Charlie Strong made one thing clear when he was introduced as Texas' head football coach Monday. He's here to win games.
He spoke of efforts to close the state's borders when recruiting, promised to instill an unwavering sense of toughness in his team and talked of plans to restore Longhorns football to its former glory.
But while Strong made sure to mention the tradition and history of the program he's taking over, he obviously made some history himself becoming the first African-American had football coach at Texas.
"I don't ever want to look at it as being the first. I want to look at it as I'm a coach and that's the way I want to be treated," Strong said. "Floyd Keith used to be the director of the Black Coaches Association. He said to me then, 'What you need to think about is the African-American coaches that you're representing right now who did not get the chances that you're getting... When you think about it, yes, this is a historical day."
Making his first major decision as Texas men's athletics director, Steve Patterson did not look to break a color barrier. He wanted a "teacher who can really help our young football players grow on the field and off", as well as "somebody who had charisma and personality."
"We did not set out on this coaching search to make a political statement, we set out to hire the best football coach we could hire," Patterson said. "Regardless of race, Charlie was the best candidate and we are excited to have him here. Hopefully, that is the way the world can operate."
Strong's hiring comes on the heels of the Supreme Court remanding the case Fisher v. Texas this June, a case in which the university is fighting to uphold its affirmative action admission policies. School president Bill Powers believes Strong's arrival is another step toward Texas becoming an even more diverse university.
"We've got the right football coach. All the things we were looking for are embodied in Charlie Strong," Powers said. "It's important we reflect the diversity of our state and our country so I think this is a very important moment for our university. It won't be the last. We've made tremendous strides in diversity over the last decade. A lot of people have worked very hard on that and this is another very important moment for our university."
Pam Wileford, one of eight members of the advisory committee appointed by Patterson to help him make this decision, also understands the historical significance of the hire.
"I think it's historic," said Wileford, former Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board chairwoman and United States ambassador. "I do think it's a great hire for a lot of reasons. He was not hired because of that. But he's a great football coach and he happens to be our first African-American football coach. I think that's great."
After Bryan Harsin left Texas to become Arkansas State's head coach, wide receivers Darrell Wyatt was promoted to co-offensive coordinator. While fellow co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite called the plays, Wyatt became the first African-American coordinator in Longhorns football history.
A little more than a year later, Texas now has its first African-American head football coach.
"He strikes me as somebody that is cognizant of the historic importance of being the African-American head coach Texas," said UT associate sociology professor Ben Carrington, whose research focuses on sport and race, among other subjects. "On the one hand he's aware of what's happened in the past, he clearly feels aggrieved about being overlooked for the top positions. He was a contemporary of Urban Meyer's. Urban Meyer is regarded as one of the best coaches in football. Meyer's gotten opportunities that Strong didn't. Now Strong has his opportunity."
What could add even more significance to Strong being hired is the fact that Texas fielded the last all-white national championship team in 1969. While pleased with the progress Texas has clearly made, Carrington said he was disappointed it took this long for the Longhorns to have a minority head football coach.
"It's also disappointing that he's not just the first head coach of the football team but the first African-American head coach of any men's team," Carrington said. "There is a very complicated and troubling history of giving African-American head coaches an opportunity not to be assistant coaches, not to be advisors, not to be recruiting but to say 'You're going to be the face of a program.' So I think this reminds of the continuing issues UT needs to address while we celebrate its historic significance."