AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Charlie Strong left a Louisville program that needed to punch its way into the national spotlight for the Texas Longhorns, who live smack in the middle with their enormous wealth, swagger, political intrigue and championship expectations.
And that’s just the off-the-field stuff.
On the field, he inherits a team mired in mediocrity with a 30-21 record over the last four years, but still talented enough to come within 30 minutes of winning a share of the 2013 Big 12 title.
Strong will be introduced as the Texas football coach Monday. In a statement released by the school Sunday, Strong said he was excited to be taking over one of the “premier programs” in the country.
“Texas is one of those places that is always on your radar and a program anyone would dream of being a part of because you have a chance to compete on a national level every year,” Strong said. “It’s special because it has such great history, pride, tradition and passion for football.”
In the 53-year-old Strong — the first black head coach of a men’s program at Texas — new athletic director Steve Patterson landed a coach whose teams went 23-3 the last two years, including a BCS bowl win over Florida and a blowout of Miami to end the 2013 season in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who has the No. 1 Seminoles in Monday night’s national title game, praised the hire. Fisher was previously considered a possible target for Texas and would have faced Strong in the ACC when Louisville moves to that league next season.
“I think he’s done a tremendous job at Louisville, turning those guys around,” Fisher said Sunday. “I think Charlie’s an excellent coach.”
Strong succeeded at a school that had to fight its way onto the national radar even in the good years. At Texas, the bad years draw just as much attention as the good ones, and college football will be watching to see how well he can unite a powerhouse program with a discontented fan base aching to return to the national elite.
And how quickly he can win a lot of games.
Strong’s predecessor did that. Over 16 years, Mack Brown had 158 victories, and in 2005 he won Texas’ first undisputed national title in 36 years. From 2000-09, Texas averaged more than 10 wins a season and played in four BCS bowls, winning three.
That success helped spur unprecedented financial growth. Texas ranks as the wealthiest athletic program in the country. A partnership with ESPN created the Longhorn Network, a 20-year deal worth at least $300 million to the university.