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What The Hell Is Going On? A Promised Culture Change.

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Will Texas be able to field 11 players this Fall?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In January of 2014, I wrote an article that blew up the Longhorn internets and radio waves for a day or two - that is if 1,862 re-tweets and 62,000 Facebook shares constitutes blowing up.  It's worth giving a re-read.  Because it's all in there.  If you want to understand the last 24 hours - and the next 48 - give it a skim.

The article was straightforward, not particularly inspired writing, and communicated things that were obvious if you knew anything about Charlie Strong.  It wasn't really even insider information, though the context of its release was given that it occurred in private player meetings.  It outlined the Culture Change that was coming to Texas.  We didn't know Strong, so it was interesting to us.

We know him better now, don't we?

With six players  - two starters and two significant role players - dismissed in the last 24 hours (and more on the way), I thought revisiting it might be particularly relevant.  The last two paragraphs were a pretty solid foreshadowing of what's going down right now:

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.
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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.

The Texas players didn't know Strong either.  They thought this was more Mack Chat.  Now they're starting to learn. No one is exempt.  There's nowhere to hide.  Action rules over talk.

Strong identified the bad apples early (and bad fruit takes many forms for Strong - it's not just about legalistic rule-breaking, it's about comportment and character), put them on highly supported, easy-to-follow academic, disciplinary and character-building plans and monitored them over several months, both directly and through his proxies in the staff, S&C and academic support.  Folks who are all aligned with Strong.  No place to hide.  No coach to smooth things over for you, because he wants you starting for his position group.  Strong's assistants are a united fist.  Good luck trying to find a finger to twist.

Along the way, he administered surprise drug tests (beyond NCAA standards), forced players to meet with tutors daily, followed up on their commitments and mercilessly tracked down and confronted dishonesty or laziness. Parents were brought up to speed and every bit of bad action was brought to light.  It was up to the player to change. The tools for that change were laid at their feet.  They simply had to cast down their bucket where they were.

The bizarre thing is, by most college football team's standards, we're on the good side of the bell curve.  The things Strong won't tolerate are offenses many coaches made peace with years ago.  Some out of mercenary interest, some of out pure exhaustion.  Some live in simple denial.

For Strong, this isn't just about football.  He's trying to change a culture that he despises that has a grip on far too many young men.  These aren't frivolous dismissals.  Nor is it a power trip.  Trying to change how Texas plays football is secondary to his main mission: changing how his players approach life.  He believes doing the latter will lead to long-term success in the former.

Can changing lives, even at the cost of short term football success, get him enough wins to stick around and change more?  We're about to find out.