On Tuesday, junior offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle was dismissed from the University of Texas football team. This news likely wouldn't have attracted much attention if Estelle hadn't been the ninth player kicked off the team since March.
Jim Vertuno covers the Longhorns for the Associated Press and joined Bill Littlefield to discuss the dismissals at Texas.
BL: Jim, first-year head coach Charlie Strong laid out the following core values back in January: no drugs, no guns, no stealing, be honest and treat women with respect. So, which of these rules have nine Longhorns found it impossible to follow?
Strong is definitely facing some serious challenges this season, even if he didn't have the dismissals.Jim Vertuno, Associated Press college football reporter
JV: Well, that's a really good question because there seems to be a multitude of infractions. There were a couple of guys kicked off the team after they got in some very serious legal trouble with felony sexual assault charges, which are still pending. Those have not yet been resolved. And there's been a rash of other guys kicked off for the always-nebulous "violation of team rules." We don't really know what those are yet. They won't say, under federal privacy laws.
But, there was a good piece of journalism in the local paper here that noted that Charlie Strong has dramatically increased the number of drug tests of these players over the last eight months.
BL: Coach Strong was hired to turn around a program that has not won more than nine games in a season since 2009 — obviously not acceptable down there in Texas. But he's obviously interested in more than just winning football games.
JV: Yeah, Charlie says he's interested in molding young men too. And some of the panic over the number of dismissals, he's kind of had to step back and say, "Look, I don't want to kick guys off the team. I'm here to help them. It's kind of a last resort."
And his defensive coordinator Vance Bedford came out and said, "If we're going to be criticized for that, so what? This is the program we're trying to build. We're trying to build something that families are going to want to send their sons to play for."
BL: The nine players had combined for 1,494 yards rushing, 576 receiving yards, 28 touchdowns and 38 tackles. Is Texas a weaker team without these guys?
JV: Frankly, yes. One of the things that's been interesting about Strong here, he's not been afraid to make the good players follow the same disciplinary rules as the guys you've never heard of. It's definitely hurt in the short term. We'll see what develops over the long run, but Strong has clearly been willing to say they have to do it his way, regardless of how important they have been in the past.
BL: The Longhorns also lost quarterback David Ash this week. He retired from the game after struggling with concussion-related symptoms over the course of the past year. Should Longhorns fans be adopting a "wait until next year" approach at this point?
JV: That would seem to be the healthy approach. In a place like Texas, where emotions certainly run high, you have to look at everything that's going on with Texas to understand what Charlie Strong is up against. It's not just dismissals. He inherited a program that clearly had taken a step back just in terms of general talent on the field, and then he lost his starting quarterback. He lost valuable experience and some pretty good talent there with Ash. Strong is definitely facing some serious challenges this season, even if he didn't have the dismissals.
This segment aired on September 27, 2014.