TM coverKirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman sat down with University of Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and women’s AD Chris Plonsky recently, and the topic of discussion, more or less, was: how does UT get back to the level of the success that got them on the cover of Texas Monthly?

As Bohls wrote, the university has only won three NCAA championships in any sport since Mack Brown and Vince Young brought home the BCS trophy in 2005, even as the athletic department remains one of the few in the country that makes money for its university, instead of being subsidized or running at a loss.

Bohls’ eye for detail then leads to this passage:

A glossy Texas Monthly magazine sits on a cluttered coffee table in Plonsky’s office. Staring from the cover of the oft-cited publication, dated November 2008, was a proud Dodds, arms folded and aligned ahead of Plonsky, Darrell Royal, Jody Conradt and four then-current Longhorns head coaches at a time when UT athletics hovered near the apex of collegiate sports.

Dodds leads the most successful program in college sports history, the magazine trumpeted.

“It’s a nice picture,” Plonsky said with a knowing sigh. “We’re still trying to earn that. We’ll keep pounding away.”

Dodds also echoed what I wrote about his thinking on Mack Brown for Texas Monthly and the New York Timesthis past November.

From that story:

Brown is more like Michigan’s Lloyd Carr and Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer, two title-winning coaches who were muscled out after their “time had come.” Both Michigan and Tennessee are on their second hires since then, and Tennessee, which has yet to win a game in the Southeastern Conference this year, may yet need a third.

Closer to home, Brown is also more like R.C. Slocum. The winningest coach in Texas A&M history had a Hall of Fame career, but couldn’t keep up with UT or Oklahoma once the Southwest Conference gave way to the Big 12. Aggieland demanded someone better, but neither Dennis Franchione nor Mike Sherman improved the program.

And from Bohls:

“Football is fine,” Dodds said. “Nine wins are not the end of the world. But we want 13 wins.”

Does Brown have to beat Oklahoma to save his job?

“Oh, we don’t think that way,” Dodds said, aware of Texas’ three-game losing streak to OU. “Next year we will be having a different conversation. Look at the programs that made changes: Lloyd Carr at Michigan, Phil Fulmer at Tennessee, R.C. Slocum at A&M. They all had great runs and then two or three average years and have been through two or three coaches since. Mack’s our coach. He’s the best person we can have in that position.”

But the best part of the story is Dodds’ “MEOW”-worthy comment on the fact that UT’s expectations for athletics is so high, in which he calls another institution out by name. It’s not another Big 12 school, which would have surely ruffled feathers. And it’s not another Texas school, which would have led to bigger headlines. But it is the school that joined A&M in bailing on the UT-dominated Big 12 for the SEC.

“We’re going to have good years again,” Dodds promised. “Our bad years are not that bad. Take a school like Missouri. Our bad years are better than their good years. But we’ve created a standard.”