When I was eight years old, my teacher sent me to my school library to get a book of my choosing and I found a book about Earl Campbell. Of course, it was written for kids and it was about sports...so it appealed to me. I had seen the Texas Longhorns on TV but, living in New Jersey at the time, this man and team seemed a world away. I fell in love with the player and the Horns. As luck would have it, my father accepted a job in Texas when I was in the ninth grade and my life changed forever.
We had moved many times and Texas would prove to finally feel like "home" to me. It gave me direction and it gave me perspective. My adopted home was full of kind people in my community and politeness as a rule. Inevitably, I attended school at the Forty Acres in the 1980s and would leave with a Bachelor's Degree followed by a Doctorate. My career has taken me to the northeast and the Horns always remain my connection to my alma mater and my home. I hate it when people refer to their teams as "we" won the game or "we" turned the ball over but I think that when you attended a school or it represents your state...that's fair. I know that my alumni dollars have a chance to go to the School of Business, the College of Fine Arts or even something in the athletic department although I suspect ours is more than self-sustaining.
When we hired Mack Brown from UNC, my cousins (UNC students and alums) told me we'd regret it as he was the most mediocre of coaches. I don't want to detract from the years of ten-win seasons or the 2005 National Championship that I witnessed in person. I don't want to detract from the years of stellar recruiting even if the final results left something to be desired. I've never felt Mack to be the best motivator of players on game day and I shudder when thinking about what Bob Stoops will do to him whenever they next meet across from each other on the gridiron.
I read the BurntOrangeNation regularly and comment from time to time and have read the "Pro-Mack" and the "Anti-Mack" sentiment. I have to admit that there have been times when I've come down on both sides of it. Early on, I was "Pro-Mack" for the simple reason that if he were to be replaced, you'd have to find someone else who could win ten games or more per year and that's not necessarily easy. I call it the "Frank Solich". Nebraska canned him and struggled through the ensuing years. I didn't like many things about his team management in terms of evaluating his talent but be that as it may...a transcendent college athlete carried us to victory despite Greg Davis and despite Mack Brown.
When did I turn on Mack? It didn't happen immediately or over night. I know that it started with him leaving Garrett Gilbert in during his 5 interception game against Kansas State in 2010...or were the seeds sown when he benched Major Applewhite for Chris Simms? It continued to fester in the back of my sports conscience as he turned "Ash vs. McCoy" into "Simms vs. Applewhite v2.0" (albeit with decidedly less talent involved). I hated the way Muschamp was treated. I didn't like the seemingly endless revolving door of coordinators and coaches...but Thursday nights
loss win against Iowa State exemplified nearly all of what is wrong with Texas football at the present time and it's time for Mack to bow out.
Much like any other football school in the country (e.g., ND, Michigan, Alabama, USC, etc) we live for Saturdays in the fall. We are not only excited about football but we love our school and our history. I was never one to jump off the couch and yell at the television unless something exciting was happening. It's only something I feel for the Texas Longhorns. I don't feel that way about other schools (even where I did post-doc training or the school that represents my state). It's just not the same. I don't live and breathe those teams like I do the Horns and neither do you. I wear my Texas apparel proudly, win or lose. I congratulate the opponents. I try to exhibit class, intelligence and sportsmanship so that I can always hold my head high. I want to represent my state and my school well. I want to love my team win or lose because they play hard and they exhibit the great vision, determined ambition, emotional and physical strength and toughness that has made Texans of all walks of life great historical contributors to the history of this nation.
That just isn't what I saw Thursday.
What I saw was a team that was criticized, rightly or wrongly, for four quarters by the commentators for basic, fundamental mistakes time and time again. I saw a team that other teams reportedly label as willing to "lay down" in a tough struggle. I saw a team (or at least a coach) willing to rationalize a cheap shot by Mike Davis when it was nothing more than a disrepectful bush league move that could have had devastating consequences for the opponent. I saw a team with no ability to pull away from a less-talented opponent because of their own bungling and yes, I'll say it: the decided commitment to Case McCoy who missed open receiver after open receiver and whose simplest throws were poorly executed and off his back foot with nauseating regularity.
I can handle Paul Rhoads ranting about the officiating. He had every right to. They were robbed. I'm sure there are the conspiracy theorists who make it about Texas somehow having the officials in their pockets. That never seems to be the case when we play Oklahoma. Don't get me wrong. I love to win and a win is always better than a loss. Iowa State acquitted themselves nicely. It's just who we've become that is displeasing.
What I cannot handle is the feeling that the team described above represents ME. Sure, I could not donate any more money to the school. I could choose to do something else with my Saturdays in the fall but at the end of the day the diplomas on my wall and the school on my CV is still THE University of TEXAS at Austin...and that's something I have to wear, good or bad.
Mack Brown needs to go. Not because his team gave up over 250 rushing yards to a knee-braced, peg-legged QB from BYU. Not because he has panicked and scapegoated Manny Diaz mid-season (he should have gotten rid of him in the offseason if the leash was that short). Mack Brown needs to go because there needs to be a culture change in Austin. We've become soft. We've become cheap shot artists and we always seem to have some excuse when things haven't gone well. We have a coach who is consistently lobbying the media (anyone remember the whole 2004 Rose Bowl fiasco?). That's embarrassing. To my eye, that's like you getting cut off the team and your dad running down to smooth it over so you can play. WE DON'T NEED THIS CULTURE! WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS! I'd rather win because I was smart and tough between the white lines rather than rich in the luxury suite.
When my friends from other schools have their chants and sayings...I can see the pride. They are THE Ohio State or "[They] ARE Penn State" and the list goes on. I've never wanted to be anything other than what we are. I just want to always have pride because the emphasis in that statement needs to be moved to accentuate the reality that
WE are Texas.