With four arrests in two months, plus the transfers of tackles J'Marcus Webb and Roy Watts after they failed out of school, the Longhorns have suffered their worst offseason summer of news since Mack Brown arrived in Austin. For years, both Mack Brown and his army of fans have proudly chest-thumped about the efforts Mack Brown makes to recruit kids and the program's image as a clean, strong one.
Now, that image is being called into question. Rival message boards are lighting up with schadenfreude as Sooners and Aggies alike yell out "Book 'Em Horns!"
I really don't want to be talking about this - believe me, I don't - but when Texas has had as many arrests over the past fifteen months as any school in the country, there's a real problem, and it simply has to be addressed.
We'll try to break this down by the various talking points floating around and go from there.
It probably isn't fair to the other kids in the program, but that's life. What are we supposed to do? Pretend Longhorns aren't being arrested left and right, bury our heads in the sand, and focus only on the good kids?
I know there are Longhorn fans who do want to do that, but the rest of the country certainly won't. It is what it is, and it's reached a point where hammering home the talking points about the good kids is irrelevant to the conversation at hand.
That's tough to swallow, but a problem is a problem.
I agree, and I'm not viewing this as Mack Brown's fault. I don't think most fans are. To some extent, these kinds of things are unavoidable. As fans, most of us ask that Mack do everything he can to make sure he brings in
kids who can make us proud, and I don't think there are many among us who would argue Mack doesn't try his hardest in that regard.
Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, there is a problem. I don't have to blame Mack Brown for these kids' failures to speak up and note that there's something wrong.
On the flipside, some are going bonkers blaming Mack Brown for this recent string of arrests.
As noted above, I don't think that's helpful analysis. For one thing, Brown works hard on recruiting kids he doesn't think will mess up. For another, all the pre-screening in the world wouldn't get you perfect results. These are 18-21 year old kids who are given keys to the great city of Austin. Some of 'em are gonna mess up. And some of the mistakes made will be made by good kids.
This conversation needs to turn away from hystrionics and blaming and turn to solutions. What can be done to minimize these types of mistakes?
1. The upperclass leadership needs to step up in a big way. You know, I think the first thing I'd do if I were Mack Brown would be to call in three or four of my upperclassmen and make it crystal clear to them that the kind of leadership these young players need has to come from the older players as much, or more, than from the coaches.
While no one group of players or coaches can keep everyone in line, there needs to be a culture of accountability and togetherness on the Longhorn football team. A lot of that has to come from the players, and it's gotta come from the older guys. Some have observed that a lot of these young players arrived at Texas with a sense of entitlement because of the 2005 national championship. And now, with no Vince Young holding the entire group together, there's a vacuum in senior leadership.
That simply has to change. I'm sure the Derek Lokeys and Limas Sweeds of the team are doing a lot, but these events make it clear that they could probably stand to do more. Someone's got to get angry - like Vince Young would - and get everyone on the same page.
2. Stiff penalties must be doled out to the offenders. Assuming these charges stick: Good-bye Andre Jones. And hello multi-game suspensions for Sergio Kindle and Henry Melton. That's a tough thing for the two DUI violators, but Mack Brown has to send some sort of message that there's no tolerance for breaking the law at Texas. Mack Brown has said over and over again that no one player is bigger than the program.
Time to prove it.
There are some who think a lot of this talk is overreaction to a few bad kids. On the one hand, they're right - the vast majority of Texas' players are great kids, and Mack Brown isn't guilty of "allowing" this to happen.
Nonetheless, we've reached the tipping point where those talking points aren't useful. It doesn't matter if most of the kids are good ones, or if Mack Brown is trying hard. What matters is that Longhorn players are showing up on the arrest blotter with regularity.
And as any good manager will tell you, the best (and, really, the only) way to take on a problem like this is to do so with accountability, transparency, and acknowledgement of the facts of the matter. Sweeping problems under the rug while pointing at the sunshine makes you look like you aren't taking things seriously. Trust in your ability to lead and make sound judgments will quickly erode. Just ask our President.
This isn't a "culture" problem or anything else that the Sky Is Falling crew will have you believe. But it is something that Longhorn fans need to point to, talk about, and present publicly our concern for. If Mack Brown takes it seriously, this too shall pass. The house is in good order overall. For it to stay in order, though, Mack needs to handle this the right way. The Longhorn way.