Charlie Strong wasn’t trying to make headlines when he told Texas faculty members that once recruiting turned around, the Longhorns would “steamroll” everybody. But his confidence was unmistakable.
“You have to believe in yourself before anyone will ever believe in you,” Strong told the group in March.
On Friday, Texas officials sent another signal about where they believe the program is headed. The school announced its 2016 season opener against Notre Dame will be shifted to Sunday, Sept. 4, instead of the traditional Saturday placement.
No kickoff time and network have been announced yet, but it’s likely to be a night game at Royal-Memorial Stadium.
By playing on Sunday of Labor Day weekend, the Irish and Longhorns will probably get the national sports stage all to themselves with no NFL games as competition. The following Monday holiday is usually an off day for many workers, too.
“Having worked in both programs, I have a deep appreciation of the great football pride, tradition and passion at Texas and Notre Dame,” Strong said in a statement issued by UT. He was Notre Dame’s defensive line coach from 1995-98.
“This is a game we’re obviously very excited about and really looking forward to,” Strong added. “I think moving it to Sunday with no NFL games when it can really be in the spotlight will make it that much more special.”
Texas athletic director Mike Perrin said the Irish and Longhorns is a matchup that “grabs everyone’s attention.”
“That’s a historic sporting event that fans worldwide want to see,” Perrin said in a statement. “This schedule provides a wonderful opportunity to play the game in an exclusive window so everyone can see it. We discussed it quite a bit and took into account all of the factors in making the decision.”
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick had a similar feeling. The game “deserves a special place on the Labor Day calendar,” Swarbrick said in a statement.
It is likely to be “another great game in a classic rivalry that dates back to 1913,” he added.
Last season, the Irish smashed Strong’s bunch 38-3 in South Bend, Ind. That matchup had a colossal buildup, and even Strong admitted later he may have put too much emphasis on it during summer off-season workouts.
Texas was 2 of 13 on third downs, allowed 527 yards and suffered its worst season-opening loss since 1988. Four million were estimated to be watching on NBC, making it the highest-rated Irish opener since 2008.
“For us to go lay an egg, it’s just mind-boggling,” UT running back Johnathan Gray said afterward.
The next week, Strong demoted Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline as play-callers. Strong also promoted then-redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard to the starting quarterback job.
This will be Notre Dame’s first trip to Austin since 1996, a back-and-forth affair the Irish also won, 27-24. Notre Dame leads the all-time series, 10-2.