The search for Texas' next head coach has apparently reached the critical juncture.
Louisville head coach Charlie Strong is set to interview for the job with Longhorns athletic director Steve Patterson, Orangebloods.com reported, adding that Strong has been recommended to Patterson by the search firm assisting with the process.
Strong makes sense. He has been successful in his four-year tenure overseeing the Cardinals, helping develop Teddy Bridgewater into one of the nation's top quarterbacks and taking the program to a Big East championship and BCS bowl.
So too would James Franklin of Vanderbilt, who has already met with Patterson, per the report, and Mark Dantonio of Michigan State, who could be next on Patterson's docket of interviews. They also have experience in building programs, with the Spartans set to play in their first Rose Bowl since 1988 and the Commodores a decidedly un-Vandy-like 17-8 over the last two seasons.
All three would bring structure to a program that didn't always seem certain of what it wanted to do in the final years of Mack Brown's reign, provided Patterson can navigate the internal and external pressures associated with Texas football.
A group of former Texas players endorsed Baylor coach Art Briles prior to Brown's swan song in the Alamo Bowl, according to the report, while well-heeled boosters are still pushing for Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, even with the ink still drying on that contract extension. One donor still favors the pipedream candidacy of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, while newly ousted Bucs coach Greg Schiano is expressing interest. Mark Richt of Georgia has been mentioned. Former athletic director DeLoss Dodds even advocated for embattled Florida coach Will Muschamp.
(All of this after having already dealt with the lurking, delusional specter of Nick Saban, mind you.)
Patterson could be pulled in disparate directions by all those conflicting constituencies at the exact time he needs to project unity to land the strongest candidate available, to try and bring a divided program together. There is already the ongoing battle between president Bill Powers and Gov. Rick Perry, being played out through Perry's appointees on the board of regents.
Patterson seemingly has a realistic understanding for where Texas is and what coach it can hire at this moment. Whether anyone else involved can give him the opportunity to execute that vision could decide whether Texas ends up right back where it started in a few years time.