Charlie Strong was less than 12 hours into his tenure as head coach when he failed his first performance review. From the loudmouth of UT booster and semi-professional opinion-haver Red McCombs: The man should never have been given the job to start with.
"I think he would make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator," McCombs opined, confirming everything you've ever heard about the UT boosters being entitled dinosaurs.
"Maybe a coordinator." For Strong, 54, one of the top coordinators at the highest level in college football before spending four years as head coach at Louisville, this was a slap in the face – one that offered a quick glimpse into the impulsive egos he would be dealing with from within his own walls.
Despite not winning any conference championships in his first night as Texas' coach this Saturday against North Texas, Strong might still have a great chance to succeed – if given the time. In fact, it would actually be reasonable if his Longhorns regressed from their last couple of seasons under Mack Brown and came away with six victories.
Strong needs time to sign his own recruits and implement real change before he can be rightly judged. Instead, he stands to face harsh criticism if the Longhorns don't show swift signs of improvement. Critics will say he's in over his head and that the Horns need to cut their losses and move on. Those same people need to take a step back. Strong deserves all of the patience that made the University of Texas what it is today.
There's an oil rig on UT's campus that sits in the afternoon shadow of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. It's a reminder of the university's humble beginnings, and a testament to what can be accomplished with a few years of steady drilling.
Upon its inception, the Texas Legislature had given UT 1 million acres to use as it saw fit, but most of it went to a plot of land within the Permian Basin, then considered an unusable wasteland with no oil. In fact, the university was only successful in selling one oil lease on the plot. That company went out with a shorthanded crew – led by a veteran – and drilled into the bedrock. Partners were panicking about their investments, eventually asking a priest to bless the site. The priest prayed to Santa Rita, the patron saint of the impossible. After 20 months of drilling, the rig eventually struck oil. It's because of this that the school was able to profit hundreds of millions of dollars over the last century and transform from a glorified Hooverville into the great university that exists today.
It's been some time since UT has had to exercise such patience with its football program, but they need to re-summon the virtue should they strive to enjoy any sort of longterm success. The task facing Strong will require the powers that be to take a backseat and let him drill a couple years before any reasonable expectation of success.
The problem is, he probably won't get that.