Texas head coach, Charlie Strong watches as the Longhorns warm up before playing against TCU at Amon G Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Tx., on Saturday, October 3, 2015. TCU defeated Texas 50-7. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden’s nuggets: On Charlie, Miami and Shaka’s frequent flier miles

Posted November 23rd, 2015

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Charlie Strong is staying. If you’re happy about that news, raise your hand.

If you’re not happy about that news, there’s always a move to Coral Gables.

Strong told the media on Monday that he is not abdicating his post as Texas’ head football coach to go coach at the U. He’s in it for the long haul. He wants to build this program into something special.

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“I told our players that I am not going anywhere,” he said. “I made a commitment here and we’re going to see this program through and we’re going to get it back on track.”

And this:

“I don’t run from anything.”

Here’s what he didn’t say: He has $15 million guaranteed remaining on his five-year deal. Only a corpse would walk away from a deal like that. Which brings to mind: LSU must really be ready to part ways with Les Miles if it’s going to cost the administration $15 million buy him out and another $2 million to part ways with his staff.

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So what does that mean for Texas?

If we’re talking in a glass-half-full sense, Strong represents stability (if he gets things turned around), which could lead to better recruiting classes (if he gets things turned around), and fiscally speaking, the program not overspending for a third head coach in four seasons (if he gets things turned around).

Perhaps least important, we will see the end of all the national stories about him leaving, which are largely coming from media members on the periphery who haven’t stepped foot in Austin since he was hired to replace Mack Brown.

I’m wondering how that news is being met among those who have already decided Strong isn’t the right fit. I can only imagine.

Texas vs. Texas A&M — in a football game?

Give us 512 vs. 979 STAT.

We’re witnessing a slight thawing of the glacial relationship that has existed between the two schools since Case McCoy and Justin Tucker shut down the rivalry series at Kyle Field in 2011, the last football meeting between the schools. The Aggies moved to the SEC the next season.

Now folks besides the media are actually talking about a potential matchup again.

“I would love to play Texas A&M,” Strong said.

We’ve come a long way, baby. I remember a day not so long ago when then-athletic director Steve Patterson pretty much dismissed a resumption of the rivalry after I asked him why he could schedule a basketball trip to China, but couldn’t seriously entertain a home-and-home with a traditional rival that plays 100 miles away.

It’s time for the cold war to end. Schedule one less cupcake in non-conference and make the Thanksgiving college football weekend fun again for Texans.

Shaka Smart won’t say it, but he wanted no part of those 10 days in China.

That flight tracker graphic you see on on long flights? The arrow that shows the flight’s progress surely doubled as a torture device for the UT contingent, especially on the way back home.

With that said, you can’t put a price on the time the team was able to spend bonding in a different environment.

Shaka understands that China was Patterson’s baby, and that when the boss says “jump,” it’s time to check your vertical.

“I control what I can control,” Smart said, which is the perfect attitude for a new coach trying to put his philosophical stamp on his first Texas team.

Now I understand we’re talking about 18- to 22-year-old guys here, but even young men can get young tired legs. Now here they are flying to the Bahamas to play three games in three days, starting with the Aggies on Wednesday. Kirk Bohls had the best question Monday when he asked Shaka if the team was excited about this Bahamas trip after the “long homestand.”

The non-conference slate gives him the chance to play the full roster when he gets the chance, and you can expect to see more of that given the amount of games this group is playing combined with all the frequent flier miles.

“The trip back from China … it’s taken a while for our guys to fully recover,” he said. “We’re just trying to get a feel for having fresh guys on the floor. I don’t know that the travel affects our substitution pattern a lot, but we want to play a lot of guys. We want to play a lot of guys who play extremely hard when they’re on the floor.”

Smart comes across as a coach who rewards productive effort with playing time, which will eventually make it tough to shorten the rotation once the money games start. That is, if he continues to get the same effort from the players who aren’t starting.

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