Texas Ain’t “Back” Until They Prove They’re “Back”!
From 1998 through 2013 Mack Brown was the head coach of the Texas Longhorns football program. Brown’s Texas teams went 158-48 during that time, winning 1 National Championship in 2005. During Brown’s tenure as Texas’ head coach the Longhorns were often in the hunt for a Big 12 and/or a National Championship.
From 2014 through 2021 Texas has had three head coaches who have a combined record of 53-46. In breaking down the last eight seasons of Longhorns football the reality is after Mack Brown left, Texas has been awful! But every August over the past eight or nine seasons you would be hard pressed to find a College Football TV or radio analyst who hasn’t either asked or been asked this question: Is Texas Back? What’s truly amazing is that the Longhorns have had multiple bad years in these eight seasons. How is that possible with all of the advantages that Texas has? The state of Texas arguably has the best high school football programs in the country. Many College Football Hall of Famers and NFL Hall of Famers played high school football in Texas. The Longhorns are king in Texas similar to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Yankees in New York or the Canadiens in Montreal. There are other Power 5 universities in the state, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU and soon to be Big 12 member Houston. But make no mistake, the University of Texas is king. According to an article in USA Today, the revenue generated by the Texas athletic department from the 2017-2018 fiscal year through the 2019-2020 fiscal year was more than $200 million per year. With all of those resources at their fingertips, and with the wealth of high school recruits to choose from in Texas I have a new question that needs to be asked: How the hell is Texas failing???
An old saying in sports is you never want to be the coach hired after the legend. So, in that regard, it seems Charlie Strong was doomed from the start as he was the coach Texas hired to replace the legendary Mack Brown. Strong’s three-year tenure as Longhorns’ head coach was disastrous as he went 16-21 with only one bowl appearance. Strong was a good up and coming coach and was seen at the time as a solid hire. Strong had a lot of success at Louisville, going 37-15 in four seasons as the Cardinals coach. But, for whatever reason, he didn’t find success at one of the best and more advantageous jobs in the country. Texas then hired former Houston head coach Tom Herman. Herman was the most sought-after coach during the 2016 coaching carousel after going 22-4 in two seasons as the Cougars head coach. In four seasons as the Longhorn head coach Herman’s teams went 32-18. At most universities that is a great record which would earn a contract extension. But at the University of Texas that’s not good enough. The winning percentage isn’t bad, but Herman’s teams never really progressed. 2018 was his best season as Texas went 10-4 and won the Sugar Bowl against Georgia. But then he followed that up with an 8-5 record and a 7-3 record in the Covid shortened 2020 season. There were good wins by Herman’s teams, beating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, a win over rival Oklahoma in 2018, but there were also some head scratchers like the 51-41 loss at Maryland in his Longhorns coaching debut, the loss in the return game the following year to Maryland at Texas, and barely beating arguably the worst program in the country, Kansas, in 2019, 50-48. With more downs than ups Texas fired Herman at the end of the 2020 season and hired Steve Sarkisian.
Honestly, I think Texas finally found the coach to get “back” with. However, in Sark’s first season in Austin the Longhorns went 5-7 and lost to…wait for it…KANSAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, Kansas! In today’s college football world, there is never a reason that Texas should lose to Kansas, EVER! And while the win by Kansas was in overtime the Jayhawks put up 57 points on the Longhorns’ defense. Seriously, 57 points. The same Kansas team who only managed 17 points against FCS South Dakota got 57 against Texas.
This is the portion of the show where I’d like to channel my inner Sam Kinison.
So, with a roster loaded with 4 and 5 star talent, with all of the resources in the world at their fingertips, with what is, on paper, an incredible coaching staff, the team that we keep hearing the question, “Is Texas Back?” LOST TO FRIGGIN KANSAS!!!! Are you kidding me, Kansas! A Kansas team that has maybe three players that were 3 stars coming out of high school beat big, bad, mighty Texas! Don’t ask me that question when the previous year they LOST TO KANSAS!! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Whew, sorry about that!
Where is the merit for that question coming from? Ok, Texas landed former Ohio State freshman phenom quarterback Quinn Ewers and former Alabama wide receiver sophomore Agiye Hall from the Transfer Portal. How many actual game passes has Ewers thrown in his career? ZERO!!! How many catches does Hall have in his career? FOUR!!! Another win in the Transfer Portal for Texas is former Wyoming star wide receiver Isaiah Neyor, but what does it matter if nobody can get him the ball? On a positive note, star running back Bijan Robinson is back after rushing for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns in only 10 games in 2021. But if opposing defenses have no fear of a passing game, they’re going to load the box and stuff Robinson. Sophomore quarterback Hudson Card is back and was the starter at the beginning of the 2021 season but struggled and eventually lost the job to Casey Thompson, who has since transferred to Nebraska. Card has less than 600 yards passing in his career. The returning Longhorn receivers are good, but again, someone has to prove they can get the receivers the ball. Even if the offense can get going under offensive mastermind Sarkisian, is it really going to be enough? Last season the offense averaged over 400 yards and 35 points per game, but it still wasn’t enough! That defense was atrocious! They finished 100th in the country in total defense. Absolutely unacceptable for the Texas Longhorns! There was no pass rush evidenced by only 20 sacks on the year and the Longhorns only came up with 14 turnovers.
I get it, I do, I’m a college football fan, so I get it. College football is better when certain programs are doing well, and Texas is one of those programs. The Longhorns are one of the more polarizing programs in the country. Lots of people love them and lots of people hate them. The media is BEGGING for the Longhorns to be relevant again, but for the exception of that 2018 season the Longhorns have not been relevant. So, please, college football world of analysts, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, don’t ask the question this preseason! Spare us the annoyance of stroking the egos of the Texas faithful. Texas has one of the highest athletic department revenues in the country, is in one of the top two or three states for high school football recruits, had two solid head coaching hires that turned out really bad, has a current coach who had his ups and downs last season (which included LOSING TO KANSAS), the reigning 100th ranked defense in the country and a starting quarterback this coming season who has either been shaky at best (Card) or has never thrown a pass in a college football game (Ewers). Oh, and the Longhorns lost seven games in a row before winning the 2021 finale against Kansas State (Not Kansas). All of these reasons should be enough to answer your question, no, Texas ain’t back. They ain’t back until they prove they’re back, and with the lofty expectations in Austin, that means 10+ wins in at least two seasons in a row and a huge improvement on defense. At that point, ok, go ahead ask that question you’re dying to ask, because at that point at least it will have some merit.