No one really understands the Texas thought process when it comes to football, not even in Texas, because there are so many divergent opinions from major donors who influence the Longhorn program and the UT coaching search.
The names of numerous successful coaches,including Nick Saban of Alabama, have been mentioned. David Shaw of Stanford, Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M, James Franklin of Vanderbilt, Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State, Les Miles of LSU, Jimbo Fisher of Florida State, even Bobby Petrino at Western Kentucky.
But according to the Dallas Morning News, the coaching search appears to be honing in on two candidates — Art Briles of Baylor University and Charlie Strong of the University of Louisville.
The only thing Briles and Strong have in common besides being successful coaches is they both lost to the University of Central Florida this season, Baylor losing 52-42, UofL 38-35. Those losses marred otherwise exceptional seasons for both coaches. Baylor finished with an 11-2 mark, UofL with a 12-1 record.
Briles coaches an exciting brand of football, his team scoring 70 points or more in three games, more than 60 twice and 50 in one game. His team averaged 50 points per game and a 36-point margin of victory in the 11 wins. No slouch on defense either, allowing 19 points per game. Take away the UCF loss and the Bears were holding opponents to 16 per game.
Strong, on the other hand, is a defensive-minded coach, stressing ball control and milking the clock, resulting in grind-them-out, slow motion games even against sub-par opponents. The 36-9 win over Miami an exception, of course. His team averaged 35 points per game and a 22-point margin of victory in 12 wins. Opponents averaged only 13 points per game.
Briles is a Texas native, led his team to the state championship game as an all-starter, played his college football at the University of Houston, coached at three Texas high schools, and had successful coaching stints at Texas Tech and Houston. He knows the state and knows what he would be getting into at Texas.
Strong, meanwhile, is from Arkansas, played his college football at Central Arkansas, and served apprenticeships at South Carolina and Notre Dame between 10 seasons at the Florida. He was a graduate assistant for a year at Texas A&M. His defensive coordinator, Vance Bedford, did play at Texas.
None of this leads us to conclude that Charlie Strong is prepared for the Texas job or that Texas is genuinely interested in handing over the coaching reins to him. Texas fans would not be satisfied very long with the grind-it-out approach. If Strong were the choice, we believe the offer would have already been tendered.
The best Louisville fans can hope for is that Texas, which seems to drag its feet on every issue, finally gets around to making a decision soon. But that might not be the end of the drama.
The fact that Strong has apparently shown some interest in the Texas opening could mean that he would be receptive to offers from other schools as the revolving doors continue to circle over the next week or so.
Briles is open about it, wants to talk with Texas, admits it’s a business. Strong is quiet, too quiet, doing the normal football coach thing. We’ll go with Briles at Texas, hoping for the best with the current UofL football coaching situation.