Following a week of speculation and indecision regarding Charlie Strong’s future as the Texas Longhorns head coach, the university announced its decision to fire Strong after three seasons on Saturday morning.
The news came at 9:30 a.m. CT, about an hour or so after athletic director Mike Perrin met with Strong and his coaching staff.
“Decisions like this one are tough to make,” Perrin said in a statement released by the school. “I became friends with Charlie Strong before becoming Athletics Director. I have the utmost personal respect for him. His impact on college athletics and student-athletes should be celebrated. Coach Strong represented the University of Texas with class and dignity, and he demanded our student-athletes do the same by adhering to his system of core values.
“However, after thorough evaluation, the body of work after three seasons has not shown the improvement we were hoping for. This was an important year for our program to take the next step, and the results simply aren’t there, so we’ve decided to make a change. We appreciate Coach Strong so much, are grateful for what he has done for the program and wish him the best in the future.”
“It was not clear the future was going to be at the levels expected of Longhorn football,” said president Greg Fenves.
At the moment, the decision will cost Texas nearly $10 million in 2017 and nearly $18 million overall to buy out Strong and his staff, but if the next head coach decides to retain any assistants or Strong or his assistants take jobs next season, those salaries will help offset the buyouts. Strong and his assistants have 50 percent offset/mitigation in his contract.
"It's a very difficult day for me, my family and all of the people affected by this decision,” Strong said in a statement. “I'm most disappointed for these kids and our staff who have poured so much of their lives into this program for the last three years.
“I do understand that it comes down to wins and losses, and we have not done our job in that area yet. I accept full responsibility for that, but know in my heart that we accomplished our primary goal, which is the development of young men. We have had a positive impact on our campus and the community, and I'm proud of how our team is focused on earning their degrees. We were developing something really special.
“This program has a championship foundation built on great young men with tremendous character. There are very bright days ahead, and I'll be pulling for these kids no matter where I am. I want to thank everyone who supported me and this program for the last three years. I don't regret coming to Texas. I learned a great deal and grew as a person in my time here. I'll miss the opportunity to lead this program going forward, but I'm ready to accept my next challenge."
The decision to part ways with Strong reached a turning point following the 24-21 Texas loss to 1-9 Kansas on November 19 in the form of various reports of his dismissal after the narrative of progress added a significant blemish with one of the worst loses in school history.
Perrin denied those reports shortly thereafter, saying that he would evaluate Strong following Friday’s season finale meeting with TCU.
Any momentum Strong may have generated following a powerful Monday morning press conference with hopes of retaining his job ended Friday evening with Texas suffering its largest defeat of the season to TCU, 31-9.
During his three-year tenure on the 40 Acres, Strong compiled a 16-21 record, which stands as the worst winning percentage by any head coach in school history (.432).
Losing seven games during each of his three seasons in Austin marks the first time Texas has suffered three consecutive losing seasons since 1936-38.
Strong came to Texas in 2014 after winning 23 games during his final two seasons at Louisville, along with winning three of four bowl games in four seasons.
For a variety of reasons, though, Strong’s success in the Bluegrass State never translated to the Lone Star State.
With the exception of linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary, Strong has seen his entire initial coaching staff turn over in less than three years, along with a pair of in-season coordinator changes, including this season’s demotion of defensive coordinator Vance Bedford after four games.
Consequently, the losses piled up in historic fashion, though the ‘Horns did, for the most part, eliminate blowout losses after suffering nine double-digit defeats in Strong’s first two seasons — the only double-digit losses for Texas this season were to Oklahoma State (48-31) and TCU (31-9).
Ultimately, though, reducing blowout losses, landing back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes and wins over No. 10 Oklahoma and No. 12 Baylor in 2015, and No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 8 Baylor this season weren’t enough to save Strong’s job. The 21 losses in only three seasons proved to be one or two or three too many for Strong to remain at the helm in Austin.
With Strong’s time in Austin having reached its end, the expectation is the Texas brass will rapidly zero in on Houston Cougars head coach Tom Herman, whose team finished with a 9-3 regular season mark featuring wins over No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 5 Louisville.