For the second time in five years, the Kansas Jayhawks defeated the Texas Longhorns. Texas fans threw up reading that sentence. It’s that bad.
Every college football team has their off nights. But against Kansas? At home? This is a program who struggles to fill a quarter of their stadium. This is a power-five team who the best high school squads in the Lone Star state could probably give a run for their money.
These kinds of losses aren’t supposed to happen at Texas.
The Texas football program has been in a dreaded limbo ever since Colt McCoy went out with a shoulder injury in the 2009 National Championship game against Alabama. Even though head coach Mack Brown stuck around for four more seasons, McCoy’s injury effectively ended an era.
It’s come nowhere near close to returning since. The reason why is a question most college football fans can’t figure out.
Here’s Texas, the richest athletic department in the entire country, located in the nation’s hottest recruiting bed, struggling to win games. What’s the problem?
Texas Football: 3 ADs and 3 Head Coaches
Steve Patterson replaced longtime UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds in 2012. Patterson, a Texas alum, hired rising Louisville coach Charlie Strong to replace Brown after the 2013 season.
Strong never found a rhythm despite reeling in top talent. A loss to Kansas in 2016 combined with three straight losing seasons forced the Longhorns to let him go.
Meanwhile, Patterson barely lasted into his hire’s second season and was fired in 2015. Mike Perrin, another Texas alum, was named the interim athletic director.
Perrin went out and hired Houston head coach Tom Herman the day after Strong was fired. In Perrin’s defense, Herman was the hottest coach on the market at the time. However, it doesn’t age well when Perrin never intended to stick around for the long haul. I don’t care if your interim AD is John Rockefeller or Jesus, it’s never a great plan to have a temporary guy make a long-term decision. TCU’s Chris Del Conte was hired as the university’s permanent athletic director over a year later.
One season in and Herman already had a new boss who didn’t hire him. Not great.
Herman fared slightly better than Strong. Although, he had many believing Texas was “back” after the Horns beat Georgia in the 2019 Sugar Bowl. His success didn’t last long, and by the end of 2020 he was out the door.
Sark’s tenure has been rocky so far. He’s dropped five in a row while there’s an apparent disconnect between his coaching staff and Herman’s former players. He reportedly came in hot trying to emulate Nick Saban’s coaching style and the players didn’t take too kindly to the drastic change.
We’re over a decade removed from McCoy’s injury, and Texas football is in a far worse place. To move forward, I think Texas has to reflect on what made the 2000s the golden age.
What Texas Needs To Win Again
DeLoss Dodds knew two factors stood above the rest when looking for a new head football coach in 1998: recruiting prowess and experience building a program. North Carolina head coach Mack Brown had both.
In 10 years as UNC’s head coach, Brown made football relevant in Chapel Hill. His tenure started off slow, going 1-10 in his first two seasons, but from there on out the Tar Heels never won fewer than six games. In fact, he won 10 games three times.
Brown was a kid in a candy store when he arrived in Austin. He reeled in high-rated in-state recruits while establishing an identity. By the time he left he had coached a Heisman Trophy winner and won two Big 12 championships and a national championship. He had a slow start and depressing end to his tenure, but he delivered despite everyone in the Big 12 despising burnt orange.
Mack proved he could do more with less and win championships with more. Most importantly, he did more with less over a long timeframe. That’s the kind of guy who should be leading the program.
Is Sark the guy who can recruit and build a program? As much as it pains Texas fans, you aren’t Oklahoma or Alabama or Notre Dame or Ohio State or Oregon or even Michigan. You could be and lord knows there are enough resources to make five-star recruits in a campus lab.
The reality is Texas is at square one with a first-year head coach, but no competent coach should drop a home game to Kansas and Sark has struggled to find stability at his previous stops. At least he’s actually working under the guy who hired him. Consistency at athletic director is huge in establishing a culture.
In his third college football head coaching job, Sark has a prime opportunity to prove he can recruit and build his own program. Take care of those and everything else will fall into place. He better get a move on before the Longhorns head to the SEC.