AUSTIN, Texas (AP) In a surprise escalation of the efforts to revive Texas' struggling football program, school President Greg Fenves, football coach Charlie Strong and Athletic Director Mike Perrin flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma, Friday night in an effort to woo Golden Hurricane assistant coach Sterlin Gilbert to be the Longhorns' offensive coordinator.
Gilbert had interviewed with Strong this week but reportedly turned down an offer Friday. Hours later, as the Texas fan base vented on internet message boards, Fenves tweeted a statement strongly supporting Strong and then boarded a plane to go meet Gilbert.
Details of the meeting with were not immediately available but video footage showed Gilbert meeting with the Longhorns entourage outside of a Tulsa home.
The effort to woo Gilbert was an extraordinary move by Texas administrators to snare an assistant coach who wasn't Strong's first choice for the job but could still be tantamount in helping turn around a struggling program after consecutive losing seasons.
Gilbert is the co-offensive coordinator at Tulsa but isn't the lead play caller and just four years ago was coaching high school in nearby Temple, Texas. Tulsa (6-6) faces Virginia Tech (6-6) in the Dec. 26 Independence Bowl.
Earlier Friday, after reports surfaced that Gilbert turned down Texas, Fenves tweeted his full support for Strong, adding, ''I am committed to helping him move Longhorn Football forward.''
Perrin, who was initially brought on as interim athletic director in September and given the permanent job earlier this month, also has stated full support for Strong.
Next season, Strong will be in the third year of a five-year contract that pays more than $5 million per year. He has been interviewing candidates for offensive coordinator to rejuvenate one of the worst offenses in the Big 12.
Strong initially interviewed TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, who turned down an offer this week. On Friday, multiple reports had Gilbert initially ready to accept the job, only to reverse course and stay with the Golden Hurricane.
The struggles to hire a top assistants have raised questions and anxiety among Texas fans about their program's stature within the Big 12 and nationally.
Since playing for the national title after the 2009 season, Texas is 41-35. Strong is 11-14 in two seasons.