Reggie Hemphill, Charlie Strong, and Texas Football

Erich Schlegel

Reggie Hemphill: A Weak Move From Coach Strong

A few weeks ago, Scipio Tex wrote the definitive article over Charlie Strong's assimilation to Texas. It was an amazing piece that justifiably spread like wildfire across the internet. In my opinion, the article perfectly encapsulated the current environment, resources, and challenges associated with the University of Texas and Texas Football. If you somehow haven't read the piece, you're missing out.

After reading it, I sat down to comment on the post and provide a few extra thoughts. When I posted the comment, I was legitimately worried it would immediately get a bunch of "TLDR", "LOL", and other similar responses. Instead, it quickly turned green and received a flurry of recs. While I will spare everyone the full comment (which can be read in the initial thread), here are two separate quotes:

We Are Texas

Coach, this phrase should proudly resound with all past, present, and future students of the University of Texas. It's simple, yet potent. It says a lot by saying a little. Which is one of the many joys of talking with Texans. This phrase transcends our football program and even our University.

I want to add a corollary to something I said earlier. I asked you to "make the things that have gone wrong with our program feel right again." Well, I'm going to ask you for something else, too. I'm asking you to not change the things that still feel right about our program. Which is still quite a bit.

Scipio already covered all that stuff, but I want to add one final thing from my father. Now, you'll never know my father, but he's a tough man who has lived a tough life. And he is about as pure and proud a Texan as you'll find. When he heard you were hired, my father simply said "Mack Brown was a good man. I hope Charlie Strong is too. That matters, son."

It does matter. It will always matter. And I hope you are a good man, too.

In trying to understand why this comment resonated with the fan base, I keep coming back to "We Are Texas."

In watching the BCS bowls this year, it was striking how each trophy presentation played out the exact same way. The players for the winning team put on a Nike shirt with a catchy phrase (Good Knight, Sooner Magic, All In Win, Stand and Fight, Whatever), and the sponsorship representative said the game was "a great battle" and the winning team "deserves to be called champions." And then the Head Coach and Team MVPs received their trophies and gave a version of the same speech..."we have the best fans in the country", "we never quit", "we have the best fans in the country", "we believe in each other", "we have the best fans in the country...and we won this for you!"

In watching these ceremonies night after night, I found myself wondering whether all the pageantries and platitudes were tethered to anything substantive. Sometimes, a phrase is more than a phrase. And sometimes it isn't. It all depends on the context. And, as I watched these presentations, I wondered if anything would look or feel different if Texas was involved. Most of all, I wondered if it would feel real, or if it would feel artificially manufactured by Nike and ESPN.

Ultimately, I think the answer to that question depends on how you feel about "We Are Texas."

As I've written before, I thought the proper pride and spirit of "We Are Texas" was reflected in a quote from Quan Cosby. In a Texas Sports feature over Mack Brown being inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, Cosby said "I told [Mack Brown] after winning a National Championship and the success that we had, was that we did it the right way." Above all else, that's what I truly think Texas fans value the most: doing things the right way.

Which brings me to Charlie Strong and Reggie Hemphill.

In a BON story earlier this week, Wescott Eberts outlined how Charlie Strong rescinded a committed scholarship offer from Hemphill, a 2016 WR from Manvel. Basically, Hemphill received a UT scholarship offer from Mack Brown in July 2013, verbally committed a month later, and was UT's only committed player in the 2016 class when Charlie Strong was hired. Then, this week, in a face-to-face meeting with Hemphill's coaches at Manvel, Strong said UT was rescinding the committed offer and would instead continue evaluating Hemphill as a prospect. While Hemphill could receive another offer from Texas later down the road, the previous offer--that he accepted--is no longer valid.

Plain and simple, I think this is absolutely ridiculous.

