Charlie Strong walked to the podium as per usual on Monday morning. He gave a standard opening remark, addressing the team’s desire to win Friday’s game against TCU to earn bowl eligibility.
Out of the ordinary were the circumstances surrounding Strong’s press conference. Reports swirled the previous night claiming Strong would soon be fired.
But it hasn’t happened yet. He took questions about his job security with poise and continually shifted his center of focus to the players he coaches.
“I told [the team] that we’re going to have to loosen up and just go have fun,” Strong said. “You have not done that in the last few weeks. But you owe it to yourself. You put too much work into this game for that not to happen.”
Strong isn’t the only high profile head coach in the Big 12 to endure underwhelming performances this season. He matches up with another man who’s been sitting on an exceedingly hot seat in Fort Worth.
Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs (5–5) travel to Austin with a plethora of issues of their own. Luckily for Patterson, his struggles have been masked by the turbulence experienced on the 40 Acres.
Strong comes into what will perhaps be his last game coaching at Darrell K Royal — Texas Memorial Stadium with mixed support. Many have been left wondering why Strong still has the reins after a 21-24 loss to one-win Kansas. But his players wish to not to see him go.
“I love Coach Strong,” sophomore safety DeShon Elliott said. “No matter what, I love him.”
TCU fans might not have the same admiration for their man in charge as Texas players have for theirs. The Horned Frogs were picked to finish second in the Big 12 preseason poll, even reeling in a pair of first place votes.
But Patterson’s squad currently sits at No. 6 in the conference standings, just ahead of Texas. TCU has lost three of its last four games by a combined total of 52 points.
While the two team’s seasons look similar on paper, Patterson has developed a sense of security and optimism that Strong hasn’t fostered at Texas. Patterson is a combined 28–8 in his last three seasons; Strong holds a 16–20 mark in his three years at Texas.
His latest loss to Kansas might be one in which he won’t recover from. If Strong does walk the sidelines wearing burnt orange for the last time Friday, he’ll leave with the worst winning percentage for any coach in Texas history. But he still isn’t worried.
“I don’t think it’s going to be tough at all with the group that I have,” Strong said. “When you have character and you have class within your program, which is what we have recruited over the last few years,
In the only two meetings between Patterson and Strong, the outcomes have not been very favorable for the latter. Patterson’s Horned Frogs have blasted Strong’s Longhorns by a total score of 98–17.
Given TCU’s eagerness to reach a bowl game for the third consecutive season coupled with the pessimistic ambiance in Austin after its shocking loss to Kansas, Patterson and company could be in for another large victory on Joe Jamail Field. But If Strong is able to regroup his troops and rally them to a victory in this season finale, then the Longhorns become bowl eligible for the second time in three years. And despite the copious distractions flowing through the program, that’s all the players are worried about.
“We have one game left,” senior safety Dylan Haines said. “Possibly two if we can win this next one. So I think that’s what we’re more concerned with now.”