Length of Coaching Search Shows How Far Texas Has Fallen

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIJanuary 10, 2014

AUSTIN, TX - JANUARY 6:  University of Texas president Bill Powers, left and athletic director Steve Patterson, right, introduce new Longhorns head football coach Charlie Strong from Louisville during a press conference January 6, 2014 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

The Texas Longhorns brought in an excellent coach in Louisville's Charlie Strong, a coach many programs would be thrilled to have. 

But for UT—and perhaps only for UT—the hire seems underwhelming. Like going to a fancy $50-a-plate event, only to eat with flimsy college dining hall silverware. The gourmet meal is still great, but something about the experience is missing.

Although Strong could be just the man to lead Texas back to the top, it is still a wonder why the program wasn't able to pull some of the big names (Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Jim Harbaugh) that were mentioned along the way.

But when coach after coach entered and left the conversation and the bowl season came and went, it was clear: Texas just isn't what it used to be.

Sand had been flowing out of Mack Brown's hourglass as the 'Horns head coach for years, but it took until the day before the 2014 national title game to find his replacement.

Will Muschamp waited, but eventually chose to leave Texas for Florida.
Will Muschamp waited, but eventually chose to leave Texas for Florida.Brian Bahr/Getty Images

He had a coach-in-waiting, current Florida head man Will Muschamp, as early as 2008. His departure had been imminent for quite some time, giving UT more than enough time to find a replacement.

This year, the Longhorns' hides were branded by the BYU Cougars, who ripped them for 550 rushing yards. After the humiliating result, Texas fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and it was a foregone conclusion that Brown would be the next to go.

With more than enough time and the fattest checkbook in collegiate athletics, it wasn't until four months after that loss that the Longhorns settled on a coach.

In that span, USC found its head coach, Steve Sarkisian from Washington. Then UW found his replacement, Chris Petersen from Boise State, and Boise replaced Petersen with Bryan Harsin from Arkansas State. Then, completing the circle, Arkansas State picked its new coach, Blake Anderson.

All the while, the biggest program in college football was still searching.

Granted, UT also had some upheaval at the top. The Longhorns brought in a new athletic director, Arizona State's Steve Patterson, in November.

But this is Texas. This is perhaps the most prominent position in second most populated state in America. Well, at least it used to be. UT used to be the kind of job that coaches would lie, cheat and steal to get.

Coaching the 'Horns in football is like coaching North Carolina in basketball—the type of job where a coach like Roy Williams would leave a program like Kansas to take. Early in the process, it seemed as though Texas was searching for its Williams, as rumors compounded daily about Saban leaving Alabama to head to Austin.

Instead, Saban stayed put, leveraging those rumors for an extension at 'Bama, while Fisher did the same at Florida State.

That result only spurred more rumors. Texas was linked to several NFL coaches, including Harbaugh and Chip Kelly. To Kelly, the rumors were a joke. When Harbaugh was asked about the job, he asked if the reporter was trying to be funny.

Just like that, the richest program in college football was now a laughing stock. Once everyone at the next level got their laughs in, the search dropped back to the collegiate level.

However, as Teddy Mitrosilis of Fox Sports detailed, several college coaches chose to stay put and sign extensions rather than heading to one of the best jobs in sports.

What stung the most was in-state rivals Texas A&M and Baylor retaining Kevin Sumlin and Art Briles through extensions, showing that the balance of power in the Lone Star State has dramatically shifted from the big to the little brothers.

The shift has been reflected on the recruiting trail as well. The Aggies pulled in a recruiting class superior to that of the 'Horns in 2013, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Texas A&M is also in the lead so far with this year's class, at No. 3 nationally.

Baylor has improved on that front as well, though it hasn't quite yet overtaken Texas. However, the on-field results suggest differently. The Bears won their first ever Big 12 title this year, topping the 'Horns 30-10 in the season finale to do so.

After losing the Big 12 crown and swinging and missing many times in their coaching search, Texas finally connected with UL's Strong. The Longhorns brought in a great coach; one who will quickly bring some nasty to the too-nice Texas defense.

Despite Strong's impressive resume—23-3 in the last two years at Louisville and several successful stops as a defensive coordinator—the hire just wasn't impressive enough. Texas booster Red McCombs felt slighted by the hire, calling it a "kick in the face" and essentially saying that Strong isn't qualified to lead this program.

Though he would later apologize, it doesn't change the fact that he said what he said—and when he said it, he meant it.

McCombs was wrong, of course. Strong is one of the best young coaches in the sport and, with the proper support, can win national titles in Austin.

The kick in the face is the long list of big-name coaches who weren't hired. McCombs, and likely several other supporters of the program, failed to realize one thing: The Texas they know is gone.

The 'Horns have been strikingly average: 30-21 in the last four years without a 10-win season in that span. Baylor and A&M, Texas' little brothers, have been better in that span, both going 36-16.

Alabama and Florida State? Texas fans won't even want to hear that disparity, but it's bad.

Texas has its money and its history, but right now it isn't a premier team. Just ask Saban, Fisher, Harbaugh, Kelly, Sumlin and Briles.


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