Why even drag this out? That has been the dominant question over Charlie Strong’s job status beginning at the final buzzer of Texas’ 24-21 loss to Kansas on Saturday, placing a large question mark over the future of the program.
The defeat dropped the Longhorns to 5–6, 3–5 Big 12, sending Texas to 16–20 over the course of Strong’s tenure in Austin. And while the burnt orange still have to face TCU on Friday, it seems as though the end of Strong’s time on the 40 acres will arrive soon.
Both the Austin-American Statesman and HornsDigest reported on Sunday that Strong would be dismissed at the end of the season, but would coach through the end of the year. A “high-ranking university source,” stated that Strong’s dismissal, “will happen for sure. The question is when.”
Longhorn athletic director Mike Perrin released a statement refuting that report later Sunday evening.
“We will evaluate the body of work after the regular season,” Perrin said. “We have a game to get ready for against TCU on Friday, and I hope our fans will come out and support our team. We’ll discuss where things stand after that.”
Strong spoke to the media on Monday at his regularly-scheduled press conference. He affirmed Perrin’s words saying, “I’ve been told we will be evaluated at the end of the season… After the last game against TCU, a decision will be made.”
However, the sense surrounding the program contradicts both Perrin and Strong’s statements. ESPN’s Brent McMurphy reported on Saturday morning that Longhorn boosters were placing “extreme pressure” on Texas brass to fire Strong and hire Houston coach Tom Herman. And Saturday’s loss the the previously 1–9 Jayhawks only stoked that pressure.
The situation has become quite murky since Saturday. The initial reports of Strong’s presumed firing weren’t met by The University with a denial regarding his job status. Instead, Texas claimed it had not decided on Strong’s fate, and were prepared to discuss retaining or dismissing Strong after the season.
Strong looked despondent during Saturday’s press conference in Lawrence, Kansas. As he answered questions for just four minutes, Strong seemed shell-shocked that the program he insisted he could turn around fell to a Kansas team that entered the contest at 1–22 over the past two seasons.
When asked what the loss meant to his future with the Longhorns, the head coach said he had, “no idea.”
Monday provided Strong another opportunity to speak with the media. While the tenor of the press conference was far brighter than on Saturday, it yielded no further answers on the Strong’s future. After questions regarding his job status, the Longhorn leader shifted his focus to earning bowl-eligibility for the second time in his tenure.
“We have one game left and it’s important we go play this game for our seniors because they deserve to get to a bowl game,” Strong said. “We’re all frustrated… But we have one [game] to go get and we’re gonna go out there and play. ”
Charlie Strong will not be Texas’ coach after this season if the reports from earlier in the week are any indication. But what could have been a clean break has morphed into a sticky situation.
The administration will have an even more complicated task if Texas does in fact beat TCU on Friday, having to possibly fire a coach following a victory.
Strong will lead the Longhorns out of the tunnel on Friday for the 37th time. And barring an unforeseen turnaround, it seems as though it will be his last.