Regardless of what happens with Reggie Hemphill in the future, I think he deserved better from both Charlie Strong and the University of Texas. While I think it's commendable that Hemphill is taking the high road in his reaction ($) to the rescinded offer, I don't think that justifies what happened. Not even close.

Above all else, this is what I can't get over: Reggie Hemphill did not just receive a scholarship offer from Mack Brown. He received a scholarship offer from the University of Texas. And he accepted it. And now, through no fault of his own, his accepted offer was taken away. I don't think that's right, and I don't think it exemplifies the UT Athletic Department's motto of "Winning With Integrity." Again, not even close.

To be clear, Charlie Strong was well within his rights to rescind the committed offer. And Reggie Hemphill would have been well within his rights to rescind his commitment. It really is a flawed system. While I usually agree with the sentiment of "don't hate the player, hate the game", I don't think that's entirely appropriate here. In this particular case, I feel like you can find fault with the player (and by player, I mean coach) as well as the game.

Let me take this point a bit further, as I think it's important.

I understand that recruits change commitments all the time, and it puts schools in a tough position. I also understand that other schools and coaches have taken similar actions in rescinding committed offers. In fact, many have done much, much worse. When it comes to the realm of rescinding offers, the fact that Charlie Strong visited Manvel to deliver the news in person isn't insignificant. In my opinion, it just isn't enough to justify something that shouldn't have been done. Especially if you want to latch onto the ideals and principles typically associated by our fan base to "We Are Texas."

If that phrase is supposed to mean something, then it needs to actually mean something. If a school wants to "do things the right way," then it actually needs to do things the right way. To that extent, I have absolutely no problem with holding a university to a higher standard than a high-school football player. And I don't find any solace from the idea that Texas simply chose to rescind a committed offer from a high schooler who could have just as easily rescinded their commitment to Texas. Again, I think Texas should pride itself on adhering to a higher standard.

To be clear, I also understand the skepticism over offering scholarships to high school players prior to their sophomore seasons. I won't argue with anyone who thinks Charlie Strong is right to wait longer to offer scholarships. As someone commented in the BON thread, a lot can change in two years. It isn't an unreasonable position for a school to avoid offering players until their Junior seasons. But, again, that's not the issue at hand with Reggie Hemphill: he already received an offer from Texas, and he accepted it. Done and done.

While many fans have well-formed opinions over Texas Football and recruiting strategies, this post really isn't meant to open the full can of worms. In particular, I don't mean to start arguments over future players, future coaches, and future hypotheticals. My only intent is to comment over what actually happened to Reggie Hemphill. And, in talking to other UT fans about this ordeal, I haven't found anyone who actually feels good it.

Now, while this all could easily be written off as an unfortunate but natural by-product of a coaching change, that doesn't seem to be the overriding sentiment. Instead, most people seem to be disappointed, and for reasons that have nothing to do with Hemphill's projected status as a top recruit. As one of my friends succinctly stated "I don't like it. Not one bit. At Texas, we're supposed to be different." Another friend simply said "I get it, but I don't."

But perhaps the most coherent statement over Reggie Hemphill came from a friend who usually posts on Orangebloods. He said "Charlie Strong was brought in to accomplish an overhaul, but one thing that didn't need an overhaul was the integrity of our program . . . Charlie Strong has said players aren't getting degrees from the University of Charlie Strong, they are getting degrees from the University of Texas. Reggie Hemphill committed to the University of Texas, but Charlie Strong rescinded the University's word. Charlie should have honored the commitment. Period."

Ultimately, and getting back to an earlier point, I do think Charlie Strong is a good man. Over the past month, I've really enjoyed getting to learn about his life, his career, and his coaching philosophies. As one example, the quotes from this Dallas Morning News article spotlight why Charlie Strong could potentially be such a perfect fit for Texas.

All that said, good men can still make bad decisions. Which is exactly what I think happened here: Charlie Strong, a good man, made a bad decision. And I hope he changes his mind. Reggie Hemphill deserved better.

Hook ‘Em!

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