No one likes getting kicked in the face, especially Texas Longhorn booster Red McCombs.
The billionaire let his feelings be known during a radio interview the same day Texas announced Charlie Strong as their head football coach.
“I think it is a kick in the face,” McCombs told ESPN 1250 in San Antonio. “Beyond the fact of what actually happened. We have boosters that have a lot of knowledge about the game. When we decided to go get Mack — from the time we decided to go get Mack to about 30 hours later to have a press conference here and it was done — we had a lot of input before we went after him.”
McCombs says he does not believe Strong is the right coach for the job, referring to him as a “fine coach”, but better suited as a “position coach or coordinator.”
McComb’s comments are not necessarily directed at Charlie Strong. The booster is clearly irked by new Athletic Director Steve Patterson, and the fact that he was left out of the decision process.
Patterson created a search committee to look for Texas’ next head coach. McCombs was not part of the committee. While the committee conducted its search, McCombs was doing the same. Jon Gruden’s name surfaced as McComb’s choice for the position. Patterson made no mention of Gruden being a candidate, and hired Strong to succeed Mack Brown.
“I was not on the search committee. I had no official role whatsoever,” McCombs told Dallas radio station KSEN-FM. “However, the people that were in charge were aware that I was talking to Jon and I was trying to develop some interest with Jon.”
McCombs went on to say he had no issue with Strong, rather “I just happen to think I had a champion of the world that could’ve done it.”
This sounds like a man with a bruised ego. McCombs wanted to be part of the hiring process. The problem is he was not on the committee. This is simply a booster who thinks he is bigger than the university.
Patterson’s move is a departure from the style of DeLoss Dodds. Dodds took over the athletic program in 1981 and guided Texas in its transition from the old Southwest Conference to the Big 12. He oversaw the renovation and expansion of Darrell K Royal stadium. He helped create the Longhorn Foundation, and left Texas with the largest annual athletic budget in the nation. You do not get these things done without cuddling up to people with deep pockets. Dodds and Mack Brown worked well with boosters and helped bring the program back to prominence. It is a different story for the new athletic director.
Patterson has been given the keys to the penthouse. He does not need to remodel it, only redecorate. It is his program and he should run it as he sees fit, even if it does ruffle some feathers.
McComb’s remarks set up what should be an interesting tenure for Patterson. Future clashes with boosters may be the new norm at Texas. The bottom line is Patterson has to hire his coaches. A coach with ties to boosters can jeopardize the chain of command. The Strong hire is a bold but dangerous move by the new AD. If the new coach ultimately fails, Patterson may be shown the door, as well. Texas fans should look at this as Patterson putting the athletic program above all other interests – even if one of those interests has donated millions to the university and has a business school named after him.
Welcome to University of Texas athletics, Steve Patterson and Charlie Strong. Good luck.