As mentioned earlier this week, the inhuman volume of work in front of me over the next six weeks pretty much necessitates I put day-to-day blogging on hold, but I'll be hanging around in the gallery and, where free time and inspiration collide, throwing up the occasional post. Like right now, when I'm going to ignore the sleep I need to indulge a thoiught that came to me while reading about the Billy Gillispie firing at Kentucky.
For starters, if you have any ties at all to the Bluegrass State and/or UK, you need to read Tru's take at A Sea of Blue. And if not, for purposes of this post all you need to know is that one of college basketball's legendary programs is in disarray. After a national title-winning coach was railroaded out, a West Texas hotshot was brought in, and two years later the team misses the NCAAs for the first time in 20 years, the coach is fired, and the fanbase is shellshocked. As Tru put it to me in an email earlier tonight, "This feels like the Ninth Circle of Hell."
It was that which got me thinking about the subject at hand: First, just how good does Texas have it right now? And second, how long can it last? Follow me after the jump to discuss.
Life Is Good
Most every Texas fan is aware that the football and basketball programs are in great shape. (And though I'm going to simplify by not discussing baseball, including Augie's program would only reinforce the point.) Even so, it's likely we don't fully appreciate just how good this current era really is. While the expectations of Texas fans have always been high, Mack Brown and Rick Barnes have ratcheted them up to their uppermost limits, to such a degree that seasons otherwise considered "good" feel very much like, relatively speaking, crushing disappointments. After a while, it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees.
But if you think about it for a minute, the list of schools similarly situated to Texas is awfully small. Like, three: USC, Florida, and Ohio State (depending what you think of Matta). That's it. And no, Jeff Capel doesn't get OU on this list; get back to me in a few years.... Five or ten years from now other schools may warrant inclusion on the list, but as of this moment, it doesn't get much better than being a Texas fan.
Hooray! You already knew that...
The real reason I walked through that set up is so I could ask a question. Well, a series of questions.
Is This The Golden Age of Texas Sports?
Though Rick Barnes is here for the forseeable future, he'll one day retire or win a national title and decide to coach NC State or something. Mack Brown is 2-5 years away from stepping down. But before they do, their enormous success, and the particular way they've achieved it, raises an ineresting question.
Texas fans have never been shy about their belief that, with regards to athletics success, the university is arguably uniquely situated. From size to resources to recruiting to fan support -- Texas is near-ideally situated to be successful. "We're Texas" can be a statement of arrogance or a statement of opportunity.
The questions on my mind, then, are these: Is there any reason to think that the particular ways Barnes and Brown have succeeded could immunize Texas from the normal cyclical ups-and-downs a program can expect? That is, where Texas fans have long thought this athletics program a sleeping giant that could/should be a recession-proof machine, is there reason to think that -- after they're both gone -- the enormous success of Brown and Barnes will carry on for a long while? Or even indefinitely? Or, alternatively, is it more likely that we're in something of a Golden Age, with two great coaches able to tap into the Texas machine, but whose fine work could easily be undone by successors?
For what it's worth, as recently as a year ago I'm not sure this question even would have occurred to me. But before you weigh in on this below, pause and consider the Muschamp HCIW move.... It's almost like Mack Brown will be handing over keys to the machine running at full capacity. Whenever Rick Barnes' era ends, will it be much different?
Are these two coaches, while they're still in charge, treating Texas fans to something of a Golden Age? Or have these two coaches unleashed a Golden Age that will continue long after they're gone?
I'm interested to hear your thoughts.