As Texas head coach Charlie Strong sat in his Moncrief office last Sunday morning, still savoring his team’s shutout victory over Kansas the day before, he received an unexpected phone call.
Troy Vincent, NFL’s executive vice-president of operations, whom Strong has known for quite a while, was calling. He and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell were in Austin visiting the headquarters of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and were hoping to meet up with Strong to discuss his commitment to his core values - treating women with respect, honesty, no stealing, no guns and no drugs - before they left town.
Sure enough, a couple hours later, Goodell and Vincent were overlooking Joe Jamail Field in Strong’s office while they picked the coach’s brain.
“Just talked about just dealing with young people,” Strong said of the meeting. “Trying to make sure that we help them and learn all about character. Then just how do we deal with some of the issues that we’re dealing with right now on this level.”
Amid a flurry of NFL player misconduct issues ranging from domestic violence to sexual assault, Goodell and Vincent clearly felt they could learn from Strong, who has demonstrated a penchant for discipline since arriving in Austin.
With high-profile athletes like Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy bringing the topic of domestic violence into the national eye, Strong has been lauded for what he’s done to combat misbehavior among athletes at the college level.
“I said to [Goodell] that what is happening in the NFL is we’re sending you some players of questionable character,” Strong said. “We have to do a better job in college of preparing these young men.”
Strong has preached a culture of discipline from the moment he stepped off the plane in Austin, but his recent actions have proven he’s about more than just saying the right thing.
The former Louisville boss has dismissed nine Longhorns and suspended three more in his nine months on campus, all for violations of team rules, which stem from his core values. Aside from the two players who were dismissed after being charged with sexual assault, it’s unknown which core value the other 10 athletes violated. But one thing is clear — regardless of who you are, if you do wrong, you will be punished accordingly under Strong’s rule.
“It doesn’t matter what level they are at — they’re all still looking for discipline, and you have to discipline players,” Strong said. “If we’re going to continue to let this happen, why are you going to say what you’re going to do and you don’t even do it?”
With so many athletes making headlines for all the wrong reasons, many have cited Strong as the kind of leader American sports desperately need.
NFL executives are taking notice, Texas administrators are taking notice — the Board of Regents is scheduled to endorse Strong’s values Friday — students on campus are taking notice, and, most importantly, Longhorn players are taking notice.
“Everybody respects Coach Strong, and I think that’s evident,” senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “The values that he’s brought in aren’t really anything new, but he shows the ability to stand by them and not bend or fold just because a player is a good athlete.”
In an era where the world of sports is dominated by the idea that winning takes care of everything, Strong is determined to take care of everything, then worry about winning.