Despite claims from Texas Longhorns athletic director Mike Perrin and president Greg Fenves that head football coach Charlie Strong has their full support, the reports about actions behind the scenes in Austin suggest otherwise and it's undermining the most important hire of Strong's career.
On Wednesday, TCU Horned Frogs co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie turned down the offensive coordinator position and it was reportedly because the administration would not guarantee that Strong would still have his job past the 2016 season. If the administration fully supports Strong, why was that not expressed to Cumbie? Everyone knows that the possibility exists Strong could get fired after the 2016 season, but the administration bears the responsibility of providing the strongest assurances possible that the full weight of the Texas apparatus is behind its head football coach.
Whether that was Perrin, Fenves, or someone else, the end result is the same -- Texas missed on the top offensive coordinator candidate out there, a guy who is coveted around the country and has experience executing a quick turnaround with the Air Raid offense he installed with co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham in Fort Worth.
On Friday, Tulsa Golden Hurricane co-offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert also turned down the job hours after multiple reports from Austin that he had accepted the position. According to Horns247, here's what happened:
In both instances, including the contract negotiations with TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, Strong failed to get any prior approval from the Texas administration for a three-year deal.
Strong has had months to get prior approval of a three-year deal for candidates, and he knew the candidates wanted a three-year guarantee but never took the action necessary or even adequately communicated that to the Texas administration.
After getting further details and making sure the president of the university was OK with it, the Texas administration agreed to the three-year term and money with Gilbert today.
But by then, it appears the level of trust between Strong, Texas and Gilbert had been stretched too far.
Regardless of whether Strong was in the wrong for not communicating the contract details he wanted to the administration, why would that even be necessary? if the administration truly supports him, what's the difference between a two-year deal and a three-year deal?
If Gilbert or Cumbie had the necessary success in Austin for Strong to keep his job, then a three-year deal would be better anyway. If either one were to fail, then does it really matter that much if the school has to pay them for an extra year? Based on the things that Red McCombs said about Strong when he got hired, he would probably be willing to cut that check in a heartbeat to bring in a new head coach.
The whole situation prompted this tweet from UT-Austin president Greg Fenves:
I fully support Charlie Strong. I am committed to helping him move Longhorn Football forward.— Greg Fenves (@gregfenves) December 11, 2015
And most importantly, the president's office vehemently denies any implication it has denied Strong of anything he's asked for.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) December 11, 2015
In light of the cratering offensive coordinator search and reports of the administration not being committed to helping Strong move forward, the tweet from Fenves feels like the dreaded vote of confidence that often precedes a termination. As such, it's nothing short of completely worthless, with extremely marginal believability.
The bottom line is that if the administration isn't focused on making sure that Strong has every resource at his disposal to get this hire right, then there is no sincere long-term interest in Strong having success at Texas. Right now, that seems like the case, so the Longhorns are just wasting time avoiding the inevitable -- firing Strong and moving on.
Why waste another year and another recruiting class?
The problem is, what coach in their right mind would want to walk into the seething cauldron of dysfunction that is Texas athletics? It's hard to imagine Tom Herman taking the job in this situation.
If the reports are accurate, the ridiculous behavior of the administration isn't just sinking the Charlie Strong era, it could keep the program from being able to hire the right head coach to fix this mess.