As the Texas Longhorns creep closer to the possibility of a bowl-less offseason, rumors continue to fly about Charlie Strong coaching football outside of Austin after the 2015 season. It seems like every week, some "source" either has him linked to another coaching job (most notably Miami) or they simply say he will not be coaching at Texas after this season. And yesterday, rumors began flying again that some other "excellent source" said Strong would be out after 2015. But I'm here to tell you that I'm not buying that statement and the rumors that were flying around yesterday.
To get a better idea of why I'm not buying the rumors right now, I'll walk through my thought process and reasoning. And remember, I'm the guy that wrote the "What If Strong Left For Miami" piece weeks ago. But I wrote that mainly as a "devil's advocate" piece and simply a "what if" piece. I never said I thought he was actually leaving. Instead, I said I thought he would be back for at least the beginning of the 2016 season. And after learning of this rumor-storm yesterday, as of now, I still think he's back at the beginning of the 2016.
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If Charlie Strong is not coaching the Longhorns after the 2015 season, it appears it will be by his choice alone. As recently as last Friday, Texas' current interim Athletic Director Mike Perrin adamantly and publicly said on Austin's 104.9 the Horn that Strong would be back for the beginning of next season.
"He's staying here," Perrin said while being interviewed on the radio. "I have no doubt about that. No doubt in my mind whatsoever. You can count on it. You can go to the bank with it."
Perrin's statements and public support for Strong are nothing new. He hasn't waivered since he took over as athletic director at the beginning of the season. Each time Perrin has been questioned about Strong's future, he has continued to state that he supports Charlie Strong and that Strong will be back at the start of the 2016 season. And his statements and support have continued to be the same tune despite the Longhorns taking on some ugly losses in 2015.
Along with Perrin, University of Texas president Greg Fenves has also stated he still supports Coach Strong. In early November after Texas was shut out by Iowa State, Fenves had nothing but support for Strong.
"I just talked to Charlie and I think he's doing exactly the right things, like working on building the team," he added. "He's got young players who are developing, and I think he's doing a great job."
The two most important people working for Texas that ultimately hold Strong's fate as the coach of the Longhorns in their hands have done nothing but support Coach Strong during this roller-coaster of a season. And because of that, that's the main reason I say that if Strong leaves after this season, it will largely be his own choice.
So if we believe Coach Strong will not be fired after 2015, then the only other possibility is that Strong leaves on his own accord. But with that notion, there are more reasons for why Strong would choose to come back for the 2016 season than there are for why he would want to leave.
For starters, Strong himself has continued to squash rumors when confronted with them. And as recent as a few days ago, he reiterated that he wants to be back and will be back in 2016.
"Well, I told our players that I'm not going anywhere," Strong said. "I've made a commitment here, and we are going to see this program through and we're going to get it back on track."
Like Perrin and Fenves, Strong has continued to state he wants to be back for 2016. And sure, he likely wouldn't say otherwise unless it was during a press conference where he was making an official statement that he's leaving. But during this same press conference days ago, Strong added a quote that gives even more reason to believe his desire to come back is genuine.
"I never run from anything," Strong said. "You just grind it out."
And that quote brings up a good point. Can you imagine the backlash and negative conclusions Strong would have to face if he chose to leave Texas after the 2015 season ended? He would have just pulled the ultimate bluff. And he'd likely face opinions and statements like "He ran away from the Texas job" or "He quit on the program," and "He couldn't handle the Texas job and the pressure."
It's possible that people may eventually still make that last statement if 2016 doesn't work out. But they wouldn't be making the statement because Strong decided to leave Texas. I just don't see him as a guy that would "run" from a situation like this. He doesn't come across that way to me. If statements like "he couldn't handle that job" are made following him leaving Texas, they'll be made because he was forced out after another disappointing season. Not because he chose to leave.
On top of this, the financial decision to leave wouldn't make much sense. Right now, Charlie Strong is in the top-10 of the highest paid college football coaches in the country. And he's knocking on the door of the top-5 club. If he were to choose to leave after this season, he'd be walking away from a lot of money. And I'd think it would be extremely unlikely that any other school would get close to paying him a salary similar to what he's making at Texas right now.
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At the end of the day, there still seems to be too many reasons why Strong will be back for 2016. It just doesn't completely smell like he's leaving. Not yet at least.
And yes, as we all know with sports, crazy things sometimes happen. Is it completely out of the question to think that Strong could be gone after the 2015 season? No. Is it likely? No, I don't believe it is at this time despite all of the rumors.
If we believe Texas isn't going to fire Coach Strong after the 2015 season. And if we believe Coach Strong will not choose to leave after the 2015 season. Then that leaves us with one possibility, and that is that he will be back as the head coach of the Longhorns when the 2016 season kicks off. And he'll also likely have a new offensive coordinator on his staff that came from a notable team (I have a feeling it'll be a team Texas fans are very familiar with).