Charlie Strong needs to deactivate David Ash for the rest of the season – if not the rest of his college career. Texas' QB needs to stop playing football for the sake of his mental health, and part of that responsibility should lie with the coaching staff. The bullshit tough-guy mentality of "shaking off the cobwebs" – a colloquial term for "pretending that you aren't suffering from a traumatic brain injury" – has been debunked as foolish pride. If you're at the point where diving on a loose ball is enough to jar your brain into misfiring, it's time to hang 'em up.
The hits that Ash took against North Texas Saturday were remarkable because they were also so unremarkable. They were the type of hits a quarterback takes a dozen times each contest. Ash is only 22 years old and his brain is still developing, which raises the stakes for any cognitive injury. Each time he steps onto a field he's risking permanent damage.
On Monday, Strong announced that Ash would not be taking the field Saturday against Brigham Young – a good start, no doubt. He didn't say, "We're evaluating him to see how he progresses through the week." It was plain and simple: Ash ain't playing. Whether or not he returns this year is a decision Strong says will have to be made by the quarterback and his family, along with team physicians. But in the same breath, the Horns' head coach acknowledged that Ash is a competitor and would never volunteer that he was hurt unless it was an obvious injury. So why is Strong leaving the decision of whether or not to return up to his "competitive" quarterback?
The age of looking the other way when it comes to concussions is past us. Football has caught up to every other sport in America. It only took Dave Duerson's gruesome suicide and Junior Seau's driving off a goddamned cliff before eventually shooting himself through the chest to get there. Fortunately Ash can still be protected from further damage if the university exercises proper caution.
Strong has the governing power to sit Ash indefinitely right now and should waste no time with the decision. It should be obvious just by going back and watching the replay of the seemingly innocuous hit and considering Ash's extensive history with brain injuries that Ash needs to be protected from himself. Any college athlete is going to want to return to play. Strong's new responsibility is to know better.