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Former Texas Coach Charlie Strong Called Out In Court

Coach Charlie Strong had his leadership and his ability to do his job called into question by a Florida court on Wednesday. And yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds.

Getty Images - Ed Zurga

The ink is barely dry on coach Charlie Strong’s contract at South Florida and he’s already being called out by a local judge for the behavior of “his” players. Former USF player Ladarrius Jackson was at his “first appearance” court date on Wednesday morning in Tampa Florida on charges of sexual battery and false imprisonment when Judge Margaret Taylor made a point to question whether or not coach Strong has control of his team and if he is a good fit for USF.

“I graduated from USF, I’m an alumni, graduated from USF in 1989, long before there was a football team,” Taylor said to Jackson.  “And while USF may not be the top-ranked school in the nation, I was never ashamed of being an alum until now.

“Embarrassed and ashamed, Mr. Jackson. Let’s just say that my USF diploma is not proudly hanging in my office right now.

“And, I have a message for your coach, as well. Coach Strong, if you are listening, in the last couple of months there have been two arrests of your players for very violent felonies. This court, and I’m sure I’m not alone, questions whether you have control over your players. It’s fairly clear you do not have control of them off the field, and I guess only time will tell whether you have control over them on the field.

“I would implore you to think long and hard about whether being head coach at USF is a good fit for you before any other members of this community have to suffer at the hands of one of your players.

“Mr. Jackson, again assuming the facts surrounding your charges are true, your behavior is reprehensible.”

This is so out of line on so many levels, I am having a hard time processing it all. I’m just going to bullet point some thoughts here.

  • First, did she really take down her diploma from the wall? Because, that’s just dumb.
  • Judge Taylor appears to be what Florida calls a “first appearance” judge. It is her job to tell the defendant what they are being charged with and sets the arraignment date. At least that is my understanding. I’m not a lawyer, so I may be wrong on exactly how that works. However, the exact specifics don’t matter, the point is, she is way, way out of her depth here.
  • If the TV show “Cops” taught us anything, it’s that we know the judicial system is supposed to operate under a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. And while Jackson’s alleged actions are heinous, he still has that right. However, if anything, her speech completely insinuated his guilt before any arguments have even been made. Again, I’m not a lawyer, but I have to wonder it a decent defense attorney could argue misconduct here, and if Jackson has his case dismissed because of a technicality like that, then whose fault would it be that an alleged violent offender is back on the streets? Not Charlie Strong’s.
  • and I guess only time will tell whether you have control over them on the field.” …WTF? I don’t know what Judge Taylor would have to gain by publicly shaming coach Strong, but blaming him for the actions of players he has just met is extremely dumb. Taking cheap shots about whether or not he’s a good football coach is beyond asinine.  Frankly, she owes coach Strong an apology.
  • She seems more concerned with the fact that Jackson was a USF player than with what he accused of doing. I mean, in the court of law, how does Jackson being a football player at USF have any bearing on anything? From a judge-to-defendant point of view, whether he is a football player, a checker at Wal-Mart or living on his mamma’s couch, he’s either a bad dude or he isn’t. I don’t know how any rational thinking adult would expect a coach that didn’t even recruit him to be able to change that.
  • Coach Strong has a reputation of demanding his players hold themselves accountable and for doing the right thing. Almost to a fault when consider that dismissing players that didn’t meet his code of conduct most-likely cost him his job at Texas. It would have been a lot easier to win early if he had not torn down and rebuilt the roster from near scratch.
  • Lastly, people throw around slander and defamation of character a little too loosely, but in this case there may be a point. She is clearly attacking his character, in a very public way, while seemingly understanding very little about the situation. Now the second part of slander is that coach Strong would have to suffer some sort of financial loss, but she clearly targets his ability to do his job. Should USF take action against coach Strong (they won’t), he would have an argument against Judge Taylor.

Coach Strong has since issued a response addressing Judge Taylor’s concerns. Which is unfortunate, because it gives her statement more merit that it deserves.

“In the short time I have been here our program has been built on character, discipline and family. We have wonderful young men in the USF football program who choose to do the right thing every day. We are dedicated to recruiting young men of high character, and to consistently developing them with structure and frequent education regarding appropriate conduct and behavior, on and off the playing field. While I am shocked and saddened at the recent arrest of a member of our team, I am disappointed that the actions of two players over the last two months have harmed the reputation of our program, of our wonderful university and of my character.  We have high expectations of our coaches, staff and student-athletes and we hold accountable those who act contrary to our values.”

You can watch the exchange below. What do you think? Was the judge out of line, or should we demand more accountability from our coaches?

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