knows it; big-time talented players are not going to commit if they think he’s going to be fired.

And UT can’t count on another Baylor scandal to supply them with top-tier recruits.

Strong has two games left to hang on, and prove he can do this when thus far nothing suggests he is the right fit for this job.

Ultimately, it will come down to UT’s game against TCU that will provide the final answer.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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