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Charlie Strong officially fired by Texas, for real this time

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A long saga ends.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Almost a week after the first reports of a decision to fire him, Texas is following through and cutting ties with head football coach Charlie Strong.

The full school release on Saturday:

After three seasons at Texas, Charlie Strong has been let go as the head football coach, Longhorns Men's Athletics Director Mike Perrin said on Saturday. Strong's Longhorns finished the regular season with a 5-7 record (3-6, Big 12). He finishes his three-year career at Texas with a 16-21 record (12-15, Big 12).

Statement from Mike Perrin, Men's Athletics Director:

"Decisions like this are tough to make. The responsibility is not taken lightly. I became friends with Charlie Strong before becoming Athletics Director. I have the utmost personal respect for him. His impact on college athletics and student-athletes should be celebrated. Coach Strong represented The University of Texas with class and dignity, and he demanded our student-athletes do the same by adhering to his system of core values. However, after thorough evaluation, the body of work over three seasons has not shown the improvement we were hoping for. This was an important year for our program to take the next step, and the results simply aren't there, so we've decided to make a change. We appreciate Coach Strong so much, are grateful for all he has done with our program and wish him the best in the future."

Statement from Charlie Strong:

"It's a very difficult day for me, my family and all of the people affected by this decision. I'm most disappointed for these kids and our staff who have poured so much of their lives into this program for the last three years. I do understand that it comes down to wins and losses, and we have not done our job in that area yet. I accept full responsibility for that, but know in my heart that we accomplished our primary goal, which is the development of young men. We have had a positive impact on our campus and the community, and I'm proud of how our team is focused on earning their degrees. We were developing something really special. This program has a championship foundation built on great young men with tremendous character. There are very bright days ahead, and I'll be pulling for these kids no matter where I am. I want to thank everyone who supported me and this program for the last three years. I don't regret coming to Texas. I learned a great deal and grew as a person in my time here. I'll miss the opportunity to lead this program going forward, but I'm ready to accept my next challenge."

Texas lost to TCU on Friday, leaving the Longhorns at 5-7 this year and 16-21 in his three years. After Strong lost last weekend at Kansas – the Horns’ first loss to the Jayhawks since 1938 – talk of his firing escalated. He spent this entire week in coaching purgatory, with his firing seeming almost certain but Texas not announcing any sort of decision on the matter.

The school was reportedly using the TCU game as a data point in evaluating Strong, which seemed odd given that Strong already had 36 games over three years to make his case. If any of this really came down to Saturday, that’s hard to defend. Strong’s body of work already was what it was, for better and for worse.

That Strong’s firing has been a protracted, public mess is not a surprise. Texas specializes in this sort of thing, as former football coach Mack Brown and basketball coach Rick Barnes can attest. To whatever extent everything really is bigger in Texas, the drama surrounding coach partings of the ways is certainly included.

Reports indicate Texas will likely hire Houston head coach Tom Herman. The second-year UH coach is the most obvious, slam dunk candidate for a top-end job since Urban Meyer left Utah for Florida after 2004, also his second year in his job at the time.

Strong is a good man, by all accounts. But that isn’t enough.

When word first leaked of Texas’ intentions to fire him a week ago, his players leaped to his defense on social media and reportedly briefly threatened a boycott. He’s fostered good relationships and seems like a real player’s coach:

Hang on, someone’s at the door to his office.

"Oooooh," says 2015 quarterback Jerrod Heard, opening the door and pointing at Strong. Next to him is fellow QB Tyrone Swoopes.

"Aye man, you OLD!" Swoopes says to Strong.

Strong, 56, tries not to laugh, but it overtakes him. He’s wearing a burnt orange Nike coaches polo and khaki shorts. This is the uniform for Texas’ local media day, plus a bit of personal flair: white tube socks and khaki Birkenstock sandals.

News of this ensemble has been quickly texted around the facility. Heard and Swoopes reach for their phones.

Swoopes: "You so old."

Heard: "Oh my goodness."

Swoopes: "My goodness."

Heard: "I thought you was younger."

Strong rolls his eyes.

Strong: "I just look young. Black don’t crack."

This sends the pair into stitches and out of the room.

"Normally, they just walk in here like that. That door is never shut," Strong says.

Strong hasn’t gotten Texas in any kind of NCAA trouble. He’s been a model citizen by every public account. People like him. And he had two particularly great moments: a win against eventual Playoff team Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry last year, and a season-opening triumph this year against a Notre Dame team that turned out to be slightly worse than we thought at the time. There was happiness, sometimes.

But at Texas, that’s not sufficient. At Texas, you have to win regularly, and Strong didn’t. He never, ever did better than hovering near .500, and Texas didn’t sniff a Big 12 – let alone national – championship during his tenure.

So Strong is out with two years left on a five-year contract, and Texas is on the hook to pay him more than $10 million for the life of that deal. The Longhorns decided that was preferable to the status quo, and now they’ll have to prove they were right.