Like Steve Spurrier’s visor, Bill Snyder’s pullover, or Bear Bryant’s fedora, Texas head coach Charlie Strong’s game-day attire is most recognizable by one thing: the mock turtleneck.
Against North Texas, Strong debuted the garment, a turtleneck in which the neckpiece is not in fact folded down, in 95-degree heat. No matter the temperature or circumstance, Strong sports the ’90s fashion item with pride.
Recently, however, the Longhorns’ new coach added some variety to his sideline wardrobe, going with a burnt orange top against Iowa State instead of the white one he had worn through the team’s first six games.
Despite beating the Cyclones in his first game wearing the new color, Strong made the curious decision to go back to white in the team’s next game and sure enough, the Longhorns were shut out by Kansas State. But, after another burnt orange victory in Lubbock last weekend, Strong is now a perfect 2-0 in the school’s color.
“My daughter, Hailee, she told me I can only wear orange from here on out,” Strong said.
Some of his players have noticed the trend, too, and if senior defensive back Quandre Diggs had his way, the whole team would be wearing the lucky shirt.
“I told him before the game that’s the one he needs to wear,” Diggs said. “I think everybody needs to wear a little mock turtleneck this week. And I think if we play as well as we did, we all need to continue to wear it.”
While superstition doesn’t appear to play into Strong’s reliance on game-day turtlenecks, a few Longhorns have found a link between certain wardrobe decisions and on-field success and seem convinced it’s a case of causation, not just correlation.
“I’m very superstitious,” Diggs said. “I have to have two thin wristbands on my legs. I’ve got to have high socks that I can pull down and scrunch up, and my main thing is having the long shirt under my jersey. That’s something I’ve been wearing for the last two or so years. I feel like it’s been working for me.”
They may not be quite as obvious, but sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has a few quirks of his own.
“Every time I put my pads and shoes on, I’ve got to do it a certain way every time or I won’t feel right,” Swoopes said. “I always put my left side on before I put the right side on.”
Superstition, the idea that one event causes another without any natural process linking the two, has long been a polarizing topic in sports. Some players rely on a whole slew of odd rituals, while others believe it to be total nonsense, taking credit away from the time and effort spent working on their craft.
Senior wide receiver John Harris is an example of an athlete who doesn’t care much for the notion.
“I say when we throw the ball, everything’s going right,” Harris said, when asked if he was superstitious. “Whenever we have that ball in our hands, it’s going to be a good day.”
Strong seems to have a similar perspective, preferring to keep it simple and denounce any suggestion that he might be the least bit superstitious.
But Saturday, superstitious or not, he’ll be wearing orange.