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July 22, 2014
Character comes first for Charlie Strong
DALLAS - Texas coach Charlie Strong has been very clear about the type of players he wants in Austin. He needs men who are willing to do the right thing. Guys who go to class. Those who do not break the law. A group of individuals that abides by his five core values.
And he is not playing around.
"If you don't want to be a part of this football team, break a core value," Strong said during Big 12 Media Days. "Then you're telling me you don't want to be here, starter or no starter."
Strong is so serious, he recently banned four players from team activities inside the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center.
When asked about what occurred, Strong did not give a politically-correct answer. He did not dance around the topic. Strong did not deny it occurred.
Instead, Strong embraced the opportunity to reiterate everything he embodies.
"What caused them to lose the right to go into Moncrief?," Strong said. "Not going to class, not doing what I asked them to do. Those little things. It's very simple. We make this business hard. We make things very hard. Just do what you're supposed to do. I look at these four guys to my right (at media days), and they've done everything that I've asked of them. If you're part of a team and can't do what we ask of you, then you probably need to go start your own team."
The first-year coach acknowledged the ongoing sexual assault inquiry involving two of his players, and the allegations of his players meeting with an agent this offseason. He did not give any details, but you get the feeling Strong will not back away addressing those off-the-field issues at the appropriate time.
For now, Strong is focused on implementing what he started after being named Texas' coach.
"We you talk about core values, it's very simple," Strong said. "It's something they grew up on. When you talk about honesty, when you talk about treating women with respect, when you talk about no drugs, no stealing, no guns, that's something that they've grown up with. It's not something where I had to come in and hammer them and hammer. They see it. It's all over our building. If you want to go downstairs in the meeting room, core values. If you walk into the locker room, core values. They're plastered all over the building. It's nothing that I really had to hammer with them because they understand. When you have leadership, which we're beginning to develop right now, then guys will really start focusing and locking in."
Strong's critics may not like his approach, but there is one major problem.
His players have embraced Strong's no-nonsense policy.
Just ask Longhorns defensive end Cedric Reed.
"I think it was much needed," Reed said. "Being in this program three or four years, something needed to change. I think that's exactly what it was. I think that's the formula for success. I think it's what we needed, and that's what I preach to the guys on the defensive line, the guys I talk to a lot. I think it's right. I think the struggles we're going through right now will eventually lead to success."
Reed did not back away from his support of Strong.
"I feel like there were a lot of guys who were undisciplined, just feeling like they can do their own thing," Reed said. "I think there wasn't a lot of leadership on this team. What he's doing right now is much needed."
Longhorn running back Malcolm Brown agreed.
"It's good for us," Brown said. "There's no reason for somebody to be out and getting into trouble and doing the wrong things. You've had guys come through here and be successful, and you don't hear about them in the news, Twitter, or nothing like that. It can be done. They [coaches] say that all the time. It can be done. Their main goal for us is to come through college, graduate, first of all, and be a better man when you come out."
Brown is correct.
Instead of making excuses for bad behavior, Strong is holding player's accountable. He previously dismissed defensive back Leroy Scott and fullback Chet Moss. He is waiting for the outcomes of the current investigations, plus is giving the four players currently banned from the athletic facility a chance for redemption, which shows his level of understanding. Strong is just not willing to be a pushover, and his players appreciate the accountability.
"That's just a part of being a man," Brown said. "Just going out, every decision you make can affect everyone else in life. For sure, I do appreciate it."
Strong's approach is easy to respect.
After 32 years of coaching, and being a part of two national titles, Strong knows with exactly what kind of players he works best. Strong does not want the impulsive players whose bad decisions bring negative attention to his school and the football program. He is not a fan of guys who are not interested in respecting rules.
Strong is not going to make excuses for players just because they have talent.
Instead, Strong understands they are student-athletes, and is very concerned about the academic portion of that equation. He understands disciplined players make better decisions on the football field, and in life. Strong wants players he can trust.
Throughout this process, Strong has been careful not to disrespect former coach Mack Brown. The establishment of these expectations reflects more on Strong's leadership style as opposed to criticizing Brown.
"I followed an unbelievable coach in Coach Brown, and never would I ever question how he did things, even with his discipline," Strong said. "There's been no push back, and you can tell because there's been no resentment in the program. When you have no pushback and no resentment, you know the discipline is there. It's just now a matter of them doing what they have to do."
By the way, this is not a democracy.
"I tell them [what is expected]," Strong said. "They don't get a chance to sit back and say there's no discussion. I'm going to tell them what needs to be said. There's no discussion. It's not one where you get to raise your hand and tell me what you think."
Strong is not playing around.