Commentary: A “Kick in the Face” to Charlie Strong’s Talent

AUSTIN, TX - JANUARY 6: The University of Texas Longhorns new head football coach Charlie Strong from Louisville flashes the "Hook 'Em Horns" sign after being introduced during a press conference January 6, 2014 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  (Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Commentary: A “Kick in the Face” to Charlie Strong’s Talent

Billionaire Red McCombs discounts credentials of Charlie Strong, who was hired to coach the Texas Longhorns.

Published January 17, 2014

So, that’s what the hiring of a Black man to coach the Texas Longhorns is, eh?

Stupidity like this must have made Charlie Strong boil like a crockpot of Texas chili after he heard one influential booster, Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, offer an assessment of him so unflattering that, if the word “racist” weren’t so overused, Strong and his supporters might have used it.

"I think the whole thing is a bit sideways," McCombs said in an interview. "I don't have any doubt that Charlie is a fine coach. I think he would make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator.

"But I don't believe [he belongs at] what should be one of the three most powerful university programs in the world right now at UT-Austin. I don't think it adds up."

What Strong did was just give the octogenarian with a bankroll in the billions a shrug and then moved on. He saw no good in exchanging verbal gunfire with McCombs, a man with more money than good sense.

Besides, aren’t the eternally ignorant entitled to their opinions?

His apology notwithstanding, McCombs put himself in the camp of UT fans that have not been Strong supporters; they are plentiful. Any bandwagon their new coach had wasn’t moving too fast, which gives men like McCombs time to jump aboard.

Yet no one in Longhorn country can doubt that Strong, the former University of Louisville coach, wasn’t the football program’s first choice. Had Alabama coach Nick Saban been willing — Saban wasn’t — Texas boosters would have courted him like LeBron James when he was a free agent.

But a football program at the University of Texas hasn’t been the shining star it used to be — not in the last five or six years.

Will it be again?

Yes, because the state of Texas is too rich in talent for the Longhorns to stay among the also-rans of big-time football for long; they will have their revival, which is what McCombs must know.

Still, the pettiness in how he dismissed Strong as no more than an offensive coordinator speaks to how people often view Blacks who try to land jobs like Texas. They all seem to “lack the necessities,” a phrase the old Los Angeles Dodger GM Al Campanis made infamous when talking about the absence of Black managers in baseball, to do more than play the game or to serve in second-line roles.

Their pedigrees bring the same scrutiny that President Obama’s birth records do. The critics want to make suspect whatever a Black man like Strong does. They criticize him; they question his credentials; and they point to flaws where none exist.

Of course, even the believers in the no-nonsense Strong can’t promise he will duplicate the success he had at Louisville or that Kevin Sumlin, another Black coach, has had at rival Texas A&M. What people like the uber-rich McCombs do understand, though, is that Texas football was stuck in mediocrity under Mack Brown; their Longhorns needed to reboot; and Strong was the coach picked to handle it.

To question Strong, as McCombs did so disrespectfully last week, is to give life to the lie that being Black in America is never as good as being white in America.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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Follow Justice B. Hill on Twitter: @jbernardh

(Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images) 

Written by Justice B. Hill


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