AUSTIN (AP) – Charlie Strong may be coaching his last game at Texas.
With a 16-20 record in three seasons, Strong has been told his future will be evaluated after Friday’s regular-season finale at home against TCU. That comes against the backdrop of multiple media reports that the decision to fire him has already been made.
Strong said this week he hopes that’s not the case, and that school administrators have promised him a full season before evaluating his future.
And, he said, he most certainly wants to come back . He has two years left on a contract that pays him more than $5 million per year.
“I look at the job that this staff has done and I look at the players that they have put in place and I look at just how far we have come. The wins and losses, they don’t stack up, but still, you are looking at a young football team and a team that, when you get everything back in place for the upcoming year, it’s got a lot of talent,” Strong said.
Strong said he hopes beating TCU would work in his favor, but school President Greg Fenves, who been an strong advocate for the coach this season, has remained silent since Texas lost at lowly Kansas last week.
A win would make the Longhorns bowl eligible, marking a slight improvement over last season. But that’s a big part of the problem. He was hired to bring Texas back to the top of the Big 12. That Texas has to fight just to make a bowl game is not where Longhorns fans expect their program to be.
“You asked this guy to come in and change the culture and he’s done that,” senior linebacker Tim Cole said. “I’m telling you, he’s going to be pay dividends for this program, for this fan base. He’s going to build a dynasty here.”
TCU coach Gary Patterson, who handed Strong two of his most humiliating losses the past two seasons, is also trying to push his team to a bowl game in what has been a disappointing season. He expects the Longhorns to bring an emotional effort Friday.
“They’ll be playing for their coach,” Patterson said. “That’s such a big motivator.”
Some things to watch for when the Longhorns (5-6, 3-5 Big 12) meet the Horned Frogs (5-5, 3-4):
Texas running back D’Onta Foreman is having one of the best rushing seasons in school history and is approaching 2,000 yards. He’s one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award given to the nation’s top running backs. But he’s also coughed up some key fumbles, including a late one against Kansas that set-up the game-tying drive.
Texas’ Shane Buechele finally had a freshman-like game at Kansas, throwing a pick-six interception and another in overtime that set up the Jayhawks’ winning field goal. TCU’s Kenny Hill has thrown 12 interceptions and was pulled from last week’s blowout home loss to Oklahoma State.
The Horned Frogs’ KaVonte Turpin ripped Texas with four touchdowns in a 50-7 win last season. He missed four games this season with an injury, but has 13 catches and a touchdown in the last three games.
Texas middle linebacker Malik Jefferson missed most of the last two games with a head injury. His coaches hope their second-leading tackler, who has 4½ sacks, can return this week.
Strong’s players love him. More than 50 showed up for his Monday news conference, and they’ve put him on their shoulders after big wins before. Strong may get carried off again, win or lose, on Friday by a group of players who see him as much of a father figure as a coach.
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