Much like the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Longhorns have become an easy target for sports media pundits and opposing fan bases. Like the Cowboys, they are a huge brand with a passionate fan base, and tremendous success in the past but recent struggles. “This is our year” and “Texas is back” — the similarities are uncanny.
This year, those who jump on the “Texas sucks” bandwagon have been given extra ammunition as they enter the SEC after this season. From fans, media, coaches, and even the conference itself, the Longhorns have become fodder for motivation as conference play and the “Embrace the Hate” tour amps up.
“They’ve assumed this mentality of ‘embrace the hate,” Texas head coach Sarkisian said about his team at the beginning of the season. “We get it, we’re the University of Texas, we get it, this is our last year in the Big 12. Well, we can sit there and be a punching bag or we can attack the people we’re going to play.”
Opposing fan bases, media, and even programs have contributed to the narrative as the Texas season continues to ramp up, the last of 29 years in the Big 12. Despite all of the shots fired from the rest of the conference, the Longhorns have a squad to back it up.
The “Embrace the Hate” tour caught another stray this past weed as Houston Cougars head coach Dana Holgorsen commented on outside pressures surrounding the soon-to-be SEC Longhorns ahead of the Week Seven matchup.
“I’ve got a lot of comments (from fans),” Holgorsen said Monday. “‘Just beat Texas. Don’t care if you win any other of them, but you gotta win that one. ‘You can go 1-11 and it’s okay if you beat Texas.’ Well, beating Texas is going to be hard. We know that.”
Houston is one of the newest additions to the Big 12, so it’s interesting to see shots from the fan base since there really isn’t a history of rivalry that would support such a sentiment.
In fact, this is the first time the Texas Longhorns have even stepped foot in TDECU Stadium or played at Houston since 2001.
However, Holgorsen certainly has his own history with the University of Texas after bouncing around the Big 12 after the last two decades. Holgorsen began his Power Five coaching career at Texas Tech under Mike Leach from 2000-2007. After a short two-year stint as the offensive coordinator for Houston and a single year as the offensive coordinator of Oklahoma State, Holgorsen became the head coach at West Virginia.
He coached there for eight years, leading the Mountaineers to winning records in all but one year, two ten-win seasons, seven Bowl appearances, and even an Orange Bowl victory. After some contract disputes, however, Holgorsen returned to Houston in 2019.
Long story short, unlike the rest of the university, Holgorsen actually has a reason to dislike Texas after going 6-11 against the Longhorn in his 20-plus year coaching career around the Big 12.
“It’s good for our fans. It’s exciting for them,” Holgorsen said. “It’s way more exciting for them than it is for me. I have competed against these guys a lot over the years.”
It is easy for the begrudged conference members who will remain in the Big 12 to pray on the Longhorns’ downfall as they plan to leave for a more attractive conference. This anti-Texas narrative is not specific to just Holgorsen and the Cougars, but has been prominent throughout the Big 12 in this farewell season.
Ahead of the Week Four matchup against Baylor head coach Dave Aranda said, “I can’t tell you how many times this offseason I heard ‘Dave, just win this one game.’ That has been brought up to me multiple times.”
That sentiment ahead of Texas and Oklahoma’s departure is certainly apparent as coaches have been given tremendous outside pressure to send Texas off with a loss.
Even the Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark has commented on the Texas hate train. When speaking at the Red Raider kickoff club luncheon at the start of the season, Yormark said, “Coach, I’m not going to put any pressure on you, but I’m gonna be in Austin for Thanksgiving, okay? And you’d better take care of business like you did right here in Lubbock last year.”
Call me biased, but I find it interesting this rhetoric has not been shared with our fellow Big 12 departees up in Norman. It goes to show, just as the Cowboys are hated by teams outside of their designated rivalries, there is an obvious resentment for the burnt orange and white throughout the Big 12.
Unfortunately for the scorned conference, Texas isn’t going quietly into the good night. As the Big 12 continues to struggle amongst itself, the only two teams who seem to be able to find any success are the ones halfway out the door. As much as Yormark and the rest of the conference would love to see Texas depart for the SEC beaten and bruised, they will likely be forced to see Ewers and Sarkisian playing the Sooners in Arlington for a Big 12 title come December.
I understand how rivalries work, and of course Texas has been the bane of opposing Big 12 teams since the inception of the Big 12 in 1994. Fans will be fans, but despite the headlines Holgorsen has responded with class to this “just beat Texas rhetoric.”
“Quite frankly, if you asked me, ‘Do you want to play Texas and OU every year or do you not?’ I’d prefer not to.” Holgorsen said Monday. “Those guys are really, really, really good, and they’re going to get better — so let’s go, man. Let’s see what happens. They’re heavy favorites, so we’ve got nothing to lose. So cut it loose and get out there and play ball, man. It’s going to be fun.”
Despite this desperate desire for Texas to leave the Big 12 with a swift kick out the door, the Longhorns look poised to leave the conference on a high note, likely competing for a Big 12 championship. Other than the loss to Oklahoma, Texas has won against Big 12 opponents by an average of 29 points and are now a 23.5-point favorite against Houston.
Texas looks poised to run the Big 12 this season after the loss to a stout Oklahoma team which is also leaving the conference that continues to get in its own way with an average of 3.5 wins on the season.
But be careful, the way this season is headed after the halfway point, you might not only lose “this one” against Texas, you might have trouble even making a bowl game.
You mess with the bull, you get the Longhorns. Don’t poke the bear.