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Culture Change at Texas

Some notes from the player meetings.

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

This was all relayed to me 2nd and 3rd hand by good people.

Strong and his coaches met with the team and outlined their expectations.  He followed that with individual meetings with key players and 2014 seniors.  The meeting was "very intense", but there was no yelling or drill sergeant act.  No theater.  Just a detailing of how things are going to be from now on.  No one was thanked for being there.  No one was patted on the back for being at Texas.

Strong expectations:

  1. Players will attend all of their classes and sit in the front two rows of all of their classes.  GAs, academic folks, position coaches will be checking constantly now.
  2. No headphones in class.  No texting in class.  Sit up and take notes.
  3. If a player misses a class, he runs until it hurts.  If he misses two classes, his entire position unit runs.  If he misses three, the position coach runs.  The position coaches don't want to run.
  4. No earrings in the football building.  No drugs.  No stealing.  No guns.  Treat women with respect.
  5. Players may not live off campus anymore, unless they're a senior who hits certain academic standards. The University will buy out the leases for every player currently living off campus and put them in the athletic dorm.
  6. The team will all live together, eat together, suffer together, and hang out together.  They will become a true team and learn to impose accountability on each other.  The cliques are over.
  7. There's no time for a rebuild.  "I don't have time for that."  The expectation is that Texas wins now.
  8. Players will learn that they would rather practice than milk a minor injury.
  9. The focus is on winning and graduating.  Anything extraneous to that is a distraction and will be stamped out or removed.
  10. Strong met individually with seniors and key leaders and re-emphasized that the plan is to win now. They can lead the new culture or be run over by it.
  11. "I don't want to talk about things.  I'd rather do things.  We just talked.  Now it's time to do."
Some quick context and thoughts of my own:
- A large number of sophomore, junior, and senior players live off of campus.  They get a generous housing allowance and if they live somewhere cheap, they can pocket the difference.  The other appeal is that they have a lot more freedom and they can get away from the watchful eye of the program.  Strong thinks it undermines the team, causes underutilization of training resources, encourages players to hang out with old friends who want to drag them down, and creates cliques.   Off campus rights will now be earned.
- Some of Strong's core values may seem incongruous ("no guns") with the current team or historical culture here, but Louisville generally recruited from an edgier crowd.  We do have some knuckleheads though - and the larger message of not acting like a clown is important.
- Some of the players still don't understand that Strong's message was specifically to them.  Brown's last years were focused on talking about things with no follow up.  He was also absent from the team constantly and had little read on the mood or culture of the locker room.  Some players may still be under the impression that this is more chatter with no follow through.  They're in for a rude awakening.  Their bad habits are about to be brought to light.
- We'll have some transfers.  Some of them will be good players - some may even excel elsewhere.  Any school teacher will tell you it's easy to start the year as a harsh disciplinarian and then ease up as you gain trust, but it's nearly impossible to start weak and then try to regain control.  Some players simply won't be able to handle the new world.