What is rock bottom for the Texas football program? They’ve been taken so many huge hits in a season plus under Charlie Strong it’s getting hard to distinguish what terrible really is for them, as the job security of the head coach seems solid, although things can change quickly if the negative momentum can’t be changed.
The Longhorns have had success against Oklahoma when heading into the Red River Rivalry as huge underdogs. They’re 5-2 since 1989 when going in as unranked. Oklahoma are #10 on the AP Poll right now, putting up an impressive performance in their win over West Virginia this weekend, their first conference win of the season. Considering how badly we’ve seen Texas get beaten against TCU and Notre Dame this season, two of the three ranked teams they’ve faced, it’s hard to feel optimistic about their chances against the Sooners.
Bryan Curtis of Grantland wrote an interesting article about the current situation for Strong in Austin, offering both support and a pessimistic outlook. On one hand, Strong is trying to deal with the awful recruiting job Mack Brown did during his final years as the head coach, resulting in Strong’s freshmen being the best players on the team. But it’s not just Brown’s recruiting. It’s the culture of the program, and also working with a very different attitude compared to his predecessor not just with his players, but also with high school coaches and his own administration.
There’s still plenty of support from the university and boosters. Texas just fired its Athletic Director which means things aren’t exactly going well in more than just football. Rick Barnes, who coached the basketball team for 17 seasons was fired at the end of last season, replaced by Shaka Smart. It’s hard to compare what success and failure are at both sports, but these are too many changes happening at once for such a proud, arrogant establishment.
It’s hard to believe Strong will get fired this season, but can we still say “regardless of what happens” considering how bad things are? The Longhorns are 1-4, and likely to be 1-5 by the end of next weekend. TCU, a team that hasn’t scored more than 30 points against Texas since 1956, have now scored 98 points in two seasons against Strong’s Longhorns. The changes to the playcalling and the attempt to almost by will change a program that is in dire straits haven’t been doing any good. Not in the short run.
The question is whether Strong “survives” enough to see the long run. To put in another good recruiting class. To make this program entirely his. There’s still support and patience for the process to be completed, but patience isn’t infinite, not at Texas, and not with the results being more than bad; they’re catastrophic, and maybe causing Strong to doubt his own direction, and once that begins to happen, it always ends in the same way.