It is always rewarding when a very rich, very self-important fellow gets his come-uppance, which is exactly what happened to San Antonio billionaire B. J. “Red” McCombs. The Alamo City autombile mogul has rightly apologized for his criticism of new UT head football coach Charlie Strong, whose hiring McCombs described as a “kick in the face.” He also complained about how the hiring process was handled and complained that he was frozen out of it.
Ah, how tough it must be for McCombs to find out how the other half lives. His criticism draws back the curtain on the inside world of big-time college athletics and its wealthy boosters. McCombs’ initial choice was former pro football coach and media analyst Jon Gruden and he made clear that the donors had significant input when Mack Brown was hired. “We have boosters that have a lot of knowledge about the game,” McCombs said. This time around, the search was conducted by brand-new athletic director Steve Patterson, someone with whom, one may easily speculate, the boosters did not have much of a relationship. A new era at UT, indeed.
Of course the blowup over the hiring of a new UT coach coincided with a propitious moment in UT athletic history. With the hiring of the first black head coach in a men’s sport at UT, the memory of the Longhorns having the last all-white national champions can be assigned an asterisk. I was a big fan of Darrell Royal’s, and I had the pleasure of knowing him over the years. In my estimation, he had the people skills to be the president of the United States. He is one of the great figures of college football history, but he was also dogged by the all-white stigma. Now, perhaps that memory will fade.