It should be said up front that however distant, a dream run to Omaha for the 2016 Texas Longhorns baseball team is not technically dead. While there is zero chance of an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, the Longhorns could repeat the feat of 2015 and slip in as Big 12 Tournament champions.
But therein lies part of the reason why, no matter what happens in the postseason, the time has definitively come for Augie Garrido to step aside as the head man at Texas -- this UT team has enough talent and the right attitude to get hot and win the conference tourney, and maybe even win a regional. That wouldn't change the fact that the program is in a bad place.
Texas has more College World Series appearances than any other school, and by any measure is one of the elite college baseball programs in the country. In my view, the only way to measure whether a baseball program is living up to its potential is to judge its regular seasons. That's why Major League Baseball needs 162 games to separate the wheat from the chaff each year; baseball is not the kind of sport where the results of a few games tells you much of anything about teams' quality. In a situation like a double-elimination tournament -- or a five- or seven-game series in the pros -- anything can happen.
One easy measure of regular-season success in the college game is hosting a regional. The top 16 teams in the country generally receive that honor, so it's a decent benchmark for whether a program is performing at a top level. It is not an unreasonable expectation for one of the elite programs in the country to be in the conversation to host a regional. Not "every single year," mind you, because there is no expectation that can reasonably apply every single year. But I think a fair standard is that every recruiting class should be in the regional-hosting discussion twice -- that is, two of every four years, Texas should at least be around the top 16.
If you think about, this is really a very lax standard. I'm not even saying they have to actually host half the time; just that they should be good enough to make a case to do so. The last time Texas was seriously considered for a hosting gig was 2011.
That's five years without being near the top 16 teams in the country over the course of a regular season. Yes, that five years involves a wondrous College World Series run -- as plucky underdogs. Looking back over the years since that 2011 hosting season, again judging based on the overall performance of the team and not giving extra credit for postseason performance, is bleak:
2012: 30-22, 14-10 in conference (3rd place). Washed out of Big 12 Tourney in losses to Mizzou and Kansas, missed NCAA Tournament.
Regular season summary: Bubble team, did not get in.
2013: 27-24, 7-17 in conference (9th place). Only team not to qualify for the eight-team Big 12 Tournament, missed NCAA Tournament.
Regular season summary: Couldn't even see the bubble.
2014: 46-21, 14-11 in conference (5th place). Lost to Okie State in Big 12 Tournament semifinal, won Rice regional as 2 seed, won Austin regional over UH, third place in College World Series.
Regular season summary: Very solid season, obvious at-large bid, but not in contention to host regional.
2015: 30-27, 11-13 in conference (5th place). Won Big 12 Tournament, went two-and-out at Dallas Baptist regional as 3 seed.
Regular season summary: Almost certain not to receive an at-large bid.
And we all know how 2016 is going: mathematically guaranteed to have a losing record overall with no hope of an at-large bid, no matter what happens the rest of the way. So over the last five years, Texas has earned exactly one at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament at all. Forget being in the conversation to host a regional -- they've only been in the field of 64 one time.
Yes, they won the Big 12 Tourney to sneak in last season and could conceivably do so again this year. Does that change the fact that Texas has earned only one bid in five years based on season-long performance? Does it change the fact that UT hasn't had a season good enough to sniff the top 16 since 2011?
Much has been said and much should be said about how fantastic, overall, Augie Garrido's tenure at Texas has been. We have said and will say all of that in this space. But for now, we're ready to say without question: the program is not headed in the right direction. Five years is more than enough time to give any coach, no matter how legendary, to show improvement. Augie didn't need to make a national title run in 2016 to prove he's still the guy -- but he did need to avoid a clear step backward, at the very least. That's exactly what's happened in 2016.
Here's hoping that as soon as the season is officially through, Coach Garrido himself will determine his stepping aside is best for the program. But if he won't, it is incumbent upon President Fenves and AD Perrin to do what must be done. They get paid enough to occasionally have an unpleasant conversations, and if they care about the success of Texas' baseball program, one such conversation needs to happen very soon.