The uncertainty swirling around Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown has put the program in a precarious position. The clock appears to be ticking toward a change atop one of America's most-revered football teams, creating an abundance of questions for high school prospects.
A collegiate head coach is supremely instrumental throughout the annual recruiting cycle. He's the man shaking hands with fathers and mothers, smiling for the cameras, laying out a clear vision for the future foundation of a team and, most importantly, assuring teenage athletes that the next stage of their life will be stable.
If you hadn't noticed, stability isn't a strong suit for the Longhorns these days.
Texas has lost four of seven games dating back to last November. After registering double-digit win totals every season from 2001-2009, the team is averaging approximately seven victories per season during the past three years.
DeLoss Dodds, the university's athletic director since 1981, is retiring in August 2014, according to ESPN. Legendary Longhorns running back Earl Campbell encouraged the school to dismiss Brown during a Sunday discussion with KRIV-TV in Houston (h/t ESPN).
So, just to review: The man who hired Brown is on his way out the door during the most troublesome time of the coach's tenure, and a Heisman Trophy winner whose statue resides at Royal-Memorial Stadium is calling for a coaching change.
The issue for Texas' recruiting department isn't the wins and losses. Program prestige doesn't wear off because of a few trips to second-tier bowls.
The lack of clarity for what the future holds is what really hurts. Recruits and their families want to know exactly what life will be like during their four or five years on campus, and that's currently a difficult question to answer in Austin.
The Longhorns have the No. 7 recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports. There are eight 4-star players among the crop of 24 committed 2014 prospects.
But as pressure mounts for Texas to move on from the 62-year-old coach, concerns arise. The uncertainty will only continue to spread as the Longhorns meander through an autumn destined for mediocrity.
Don't think for a second that coaches from other teams aren't using Brown's tenuous situation as a competitive recruiting tool. Unfortunately, the college football recruiting process can become exploitative in a variety of ways, and many are more than happy to plant a seed of doubt in a prospect's head when it comes to topping a rival school in the recruiting race.
Texas has always been a program that builds its classes well in advance. Throughout Brown's 15-year tenure, the team routinely locks up key commits before their junior high school seasons.
That's the case with Texas' 2015 recruiting class, which already features eight pledges and ranks No. 1 in the nation, according to 247Sports. Half of those players offered verbal commitments as sophomores.
However, the last commitment from a 2015 recruit came in July.
The rise of Texas A&M and reach of SEC powers LSU and Alabama threaten to steal Texas natives from the Longhorns' clutches. If it's a tight race between Texas and another team, the sense that Brown is slowly walking the plank doesn't help his case.
When Brown eventually leaves Austin, by his choosing or not, the program will be fine. University administrators will usher in a rock-star coach—perhaps an NFL veteran or former national champion—to replace him. Everything leading up to that inevitability is what opens the door for doubt in the minds of recruits.
If Brown is dismissed at season's end, the school can't afford to stall in its pursuit of a top coaching candidate. The football games will finish in December or January, but national signing day looms large on Feb. 5.
Recruits are sure to receive plenty of answers when/if that time comes. In the meantime, things must look awfully murky even for the most ardent Longhorn commit.
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