UT President Gregory L. Fenves during pre-game festivities at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday September 12, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden: The Sterlin Gilbert pursuit was pure comedy

Posted December 12th, 2015

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Oh to be a fly on the wall of that private jet Friday night.

Or should I call it a flying circus?

Charlie Strong, president Gregory L. Fenves, and athletic director Mike Perrin on a mission from God. Add Jake and Elwood Blues and a car chase with the cops in downtown Tulsa and you would get a comedy smash.

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Shoot, let’s save production costs and just take the free laughs because a nation of football fans are ‘Chuck-ling’ about how the Texas Longhorns head coach and his hastily arranged posse bungled this entire episode.

The real chase was for a guy they allowed to leave the 512 without a deal the day before. Something about a low-ball offer well south of what they offered TCU’s Sonny Cumbie, aka the other guy with limited play-calling experience.

Either way, Chuck landed an offensive coordinator and a new offensive line coach to boot. The sincere hope is that at this time next year, we will all look upon the week of Dec. 12 as a wild ride that ended up becoming the catalyst for Strong reversing the fortunes of Texas tackle football.

But that’s in a year. As for now, the Texas football machine handled the hiring of Sterlin Gilbert with the precision of Venus de Milo on a set of monkey bars. Shabby doesn’t do it justice. Who’s running the appliances over at Bellmont? Why didn’t the new AD make sure the money was right before Gilbert left town Thursday? Was the head coach really involved in the financial part of the negotiation?

And this: why in the name of #StayMadAbby was the sitting university president on the plane to hire an assistant football coach? Didn’t he bring in Perrin to be the closer in major athletic matters? How do you appear before the Supreme Court in D.C. on a Wednesday then hop a flight to Tulsa County on Friday? Did someone tell the Prez they were actually flying to Tuscaloosa to make another run at Nick Saban with Chuck’s blessing?

Texas coach Charlie Strong before a NCAA college football game against Texas Tech at Royal-Memorial Stadium Saturday, Nov. 26, 2015. (Stephen Spillman for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Texas coach Charlie Strong before a NCAA college football game against Texas Tech at Royal-Memorial Stadium Saturday, Nov. 26, 2015. (Stephen Spillman for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Imagine that sales pitch at the dinner hour Friday. We really do want you, Sterlin. Don’t pay any mind to that $1.2 million offer to Cumbie. By the way, how did you hear about that? Was it a text message from Sonny? Or was it that damned Twitter? We even brought the president along to smooth things over. Don’t make us beg, Sterlin. We promised Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger it would be better when they got here.

All jokes aside, I’m sure the united front argument applies here but Sterlin — there’s no “G” at the end but he had better have some “G” in him for this job — coming aboard with offensive line coach Matt Mattox will become another chapter in a sad tale if it doesn’t equate to instant success in 2016. The Joe Wickline-Shawn Watson era ended in an email sent out Saturday afternoon, by the way, and mug shots of the two new hires were sent out minutes later.

So Charlie Strong’s staff has taken on a new look for 2016. He’s 11-14 in his first 25 games and four of his original nine hires have left town with pink paper in their pockets.

Now he will he enter spring workouts with his third offensive coordinator in as many years. The burden of expectations gets heavier by the day and the national perception of Texas football remains that of a sleeping giant that’s snoring soundly.

That can change but only if the airport hires equate to instant success and help dispel the growing belief that Texas football is a program that’s literally flying by the seat of its pants.

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