Taking Ourselves Seriously

Mack Brown's highly ranked recruiting classes, with a couple of exceptions, underperformed throughout his career at Texas, and that may now be happening again at UNC. The technique was centered around the coach's amiable personality and his quite genuine and entirely laudable concern for the overall welfare of the student-athletes in question and of their families. It produced many winning seasons, a national championship, but it also helped to establish the Longhorns' well-earned reputation for softness and for on-going bone-headed mistakes. Highly talented players, many of them the mainstays of their high school teams, were flattered into thinking that The University of Texas needed them a lot more than they needed The University of Texas. The problem is that the terms under which people enter a community are difficult to change after they have arrived. It should come as no surprise that young people flattered into joining up will resist the sort of discipline and high standards necessary to form genuine unity in a team and to provide for serious development of their abilities.

This explains a great deal that Texas football has suffered through in these latter days: (1) Rarely has Texas had a dominant defense; defense, even more than offense, requires the absorption of eleven personalities into one entity, a type of unity difficult to achieve without the players' common submission of themselves to the team, a type of submission difficult to achieve with prima donnas who have been regarded by all-concerned, including their coaches, as God's gift to The University of Texas. (2) Rarely has a Texas team improved in the course of a season, as opposed to Bob Stoop's teams which were always at their best in the final games of the season. Rarely, for example, do Texas teams have fewer penalties in the tenth game than in the first or second. (3) Far too often have Texas "teams," composed of so-called 4- and 5-star players, been outplayed, not to say downright humiliated, by gritty, determined teams from glamorous places like Manhattan and Ames. How often I have enjoyed the Texas-KSU game because I would at least get to see a real football team play, that is, to see a team play real football!

Two things that Bob Stoops, Bill Snyder, Gary Patterson -- to say nothing of Bear Bryant, Daryl K. Royal, and Nick Saban -- have in common: They field(ed) tough, unyielding, over-performing teams, and they spent very little time kissing the asses of 17-year-old prospects. Their entering freshmen of whatever rank regarded themselves as privileged to be where they were, they knew they were in for the struggle of their lives, they expected their coaches (and who knows, maybe even their professors!) to be hard on them, and they knew they would not survive without their comrades-in-arms. The 5-stars are humbled by Tuscaloosa, but no longer by Austin.

Herewith a suggestion for the future: Let us begin at the beginning. Instead of aiming at a championship in the next year or so (which would motivate the kissing of lots of 5-star asses), let us first build a good football TEAM, a TEAM that win or lose plays good football, a TEAM that will be a credit to The University of Texas, that even in defeat we will be proud of. Let us begin by recruiting players selected, not by quantitative ranking, but by heart, and grit, and loyalty. Let us develop coachable players of whatever rank, and forge them into TEAMS that improve over a season and between seasons, TEAMS that in the course of years can put the "T" (for tough) back in "Texas."

Let us have no more ass-kissing! Let us take ourselves seriously, and invite only those who at this low point are able to take us seriously as well. That may not today include the 5-stars, but let us first build a TEAM and that might change.

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