When the news broke that the Miami Hurricanes were firing Al Golden and when rumors followed that one of the coaches the Hurricanes would try to go after is Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong, I refused to believe Strong would be a realistic candidate to be the next head coach of the U.
I scoffed at that ridiculous idea. I mean, come on. Charlie Strong is the current head football coach at the University of Texas. And he's in the middle of his second year of his attempt to rebuild the Texas football program. Miami would seriously go after Strong? And that same Charlie Strong would take a serious look at Miami? No way. That's crazy talk. And that's just the media trying to create buzz... Right?
For one thing, the buzz hasn't died down -- influential Miami superfan Luther Campbell has Strong on his list of five coaches he says he knows for a fact would take the job and sources told the Miami 247Sports site that the administration is "confident" ($) that Strong would listen.
And all this after Strong's situation at Texas took another big swing last weekend.
Last week, on October 25th when Golden was fired at Miami, Strong was riding a two-game winning streak that included a huge victory over Texas' biggest rival, Oklahoma. It seemed like he had finally pointed Texas in the right direction. And the possibility of ending the season bowl eligible was a very real and attainable goal once again.
But the high that Texas was riding came crashing down Halloween night in Ames. The following night, I had a conversation with someone about Strong going to Miami (who I will leave anonymous until further notice). It was a conversation that motivated me to look into the alternate universe where Strong leaves Texas after the 2015 season to be the next head coach at the University of Miami.
At this point, it's damn near crazy to believe that anyone knows definitively where Strong will be coaching once the 2016 season begins. Your best and safest odds still lie with Strong being the head coach of the Longhorns when the season begins next fall. But if Texas continues to flounder as it did against the Cyclones for the rest of the season, is it possible that those odds that Strong will be back in 2016 may not be as high as many of us want to believe?
Before I go further, I will say that I'm largely writing this to play devil's advocate. I will also say that I don't know Strong nor have I ever met him. I only know what I have perceived from watching him and listening to him.
With that said, If I were forced to place a bet down myself, I would say Strong is back at Texas for the 2016 season. Earlier this season, I felt strongly about that. And I still do. But now I'll admit that my own confidence in my belief, even though it's just a slight change, is not as strong as it once was. It's at least motivated me enough to imagine this alternate world that we are about to enter into together where Strong takes the Miami job.
"Just Say No"
Last Monday at Strong's weekly press conference, the first question asked of him by the media was, "Are you going to Miami?"... It was a question that seemed to be part joke-part serious. And it was a question that was received with jokes and laughs from Strong and the rest of the media in the room. And I laughed right along as I watched the press conference online.
As the press conference wound down, Strong fielded another question about Miami -- this one being more of a joke. Again, Strong responded with a laugh as well as a joking reply "I'm going to let Kirk [Bohls] answer that part of [the question]." And then he followed up with "I laugh because I have the best job in the country. And I have to get things done here."
So in summary, the topic of Miami came up twice, Strong laughed it off twice, and we all laughed with him. But at no point did he ever give a definitive "no". Instead, he replied that A) he has the best job and B) that he still has to get things done here. But what if Strong doesn't get things done here the rest of the season? And in our alternate universe, when Texas ends the season poorly, what if he decides that for him, there's a better job out there? One that's in Miami, Florida...
A) "Best job" -- Even with a football program that is still clawing to get out of the dumps, there's no denying that the head coaching gig at Texas is a fantastic job to have. But with it comes more than just coaching football. With this job comes a large fan base to keep happy, a huge pool of donors to appease, and a network to invest time into, among other extra curricular activities. And sure, Miami has fans, donors, and extra curricular responsibilities as well, and so do so many other D1 coaching gigs. But those things at Miami are definitely not on the level they are at Texas.
Remember, I've never met Strong. I don't know him personally. And I do think he has qualities that make him a great football coach. But when it comes to the responsibilities outside of coaching football at Texas, I've always just assumed he can handle it and is okay with doing all of it.
