Back in the terrible month of October, when Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown lost The Rationals after yet another blowout loss to Oklahoma, it didn't really matter that a large and vocal contingent of Texas fans wanted Brown's head.
Fan pressure can certainly have an impact on a program, albeit one that is reduced within the constricted and insulated confines of Bellmont. With athletic director DeLoss Dodds and the majority of influential boosters still in Brown's corner, he wasn't going anywhere unless it was on his own terms.
The four victories that followed the debacle in the Cotton Bowl made it appear that the Texas program had things back in track, buoyed by solid wins over Texas Tech and Iowa State after narrow escapes against Baylor and Kansas.
Then the TCU game happened on Thanksgiving, in a high-profile game in front of a national television audience.
Once again, Texas looked ill-prepared to play against a team with the same amount of rest. TCU got better during their bye week. Texas did not, providing a stark contrast in the coaching abilities of Brown and TCU's Gary Patterson.
Now, Brown is set to head to Manhattan to go against the program against which he has had the least success in his career. Yes, even less than against Oklahoma.
And the boosters that matter in the program may be getting sick of it all.
There's been a vocal group opposing Brown for some time, but the TCU game may have been the tipping point for some of the more moderate donors -- call them The Rational Boosters.
If Brown ends up being fired or forced to resign (with the latter being almost assured if Brown departs after this season), this will be the group that determines his fate, according to Inside Texas:
Mack and Deloss need to be concerned with the group that used to be in their corner come hell or high water. Mack has mentioned one or two of these folks by name in press conferences this year when he was talking about support. Those names aren’t in his corner any more.
Just as support has eroded among the less reactionary fans, it appears that the game last Thursday may have been enough to erode the support of the moderate boosters, if the report is to be believed.
The dissatisfaction has now extended into the rest of the bubble that keeps Brown safe from malignant influences outside of his innermost circle:
The difference is that some of these conversations are not just focused on Mack, but there are some guys that have challenged Deloss and Bellmont as a whole. It’s a different feeling than when it was simply seen as a Mack Brown problem. These guys are questioning whether or not Deloss Dodds needs to be around. Make no mistake, the big money guys are now convinced that the culture in Bellmont is rotting and they want to fix it. Deloss would be wise to reassess his insulation of Coach Brown and even Coach Barnes and start answering the tough questions with tough answers.
If the culture isn't rotting, there's now plenty of evidence to suggest that Bellmont is insulated to an unhealthy degree.
The fact is that the basketball and baseball programs haven't been experiencing a great deal of success recently either -- Dodds doesn't have the same amount of political capital that he would if Rick Barnes and Augie Garrido were experiencing the success that they were in the middle part of last decade.
Of course, football is all that really matters, but those undercurrents of discontent bred by other failures wash away at the credibility of Dodds like the tide wears away ocean-side cliffs.
And the rumblings from Inside Texas aren't the only ones that emerged on Monday -- one of the most trusted Orangebloods insiders shared a similar story ($), adding that Patterson has been contacted by someone or someones associated with the program.
Is any of it credible? As always, it's difficult to assess these things, to parse the truth from the agendas behind the scenes. The timing may suggest a coordinated leak or simply news of dissatisfaction behind the scenes now starting to surface at a level unprecedented intenure in Austin.
On the surface, it's not hard to believe that the boosters are increasingly becoming disillusioned about the Brown/Dodds regime in Austin -- after all, they are fans at heart, too, just like everyone else who has been calling for Brown to step down.
Frogs O' War summed up their own perspective on the situation:
This isn't one voice alone in the woods, like a Chip Brown tweet of years past... This is a bunch of voices, behind pay walls, all speaking the same language.
And those voices have Horned Frogs a little bit worried. Confident just days ago that Patterson wouldn't bail on the program that he built, there's now concern that Texas could be a serious threat to steal their head coach.
Of all the rumors, the contact with Patterson seems the least credible (and comes from the least credible sources).
There's no question, however, that if Texas loses badly to Kansas State on Saturday, a distinct possibility given the history of the two programs and the way that the two teams match up, then Brown will have exhausted virtually all of his goodwill, if it hasn't been already.
In that scenario, with pressure increasing on Dodds to make a move, driven by a host of angry donors, the Texas AD could be forced to go to his old friend, someone who turned the Texas program around, and tell him that it's time to ride off into the sunset.
The current coaching environment may simply not be any place for old coaches. Could Patterson be next in line?