When Charlie Strong was announced as the new head coach of the Texas Longhorns, fans and sports pundits knew the entire program would get a wake up call. Strong is all about tough love, and he's showing his firm hand by depriving Longhorn players of an iconic tradition.
In an interview with ESPN, Strong says that players can’t throw up the "Hook 'em Horns" hand sign until they earn the right to do so. "They’ll get it back one of these days," he tells ESPN.
For hardcore Horns fans, taking away "Hook 'em Horns" is akin to banning Shiner from a tailgate, but it’s important to see the grander picture of what Strong plans to accomplish.
The Mack Brown regime took UT's football program to unimaginable heights, but it all came crashing down due to one of the most lackadaisical atmospheres in college football. With championship titles and BCS bowl game wins, coaches and players felt like they had a right to their wins and five-star recruits. Fans also fell for the idea: it was their right to see the Longhorns win.
But, Strong is here now, and he’s ready to remind players that, just like "Hook 'em Horns," winning games is a privilege that only comes after effort and determination. This reminder comes in the more tangible form of revoking several privileges that players grew accustomed to under the previous staff: particularly getting bused to and from the practice fields.
It’s easy to focus on Strong taking away one of the university’s iconic traditions from the players, but he's working to build a tighter bond between staff and players. ESPN also details that Strong is literally opening his doors to players, making sure that he and the rest of his staff will be available when practice is over. And, Strong also leads by example: he runs and works out right alongside his team.
When Strong was hired, a common criticism was that he wouldn’t handle the public and the media like his genteel predecessor, but fans should note that being comfortable in front of the camera is nowhere near as important as being comfortable with the players and staff you are leading.
The next time we see this team flashing the iconic "Hook 'em Horns," we'll be looking at a stronger Longhorn family — and hopefully a tougher team.