The future of the Ohio State football season still hangs in the balance as it pertains to possible sanctions by the NCAA amid the wreckage of the Jim Tressel era that ended on Memorial Day with his resignation as Buckeye fans seek to make sense of the situation and imagine an immediate future that does not look bright. For fans of other major college football teams, it's a sobering moment.
If Jim Tressel can fall, one of the most prominent coaches at one of the most historic institutions in the country, what does that say about the possibility and perhaps even likelihood that similar stories could be told across the sport? That a similar fall from grace could even happen in Austin, where another "senatorial" coach presides over an illustrious program.
Of course, any Texas fans with even a modicum of self-awareness, morality, and objectivity, not to mention a little healthy skepticism, look in the mirror with an evaluative gaze on regular occasions, the early spring revelation of the relationship between Will Lyles and Oregon, as well as other schools, being just such an opportunity. It should be a common practice for any thinking fan of any school.
From the outside looking in, it's difficult to get past outward appearances -- that in action Brown lives up to the squeaky-clean, good-guy image he he maintains. If there's an obvious difference between Brown and Tressel, it's that the Texas head coach doesn't have the same history of minor but consistent malfeasance occurring under his watch, the consistent lack of institutional control that now seems to characterize Tressell as a head coach both at Youngstown State and Ohio State. And not to minimize what happened with Cleve Bryant, but if that's the worst that happens in Mack Brown's program in well more than a decade, then there isn't much to worry about.
Continuing in the vein of introspection, a former Texas walk on early in the Mack Brown era wrote a must-read take on Texas and the culture of compliance under Mack Brown. Go ahead, read it if you haven't yet. The point is that despite common arguments from heated rivals that cheating is endemic in college football and happens at every school, the author can speak from experience about the rigorous and sometimes invasive nature of the Texas compliance department in regards to the living arrangements, cars, and summer jobs of all players, even the non-scholarship athletes. As for the possible selling of memorabilia like jerseys and pads, the author maintains that the equipment staff is similarly diligent in keeping inventory and that "selling equipment would never occur to anyone in the Texas locker room."
Furthermore, the resources available to compliance departments and the football support staff at a school like Texas are massive. As a result, compliance failures such as appeared to occur at Ohio State start at the top, but also percolate down through to the bottom of the organization, something that Mack Brown supposedly does well:
No, Institutional Control is not rocket science, but the INSTITUTION and the person at the top must actually try, and he must demand a culture of accountability (not just the illusion of morality). I am proud to have played for and learned from a head coach who ran an organization with ethical clarity. No, Texas is not perfect in all respects and we report our share of minor violations just like any program. Reporting those issues when they happen are proof that your program is controlling and providing oversight. I would suggest that representatives from tOSU, USC, and the whole of the SEC come to Austin to learn how it is done properly, but I doubt they really want to.
One lone, anonymous voice hardly rests a case made for a culture of compliance in Austin, but it does support the image portrayed by Mack Brown and the entire program and the history of Mack Brown at Texas and in his previous stops at North Carolina and Tulane. And, for what it's worth, former Longhorn Drew Kelson corroborated the walk-on's story on Twitter, in that he "hated" the intrusiveness of the compliance department while in school. Like a good strength and conditioning coach, it's probably healthy for the players to dislike compliance -- a sign of thoroughness that bespeaks due diligence.
Given the available information, then, there is some anecdotal evidence of the Texas compliance department actually fulfilling its job requirements as recently as Drew Kelson and a shift in the culture of compliance during the last several seasons seems relatively unlikely, a result once again of Brown's clean track record. It might be a stretch to say that Longhorn fans can rest easily as it relates having a culture of compliance in Austin, but it does feel reasonable to reach the conclusion that the NCAA would be better served investigating some other major programs rather than knocking on doors at Bellmont.