Texas Basketball: Is Rick Barnes the Next Longhorns Coach to Go?

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2014

How hot is University of Texas head basketball coach Rick Barnes' seat today?

After more than a season of speculation, Barnes' counterpart, Mack Brown, resigned as the Longhorns' head football coach, and UT has now hired Charlie Strong as its next gridiron boss.

Officially, Brown's departure does not impact Barnes' future.

But, new UT athletic director Steve Patterson has been on the job for less than three months. Since he did not waste time evaluating the football program, you have to think that he is not going to tolerate mediocrity in the basketball program either.

Before Patterson's arrival, Barnes already entered this season with pressure to turn things around on the hardwood.

Even though he has compiled a 365-155 record in Austin and led the Longhorns to the NCAA tournament in each of his first 14 seasons, the program has been declining over the last few years.

After finishing in fifth place in the Big 12 with a 9-9 record in the 2011-12 season, life got worse for the Longhorns last year. They went 16-18 overall (7-11 in conference play) and were knocked out of the College Basketball Invitational in the first round.

To make matters worse, UT players started leaving town. Hook'em Headlines' Jeff Kubiszyn described the mass exodus:

Fans witnessed a program mired in turmoil and unrest. Sheldon McClellan, Jaylen Boyd and Julien Lewis transferred to different schools. Myck Kabongo left early for the NBA Draft, and Ioannis Papapetrou signed with a professional team in Greece.

Over the years, Barnes has earned the reputation of being one of the best recruiters in the country. He has consistently brought elite-level talent (such as, T.J. Ford, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant) to campus during his watch.

But, over the last few years, he has not signed the same level of players. Of those who have come to Austin, many have either left early or not panned out.

Not surprisingly, the decline on the court has led to a decrease in attendance at the Frank Erwin Center:

Longhorns Hoops Doing a Steady Slide
SeasonOverall RecordBig 12 RecordPostseasonAverage Home Attendance
10-1128-1013-3NCAA 2nd Round13,669
11-1220-149-9NCAA 1st Round11,950
12-1316-187-11CBI 1st Round10,945
ESPN.com and NCAA.org

This year has been no better. In the Longhorns' first 10 home games, they are averaging 8,853.

It is one thing to be tussling on the court if your fanbase is still engaged. It is a whole different matter when you are off to a decent start but your attendance keeps trending down.

 

Looking Ahead

For right now, Barnes' young team has started the 2013-14 season better than expected. The Longhorns have won 11 of their first 15 games.

However, Texas' best wins so far have been against average Temple and Vanderbilt teams. Furthermore, they have opened their Big 12 slate by losing at home to Oklahoma and to Oklahoma State on the road.

When the basketball team at a place like Texas starts losing and ticket sales start drying up, it is not long before people in high places at the university take a long hard look at the program.

In light of current events, how ironic is it that Mack Brown and Rick Barnes rode into town at virtually the same time and could possibly leave within months of each other?

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