DALLAS — Several Texas players said during the spring they really liked coach Charlie Strong because “he’s real.” There are no mind games, no hidden agendas. He tells the players the truth and let’s the chips fall where they may.
Longhorns fans got a dose of that realism Monday night when Strong told an alumni group in Fort Worth that, unfortunately this year, “We will not be in the national championship game.”
Those comments created a five-alarm Internet wildfire, and to Strong’s credit, he didn’t back down Tuesday at the Comin’ On Strong Tour stop in Dallas. But he did offer a slightly amended version of the same thought.
“Right now, we won’t be in the national championship game,” Strong told a room of about 950 people at Union Station. “Now, we can get better over the summer. Who knows where we’re going to end up? I can’t make that promise right now.”
During a pre-event interview, Strong said flat-out, “A lot of times people don’t like to hear the truth. They like to feel like at the end of that rainbow, we do have a chance. But sometimes, you have to start with the truth and if things work out and happen the right way for you, you never know.”
Strong said the assistant coaches are meeting with every player this week to tell them where they stand. Players will be told whether they are starters, backups or bench-warmers. He doesn’t want them going into the summer wondering about their place. Strong indicated he will not be releasing a depth chart to the public anytime soon, though.
“(The players) need to be told exactly where they sit and how they fit into the program,” Strong said.
Clay Hudson, 32, said he went to UT from 2000-04. During that time, “we were 0-4 against Oklahoma.” Former coach Mack Brown was the head coach for 16 years — half of Hudson’s life. He appreciates Strong being realistic but leave some room for hope.
“I don’t think you need to say we’re going to win it or we’re not going to win it,” Hudson said. “You can probably dance around those questions and say we’re going to work hard and improve.”
Hudson and Blake Wiley were both members of the Silver Spurs, the student group that takes care of the mascot Bevo. He said last year’s team was the perfect example of what’s possible. The Longhorns were thought to be done yet went into the regular-season finale with a chance to win the Big 12.
“It doesn’t sit well with me,” Wiley said of Strong’s comments. “I want more confidence in my coach that anything is possible.”
The feel of the event in Dallas was completely different than Fort Worth. Part of that was largely due to the crowd (470 in Fort Worth compared to 950 in Dallas). The Fort Worth event was a sit-down dinner; the Dallas event featured no chairs. Fans stood for two hours in a large ballroom.
Beside Strong, the largest cheers of the night probably went to Texas President Bill Powers, who also commented how enthusiastic the crowd looked. Women’s soccer coach Angela Kelly also got some crowd pops when she took the stage.
The main difference was this event featured a giant video screen. Before Strong hit the stage, a slick highlight video featured Strong and all the new coaches, along with some highlight-reel moments from previous years.
“Can I get some of those players?” Strong said, referring to Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.
At least one former Longhorn seemed interested in hearing more.
“I was just explaining to him that I’d like to come down and just check that stuff out,” said former defensive end Tony Brackens, who now oversees 500 heads of cattle on his ranch in Fairfield, Texas.
Texas fans in Houston are likely thinking the same thing. They’ll get to come down to Reliant Stadium on Wednesday night to check it out.
Briles unfazed by Edmond: Baylor coach Art Briles, who doesn’t mind a little dust-up now and then, brushed off the comments by Texas linebacker Steve Edmond that the Bears were “trash.”
On a conference call Tuesday with Big 12 reporters, Briles acted as if he didn’t know what the hubbub was all about. When told about Edmond’s comments, Briles said, “Well, that’s alright. Shoot, everybody’s entitled to their opinion.”
Briles also didn’t seem bothered by Edmond’s assertion that Baylor should act like it had won before. The simple fact is the Bears had never won the Big 12 until last season.
“Our cause for celebration that game was for two reasons: winning the Big 12 and closing down Floyd Casey Stadium,” Briles said. “I’m not going to spend a lot of time being protective of somebody’s comments about our program when they don’t understand it.”
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