It could be the most boring weekend of the college football season, so much so that the University of Texas-Kansas State game, a meeting of unranked teams, one of which has a losing record (SPOILER ALERT: It’s UT) is the best that ABC can offer for its Saturday night prime-time game (yep, still better than Michigan/UConn).
But the game should probably hold the interest of the Longhorns. Mack Brown hasn’t beaten K State in his last five tries, and the last time Texas started a season 1-3 (as ESPN Stats notes) was 1956: one year before Darrell Royal got the job. Those are some high stakes.
Here are some higher ones: if all the “who-will-succeed Mack” talk wasn’t enough (Sic Hook ‘Em, Coach Briles!), and the (100% believable) retirement speculation about UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds wasn’t enough, on Thursday, Jim Vertuno of the Associated Press reported that one UT regent actually reached out to the agent for Alabama coach Nick Saban in January of this year, and had a powerful former regent feel out Brown to see if he’d retire.
The regent in question, of course, would not comment for the record, not wanting to make trouble.
Just kidding! The regent in question is Wallace Hall, who, as Texas Monthly‘s Sonia Smith wrote earlier this week, “could be on his way to becoming the state’s first appointed official to be impeached.”
Regent Wallace Hall of Dallas told the AP he spoke by telephone with agent Jimmy Sexton a few days after the Jan. 7 game. Tom Hicks, a former regent who is the brother of current Regent Steve Hicks, also was on the call.
Tom Hicks, the former owner of the Texas Rangers, the Dallas Stars and the English professional soccer club Liverpool, was a regent in 1997 when Brown came to Texas and was instrumental in hiring him away from North Carolina.
Two days after the call with Sexton, Tom Hicks met with Brown over lunch and told him about the call, according to several people who spoke with the AP. He asked Brown if he was ready to retire. Brown, who had just finished his 15th season at Texas, said he wanted to keep coaching and the matter was dropped….
Hall said a person he would not identify called him, unsolicited, and proposed an introduction to Sexton.
“I notified then-chairman Gene Powell, who then informed vice chairman and athletic liaison Steve Hicks, which resulted in a conference call with Mr. Sexton,” Hall said in a prepared statement to the AP. “Introductions were made and then I withdrew from the process.”
And, the fun part of the story:
Joe Jamail, a billionaire trial lawyer who is one of the top donors to Texas, is Brown’s attorney. When asked about the conference call with Sexton and the lunch meeting, Jamail suggested Hall was acting on his own and threatened to sue anyone outside the university if they try to pressure Brown to resign.
“If there are any more, get ready for a lawsuit,” Jamail said. “Mack has publicly stated he wants to coach.”
The other fun part: Vertuno’s story mostly just confirms, with names and on-the-record statements, something that was first reported more than nine months ago by “Jesus Shuttlesworth” and “Big Cigar” on the premium message board at Inside Texas.
Even UT president Williams Powers read it on the Internet.
UT Prez Bill Powers did not know about Regent Hall’s call with Saban’s agent. He got wind of it by reading a sports blog months later. #ut
— Reeve Hamilton (@reevehamilton) September 19, 2013
“So, what does this mean about the possibility of Saban coming to Texas?,” wrote Wescott Eberts of Burnt Orange Nation. “Pretty much nothing, except that a sports agent is willing to talk to other potential suitors to increase leverage for his client. Basically nothing, then.”
Sure. But Geoff Ketchum at Orangebloods wrote (link is to paywalled content) that the story “felt like a salvo fired from [UT athletics office] Bellmont Hall.” Meaning: Dodds, or Brown, or even Powers wanted this to finally surface.
If nothing else, it means that, even as Mack Brown has to constantly answer questions about whether he’ll resign, Nick Saban will have to answer questions about whether he’ll move on to Texas when he’s trying to win another national championship. As Mike Finger of the Express-News noted, the ‘Bama coach addressed this on the radio:
Saban said he and his wife Terry are happy at Alabama “and quite frankly, I’m just too damn old to start all over someplace else, to be honest with you.”
