Strong’s players have one last chance to prove why he should stay in Austin

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Photo Credit: Gabriel Lopez | Daily Texan Staff

When the clock hit triple zeros at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas, on Saturday evening, time didn’t just run out in regulation of the Longhorns’ matchup with the Jayhawks. It appeared to run out on Charlie Strong’s tenure in Austin, too. 

But you wouldn’t be able to tell that Strong’s seat is hotter than ever from the scene at his weekly Monday morning press conference. Dozens of his players lined up behind a plethora of cameras to hear what their head coach had to say. 

Strong’s 24–21 overtime loss to Kansas (2–9) appeared to seal his fate. But he announced Monday that athletic director Mike Perrin and university president Greg Fenves have yet to make a decision on his job status. 

“I spoke [Sunday] with Mike,” Strong said, “And Greg and I have spoken after every game. I’ve been told that we will be evaluated at the end of the season. After the last game, TCU, a decision will be made.” 

Strong has compiled a 16–20 record in almost three full seasons at Texas. His most recent defeat in burnt orange almost proved to be an indictment on the program that he would not have the chance to overcome. 

Kansas earned its first Big 12 conference victory since 2014 in its upset of Strong and the Longhorns. Texas entered the matchup as a 24-point favorite to win, leaving the athletic department not much choice but to move on without its head coach. 

Strong has preached progress throughout his stay on the 40 Acres, but his players have never quite provided the push he was looking for. He never thought he’d be facing a potential final game with a 5–6 record in his third season on the job. 

“At the University of Texas, that will never happen that, with our [track] record, we go out and get five losses,” Strong said in November 2014. “We’re not comfortable with that.”

The Longhorns took a trip to the Texas Bowl that year after finishing with a 6–6 mark in the regular season. Arkansas ran it up on them in a 31–7 route at NRG Stadium in Houston. The loss left many questioning if Strong was the right man for the job just 13 games in. 

Eight games into his second season, Strong broke the promise he made just a year prior. Texas staggered to a 5–7 record, but a season finale upset of No. 12 Baylor kept Strong on campus for at least the start of the 2016 season. 

After a third consecutive 3–4 start, rumblings to fire Strong from Longhorn nation rang louder than ever. But the university’s president, Greg Fenves, backed Strong for much of the season. So did his players, even after Saturday’s loss. 

“I know everyone in that [locker] room loves coach Strong,” sophomore safety John Bonney said. “And [they’d] do anything for coach Strong.” 

Bonney said he knew that with Texas needing a win to earn bowl eligibility, a matchup with even a one-win Jayhawks team would test the Longhorns’ will and desire to save Strong’s job. They didn’t pass that test. 

But they have one final examination Friday at 2:30 p.m. Strong said that a win over the visiting TCU Horned Frogs could save his job for yet another season. But another poor performance like the one on display in Kansas will ultimately lead to the end of Strong’s tenure in Austin. 

It’s evident Strong’s players will do anything to prevent that after they gave him a round of applause and hugs when he finished addressing the media Monday. 

“The people who really matter, the players, you can see where our support lies,” senior receiver Jacorey Warrick said.