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Longhorn Arrests and the Perception Problem

Fallout from the spree of arrests continues today, forcing Mack Brown to deal with media scrutiny and prompting columnists like Kirk Bohls to propose solutions. One of Bohls' ideas is to establish a curfew for the team, even if it is - practically speaking - unenforceable. Such a policy, Bohls argues, would give Brown solid footing for extra discipline if a player encountered trouble after the team-specified curfew.

Brown seems already to have rejected that idea, however, by noting that the Joseph and Jones incidents occurred during the daytime.

Still, I think Bohls has a point here when he notes that Brown should start enacting policies for the purpose of perception alone. This gets back to what we discussed in yesterday's morning notes, as well. Mack Brown is inexplicably losing this PR battle, fighting upstream to try to convince the public with words alone that all is well. At some point, you have to abandon the tactic of insisting that this kind of scrutiny is unfair because the overwhelming majority of your kids are good ones.

Mack's decision to continue with this strategy is troubling on a number of levels. Not only is it simply ineffective under these circumstances, but it suggests a more fundamental misunderstanding about how life works. One of the most elemental underlying issues here is whether Mack Brown is doing enough to get these kids to understand their responsibilities to themselves, their teammates, their university, and society at large. What lesson is he teaching these kids if they see him on TV defensively trying to explain away a widely perceived problem?

Life ain't always fair, Mack - not in general and not when you're in the spotlight. With great celebrity comes great scrutiny, and either this coach fails to understand that or he's simply choosing to distort the reality of the situation in an effort to protect his kids.

While most Texas fans have given Mack Brown the benefit of the doubt at every turn, the severity of this pattern of lawlessness, as well as Mack Brown's handling of it, leave us no choice but to begin to ask the hard questions.

Is it possible that these kids are acting in ways which convey a disrespect for authority because their coach is not asserting enough authority himself? What kind of message does it give the team if their coach continues to deny the existence of a problem in the very face of said problem? What lessons are these kids learning about accountability when their coach asks people not to focus on weak spots in the program? Should the players only focus on their good plays from a game? Look only at their "overall" quality of play?

These are just some of the questions that Mack Brown is forcing us to ask. And I use the word 'forcing' purposely - Mack Brown has left us no choice but to ask these questions because of the way he's handling this publicly.

Even if you believe, as most do, that Mack Brown's intentions are pure, that he does work stringently to avoid problem kids, and that this isn't necessarily some sort of huge deterioration of discipline in the program overall, there is still the problem of perception. Someone needs to let Mack Brown know that denying the problem only makes matters worse.

--PB--