I read U-Sports’ Matthew Zemak’s Big 12 todays feature on football coaches in the conference. His hot seat analysis outlined who might possibly be let go at the end of the 2016–17 collegiate football season in the popular south mid-western conference. His two candidates Dana Holgorsen and Texas head coach Charlie Strong seemed to be in his opinion the only two coaches coming into the season, that could be receiving pink slips, barring the success they could have with their teams.
Holgrosen, who is entering his 4th season with the mountaineers of West Virginia, has finished with a record of 36–28 and a record of 2–2 in bowls. I’ll bet for a university, that didn’t grab the nation’s attention as a force in football until about approximately ten years ago, with their upset victory over UGA in the Sugar Bowl, they aren’t holding any gripes with a head coach that was once known as an offensive wizard, that hasn’t really coordinated much offense and or a National Championship.
Since taking over the team that had some the nation’s top recruit’s thanks in part to the foundation lead by the late Bill Stewart and Rich Rodriguez. Since 2012, after demolishing a young Clemson tigers team 70–30 by racking up over 400 yards passing this team hasn’t been quite the air-show as advertised. In that Orange Bowl appearance, first rounder’s Geno Smith and Steadman Bailey continued to make highlight after highlight in that game.
Statistically, they aren’t even averaging as many passing yards that they’ve had in those years past, before Holgorsen took over for them.
Anyone that’s followed Holgosen trail knows that his trump card going into the many interviews that he was offered after breaking records as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State was that he utilized, always, getting the ball out into open space. It’s a trait of the popular no-huddle offense but, since those offensive fireworks that were shown in the orange bowl when he served as interim coach for West Virginia the explosives have dried. The past couple of seasons, it looks his teams have been running into defenders.
Some would say it’s a lack of his efforts on the recruiting trail, his failure to bring in ballers like Smith and Bailey. Perhaps it was the switch to another conference in his 2nd season as the team then joined the Big 12? Valid arguments for a person who is considered one of the best offensive-minded coaches in the college game today. Offense sells tickets.
It sells so much that the fans in Morgantown have no problem going to games and seeing the blue and gold have season lows in scoring and ppg since Rich Rodriguez left and when things became rough between his old boss Bill Stewart, while he was the offensive coordinator, he had many in his corner denying him of any wrongdoing. A nice path carved for someone who always and doesn’t have a problem playing the back of things.
Showing the skills off for one night was one thing but the consistency just seems not to be there and after this season a change would be valid for WVU to make. For most coaches in college football tho, a bowl game invitation is a backdoor in terms of saving your job. Granted his record is exactly at .500, it doesn’t appear to many — and in particularly the op-ed from Zemak- that Holgorsen will be let go at the end of the season even if it looks like they’ll finish the season in the bottom of the big 12 regular season standings, finish sub pariningly with a 6–6 record or worst 5–7. None of that matters, his job is safe.
The other potential firing that Zemak prescribed was that of 3rd-year coach Charlie Strong. Strong who was the biggest draw in Florida, besides the actual selling points in a recruiting process from 2005–2009, was able to get some of the biggest high school defensive players to come to Gainesville while they collected 2 national championships, a couple of SEC titles and getting some of his former players some of that beautiful first round NFL salary money.
In 2010, the team broke down, and The three minds that were able to maximize the skill abilities of players like Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Spikes, Janoris Jenkins, Joe Haden all parted ways universally. The head coach Urban Meyer, Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen and Strong who was the defensive general, all took on different roles in new places.
Strong’s case for leaving and taking over the Louisville Cardinal’s in his first three years as a head coach wasn’t really a dream deferred tho. Despite going on to win a sugar bowl over UF ironically, and getting Teddy Bridgewater the just deserts of life a job as the franchise quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, Strong always wanted to stay at Florida. It’s where he began as a GA and where he got his master’s degree from. In fact, Strong who had been the D coordinator for Florida officially since 2003 also was the only coach to be retained when, during the notable coaching change from then-head coach Ron Zook to Urban Meyer took place.
Strong’s been through a lot but none like this before. His ability to prove his worth was matched with his first two seasons in Louisville. That success always warrants spotlight (sorry just saw the movie.) Strongs’ success was so impressive that Texas ,who was unsure how to fire a coach that got them back into that same spotlight, wanted to take a chance with him and offered him a million dollar a year contract in Austin, well below the yearly salary of some of the other coaches in the division.
Strong’s first 3 seasons surely has been met with criticism. A style of coaching that worked very well up and down the east coast was met with opposition forcing him to kick a couple players off the team. Throw in the inability to score in what many consider a scoring league, it brews an elixir of trouble for the coaster in the hot seat that is reclined for him to sit in.
Again, this idea that he should be considered to be relieved of his duties existed even before he got there off the fact alone that this would be a first, for Texas to hire a black head coach for their beloved football program and that Strong had a white wife.
From the outside, its almost laughable that someone who accomplished so much, was offered a 5 year, 5 million dollar contract. In his first three years as coach, for Strong to beat their biggest rival in Oklahoma,a game that usually has national championship implications and to lose another game on a muffed punt against Oklahoma State, isn’t very condescending to the fact that he shouldn’t keep his job. In parallel to the criticisms of Holgorsen, Strong, who started his career as a receiving coach, knows defense wins’ championships, obliviously. That hasn’t changed while he’s moved from school to school and it doesn’t seem to be the case while he’s the coach at Texas either.
The program that Strong is at, boasts an even bigger tradition of excellence that had been preached from his days as a GA and while being the Defensive coordinator at Florida. In Texas football is king no matter the level. The past 20 years their collegiate football programs have seemingly been the only avenues for a source of pride and something to cheer for its residents in the state. Even as recently as the University of Texas 2006 national championship parade ended, College football in Texas was able to provide fans in the state with two Heisman- winning quarterbacks in Johnny Manziel (2013) and Robert Griffin III (2012). The two schools that they played for just so happened to be rivals of the team that Strong coaches.
So far Strong has a losing record overall and a .500 record in conference. For a two-time national championship assistant coach and previous head coach, it wouldn’t be hard to see why many scratch their head at the results. Holgorsen too. Both are right dead and center in what has become a new world of college football, the world where you can still contend for titles despite losing one or two games. Before the playoffs were a thing, it was unheard of any team losing up to 5 games, being considered to play on new years’ day. But thanks to the new systems it’s possible and it is also possible, unfortunately, that Charlie Strong could be gone at the end of the season if they don’t lose less.