Throughout the short tenure of head coach Charlie Strong in Austin as the head coach of the Texas Longhorns, he has repeatedly stressed the importance of academics, a focus that has paid off for the Texas Bowl:
Charlie Strong says all Texas players are academically eligible for bowl game.— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) December 27, 2014
Of course, the emphasis for Strong is more long term than one bowl game, but having Texas at full strength against Arkansas is a significant accomplishment -- last season, running back Jalen Overstreet, wide receiver Daje Johnson, and offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle were all academically ineligible for the Alamo Bowl against Oregon.
The loss of Overstreet was not especially significant, but it did leave the Horns with only two scholarship running backs against the Ducks. Losing Johnson, one of the team's most explosive playmakers, and Estelle, the starting right tackle, were much more significant.
More importantly, the academic casualties were one final sign of former head coach Mack Brown's failures in leading the program. The three players missing the bowl game may have also ultimately resulted in the ouster of one of Brown's inner circle, Brian Davis, the former football academic advisor who also feuded with Randa Ryan, the architect of major academic turnarounds with the baseball and basketball programs.
On the other hand, pinning the departure of Davis on poor work one fall underestimates his consistent incompetence over a number of years.
In any case, with Ryan now in place for more than a year as the head of all academics in the athletic department, the Longhorns graduated 22 seniors this fall, a number that ranked tied for first in the country. Interestingly enough, one of the other schools was Strong's former program, Louisville.
In Strong's estimation, his work is about making better men out of his players. On the academic side, in terms of his players graduating and making the necessary grades, the head coach's work has been successful so far.