Trouble on the 40 Acres

Sports Illustrated sends a wake-up call to Longhorns nation — and it's about more than Mack

Sports Illustrated sends a wake-up call to Longhorns nation

Mack Brown
There may be few questions about the future of coach Mack Brown but plenty left for UT athletics. Courtesy of Longhorn Sports Marketing
UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds during press conference for Longhorn Network
Even with the departure of DeLoss Dodds as athletic director, the future of UT athletics is still in question. TexasIllustrated.com
Mack Brown
UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds during press conference for Longhorn Network

Ever since a dark and stormy night in Provo, Utah, a few weeks ago, things have been downright abysmal for the Texas Longhorns football team and just as embarrassing for fans. Another blowout loss to Ole Miss at home, and it appeared that Mack Brown might have lost any and all support to stay at the helm as head coach.

But we’re not here to summarize what’s been going completely wrong with the football team each week, because it can get a little nauseating having to go through the list of woes repeatedly. At this point, does it really matter whether it’s David Ash or Case McCoy starting under center or if the defense is just lacking the right coordinator or scheme?

Despite the prospect of a changing of the guard with athletics director DeLoss Dodds stepping down, Thamel still sees rough waters ahead, with dysfunction trickling down all the way from the top. 

Alumni and fans may have lost faith in Texas football, but now they'll be able to get shaken up about the whole athletics department — and university, for that matter — thanks to an incisive piece from Sports Illustrated that highlights the cracks appearing in what was once a solid foundation.

The headline of columnist Pete Thamel's article puts forward a question that Longhorns have been asking themselves for several seasons:  “What happened to the once-dominant Texas athletics program?” The piece looks not only at the issues surrounding the fall of Mack Brown’s team but also the rapid decline of UT’s basketball and baseball teams.

Many of the details brought forward to tell the tale of the department’s decline don’t come as a surprise to fans, who have been well aware of everything from a lack of high-caliber recruiting crops to teams aching for meaningful bowl game and tournament wins. Once it’s all thrown together, though, it provides a chilling image of what the future holds, and it will make tailgaters down even more Shiner.

Thamel emphasizes the grand frustration that things went so wrong so quickly. It was just three years ago that the Longhorns challenged Alabama for a national title. There was a basketball program that featured the likes of Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge not too long ago, but now can only dream of an invitation to the Big Dance. Even the once reliably good baseball team has been fighting in recent years to make a modest amount of progress in the College World Series.

UT sports have been frustrating to say the least. Despite the prospect of a changing of the guard with athletics director DeLoss Dodds stepping down, Thamel still sees rough waters ahead, with the trickling down all the way from the top. Once again, both alumni and the whole state have been well aware of the infighting between UT President Bill Powers and members of a Board of Regents with more allegiance to Aggie Governor Ricky Perry than to UT — and it will be this feuding collection of regents who will choose the next AD.

It’s this same group that is trying to hash out the future of an entire university that fell six spots in the latest U.S. News & World Report's academic rankings. Politics and allegiances may very well have a negative effect on the massive cash cow that is UT athletics, but the education and future of students in the coming years may also hang in the balance, as tuition and enrollment will continue to be important issues. Realizing the extent to which UT football has fallen is sobering enough, but the threat to academics is an revelation that’s a real punch to the gut.