Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Fall of the House that Vince Built

Vince Young, Mack Brown and Mickey MouseIt’s amazing that less than two seasons ago, The University of Texas Longhorns were on top of the world. They had just won their first National Championship in decades by winning a game many consider to be one of the greatest college football games ever. The University of Texas then went on to set the all time record for merchandise sold in a year, $8.2 million in licensing royalties, following the school’s BCS championship (Link). The Texas football program was no longer just the toast of Austin or of the State of Texas, it was, albeit for a very brief period, America’s Team. And yet here we are, less than two years removed from that fateful season and my how everything’s changed.

Since last June, 6 Texas Longhorns football players have been arrested on numerous charges all more shocking than the last. Any time I hear the terms “D.U.I.” or “felony counts of obstruction and tampering,” I get sick to my stomach. Here are Student Athletes being given the great opportunity to represent my alma mater and be given a free education, yet chose to throw it all away for a good time. Then came the Austin American Statesman’s article about the UT Athletic Department’s spending, you can read it here. Did you know the University of Texas spends over $100 million a year on its athletics department? And yet even though Texas spends more than almost any other school, “UT has made a deliberate decision to limit the intercollegiate sports it supports” (Link).

Texas Head Coach Mack BrownThe fact is college athletics, and the University of Texas Athletics Department more specifically, is blatantly becoming less about education and more about Big Business. This isn’t new information or even a new idea. But, when the amount of college student athletes on the 40 Acres is decreasing while spending is at an all time high, we just need to come right out and admit it and stop pretending it’s something else. And you know what? At the end of the day I’m ok with that. I’ll admit I’m a diehard Longhorns fan and I want what’s best for my School and its Student Athletes. But what I’m not ok with is the way the school is running its biggest business and definitely biggest cash cow. No other corporation would allow what is going on with its employees and its product like what's happening at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The way the Texas Longhorns football team is playing and acting on and off the field, right under its Head Coach’s nose, is abysmal and unacceptable.

This team has become an embarrassment not only to The University of Texas, but to its current Students, Alumni and the State they are so often referred to by. It’s not just their many arrests but also their play on the field. Anyone who says winning isn’t important is kidding themselves. Do you have any idea how much Longhorn ticket holders have to “donate” just for the opportunity to buy season tickets? These aren’t donations, they’re what is known in the NFL as Permanent Seat Licenses (PSLs). Don’t get me wrong, I know this same thing is taking place at colleges with big athletic programs all across the country but that’s not the point. When people are spending that kind of money just for the right to then purchase tickets, try telling them that winning isn’t important. It’s the school that’s turned their football team into a business, not the fans.

Coach BrownThis brings us to the big issue at hand, when a company is not meeting expectations, constantly underperforming and always in the news getting bad press, who should take the blame? The only answer I can come up with is Head Coach Mack Brown. And typically when a corporation sinks this low, the board of directors doesn’t just sit idly by and watch, they spring into action and call for changes to be made. I believe it’s time for the School President, Athletic Director and countless boosters to finally come together and demand changes from Coach Brown.

Mack is a great recruiter, he’s a great politician and is everyone’s best friend, but what he’s not is a great football coach. The problem is that while most successful leaders, in any industry, realize their strengths and weaknesses and then surround themselves with people who can help with their deficiencies, Mack refuses to do that. Instead of finding the best assistant coaches who are able to be strict, know how to prepare before the game and come up with new and revolutionary game plans, Mack sticks with his faithful minions who haven’t had a new idea in years. On top of it all, he’s unwilling to make the tough calls like forcing his Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis to resign. If I have to watch one more pass to a WR standing at the line of scrimmage about to get lit up by the defender two yards away from him or another handoff from the shotgun position to a standing still Jamal Charles only to have any holes in the offensive line closed before he can even make it to the line of scrimmage, I’m going to tear what little hair I have left out. How does last year’s Defensive Secondary comprised of three future NFL first round picks get torched by every quarterback it faces!? Because the coaches have no idea what to do with the talent they have and don’t properly prepare their players. Texas puts way too many players into the NFL not to be dominate every year, but then again how many players can you think of that have left the school as a better player than when they arrived?

Mack BrownMack seems to have has lost control of this team and has once again proven he can’t win the big game without Vince Young. It’s a knock against his coaching legacy that still follows him even after winning that elusive national championship. Many of the Longhorn faithful thought that the old Mack had been cleansed from our program once the great and might VY arrived. The truth is Texas won all those games in spite of Mack and Greg Davis, not because of them. Vince won those games because of his ability and in game decisions, not because of coaching decisions or game plans. It’s time to bring in someone who will display some authority, either as an assistant, associate or position coach. Make these players accountable for their actions before they commit their next crime, not after it. It’s time to let go of the dead weight, finally let Greg Davis retire with some dignity and fire these so called co-Defensive Coordinators. Bring in some coaches with some swagger, intensity and a thirst for victory to lead these young men into battle. Let’s prove to the country why “We’re Texas.”
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