Trouble on the 40 Acres
Ever since a dark and stormy night in Provo, Utah, a few weeks ago, things have been downright abysmal for the Texas Longhorns football team and just as embarrassing for fans. Another blowout loss to Ole Miss at home, and it appeared that Mack Brown might have lost any and all support to stay at the helm as head coach.
But we’re not here to summarize what’s been going wrong with the football team each week. At this point, does it really matter whether it’s David Ash or Case McCoy starting under center or if the defense is just lacking the right coordinator or scheme?
Despite the prospect of a changing of the guard with athletics director DeLoss Dodds stepping down, SI still sees rough waters ahead, with dysfunction trickling down from the top.
Alumni and fans may have lost faith in Texas football, but now they can get shaken up about the whole athletics department — and university, for that matter — thanks to an incisive piece from Sports Illustrated that highlights the cracks appearing in what was once a solid foundation.
The headline of columnist Pete Thamel's article puts forward a question that Longhorns have been asking themselves for several seasons: “What happened to the once-dominant Texas athletics program?” The piece looks not only at the issues surrounding the fall of Mack Brown’s team, but also at the rapid decline of UT’s basketball and baseball teams.
Many of the details brought forward to tell the tale of the department’s decline don’t come as a surprise to fans, who have been aware of everything from a lack of high-caliber recruiting crops to teams aching for meaningful bowl game and tournament wins. Once it’s all thrown together, though, it provides a chilling image of what the future holds, and it will make tailgaters down even more Shiner.
Thamel emphasizes the grand frustration that things went so wrong so quickly. It was just three years ago that the Longhorns challenged Alabama for a national title. There was a basketball program that featured the likes of Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge not too long ago, but now it can only dream of an invitation to the Big Dance. Even the once reliably good baseball team has been fighting in recent years to make a modest amount of progress in the College World Series.
Despite the prospect of a changing of the guard with athletics director DeLoss Dodds stepping down, Thamel still sees rough waters ahead, with dysfunction trickling down from the top. Everyone is aware of the infighting between UT president Bill Powers and members of a board of regents with more allegiance to Aggie Gov. Ricky Perry than to UT — and this feuding collection of regents will choose the next AD.
It’s this same group that is trying to hash out the future of an entire university that fell six spots in the latest U.S. News & World Report's academic rankings. Politics and allegiances may very well have a negative effect on the massive cash cow that is UT athletics, but the education and future of students in the coming years may also hang in the balance, as tuition and enrollment will continue to be important issues.
Realizing the extent to which UT football has fallen is sobering enough. But the threat to academics is a real punch to the gut.