But what if behind closed doors Strong is already fed up and annoyed with the extra "stuff" at Texas? Let's not forget he did have to deal with Patterson and all his antics as well. And what if the idea of having less "stuff" to deal with at Miami is more attractive to him than we all think? Of course he said he has the best job in the country. How could he publicly describe the job any other way? What if he isn't so sure it's the absolute best job for what he wants and compared to the job he could have at Miami?
B) "Get things done" -- The beating Texas took in Ames, Iowa this past Saturday was demoralizing, deflating, and embarrassing. It knocked the wind out of any positive momentum and progress Texas had built up from its wins over Oklahoma and Texas. And looking ahead to the end of the season, it's anyone's guess as to how this team will fare. God forbid Texas loses to Kansas and proceeds to lose every game after that, ending the season at 3-9. But even with a win over Kansas come Saturday, it's unfortunately not far-fetched to imagine Texas ending the season at 4-8. It's at least much more believable than it was before last week's game.
For the sake of argument in this crazy reality we're walking through, let's say Texas does end the year at 4-8. The energy around the program is grounded yet again. Texas misses out on a bowl game. And Strong enters into an offseason where he's left scrambling to bring many more much-needed talented recruits aboard. On top of this, he likely also has to replace at least a few of his assistant coaches, most notably on offense. With the way Texas ends the season, that's no easy sell to the recruits or the new staff members considering the 2016 season very well could be Charlie Strong's last if he doesn't pull it all together.
With all of that on his mind, what if starting fresh at Miami is more enticing? What if he sees the task of adding coaches and recruits during the offseason as the coach of Miami as a more attractive challenge than trying to hold it all together at Texas? We all know he enjoys recruiting the state of Florida and has love for the state from his days coaching at Florida. Maybe in this alternate universe, with the combination of a poor finish and the added "stuff", the Miami job now looks even better.
Did he just say "Miami"?
In this crazy, alternate universe where Charlie Strong is the coach of the Miami Hurricanes at the beginning of the 2016 season, we will all look back to one specific post-game press conference where one specific word was mistakenly said out loud by Coach Strong. And that one word is "Miami".
After the debacle against Iowa State, Charlie Strong was referring to the other two ugly, blowout losses on Texas' 2015 schedule that occurred against TCU and Notre Dame. Except when he went to say "TCU" and "Notre Dame" he seemingly had what we all assume was a Freudian slip and instead said "TCU" and "Miami".
At the time, I shrugged it off like many of us did. So what? He had been asked about Miami earlier in the week, got tripped up on his words, and just accidentally said "Miami". Get over it... But now that we are walking through this alternate universe, let's circle back around to that slip of the word "Miami".
After the beating Strong saw his team take in Ames, what if he actually had Miami on his mind as he walked off the field? What if in that moment he really was pondering what life in the ACC as Miami's coach would be like? I'm not saying he was necessarily comparing the competition of the two conferences. But what if he was thinking of his former conference that covers the east coast of the United States?
It's the region of the country he's coached in more than any other. Before his time at Texas, his most notable stints were at South Carolina, Florida, and Louisville. And during his entire coaching career, he's spent nearly 20 years coaching and recruiting in and living on the east coast. In this alternate universe, is it possible he was wondering what it would be like to be back on the east coast instead of traveling the midwest to play games in Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma? He did say "Miami" out of nowhere, didn't he?
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Before you flip your desk over, cuss at the computer, and write me off, take a deep breath. We are now back to reality. And the reality is that Strong is the current head coach of the Texas Longhorns. He's making $5 million a year to be that coach. And as the head coach of the Longhorns, he is getting his team prepared to go play and win a game against the Kansas Jayhawks this Saturday.
As I said earlier, I myself would still bet my money that Charlie Strong will be back as head coach of the Longhorns next fall when the season begins. And I like my odds of that bet too. But can you imagine what the 2016 offseason would be like for Texas and college football if Charlie Strong became the head coach at Miami?