Those who recall Saban’s move from the Miami Dolphins to Tuscaloosa know such statements aren’t worth that much.
But the real question isn’t, “will Nick Saban come?,” but rather, “why would he want to?” Yes, it’s Texas. The Dallas Cowboys of college football. Problem is, the university is also as dysfunctional as the Cowboys. Turns out DeLoss Dodds’s refrain of “We are the Joneses” (as in “keeping up with”) equalled “Jerry!” But unlike the Cowboys, it’s not clear who’s in charge.
Which actually makes Mack look good…well, okay, not good, but not as culpable as people like to think. Ripping on the coach is the default reaction of the average angry college football fan, even more than ripping on the players (in the pros, you start out ripping on the players, since they’re overpaid and spoiled in fans’ eyes). But problems in sports always start at the top. If it’s not the general manager or athletic director, it’s the ownership.
And with the University of Texas, a state institution, it’s very clearly ownership. Whatever Mack Brown’s faults, whatever defensive coordinator Manny Diaz couldn’t do, however irritating it might be that UT recruited David Ash instead of Johnny Manziel, however badly the great Dodds era will now end, the 1-2 Horns are playing entirely like the product of an organization that has been going through the things UT has gone through for the past two years. They are exactly as disciplined at tackling as the Regents are disciplined at regenting.
Changes are coming to UT football, but wouldn’t it be something–and completely apropos in Texas–if the Longhorns’ struggles, more than any academic crisis, or a change of Governor from former Aggie Yell Leader to die-hard Longhorn, is the thing that finally brings the “Battle over UT” to a close? If there’s a new coach and A.D. in January 2014, followed by a new Prez one year later, it’s certainly gonna feel like that’s what happened.
THE GAME ITSELF
UT’s favored by 5 points? It’s thought to be a down year at K State, and their loss to FCS team North Dakota State sure didn’t help, though North Dakota State is almost certainly a better team than Big 12 whipping-object Kansas (which lost to Rice last week).
If talent is the difference, Texas wins. If it’s coaching, K State wins, not because Brown and company are as bad as people think they are, but because we have no recent evidence that Bill Snyder’s not better.
And if it’s intangibles? “Win one for Mack” doesn’t sound like something that this team is bound to do. Maybe Wallace Hall should give the halftime speech.
Anyway, what does it matter? Win or lose, Barking Carnival is already reporting on the Longhorns’ annual loss to Oklahoma, in a story headlined “Mack Brown apologizes for 66-17 loss to OU next month”:
“I want to apologize to all Texas fans in advance,” said a visibly-shaken Brown. “66-17 is unacceptable. I’m as disappointed as anybody about how the team will play against Oklahoma on October 12. But you can’t look back at next month’s loss and torture yourself with ‘What ifs?’ You have to move on.”
After brief introductory remarks, Brown donned reading glasses and read from a list of shocking statistics from the upcoming game. Brown reported that the Sooners will rush for 430 yards, pass for another 320, sack the Texas quarterback six times, and force four turnovers.
“We have to protect the ball better than we will,” reported Brown.
Texas Tech is way, way better than I gave them credit for three weeks ago, but SMU may also be a whole lot worse. It’s actually flattering to SMU that they are only a four-touchdown underdog–though that is surely due to confidence that Johnny F***in’ Football will not play in the fourth quarter, rather than insecurity about the Aggie defense. Texas A&M 55, SMU 20.
JAMMIE JAMMIE-JAMMIE WON THE HEISMAN?
I’m still waiting for conference play to find out if Baylor is actually the best non-SEC team in the state, but perhaps we can expect a big game against Louisiana-Monroe from the Bears’ East/West College Bowl 2 stand-out, King Prince Chambermaid:
Mack Brown photo by AP Photo/Michael Thomas