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Texas Longhorns Football: The case for an Interim Head Coach

Mack Brown and brand violations.

Ronald Martinez

Yes, I Realize That's Superman's Cape I'm Tugging On

I mean Scipio Tex, not Mack.

I should really begin this article with a disclaimer. I don't make a practice of kicking someone when they're down. As much as I'm convinced that it's long overdue, if Mack had already announced his retirement at the end of the 2013 season and were simply taking a victory lap through the conference, I'd leave him alone to enjoy it. But since Mack has chosen to rise from the canvas and raise his gloves, then as far as I'm concerned he's fair game - if you'll excuse the plethora of sporting metaphors. Wow, I really touched all the bases, didn't I?

Two weeks ago, Scip authored an article dealing with the potential pitfalls that attend replacing an Athletic Director and Head Football Coach. One of his points was "No interim coach. NO. INTERIM. COACH."

In a vacuum, and maybe even as a general proposition, I'm inclined to agree. In the context of the here and now, though, I say that's wrong. In what follows I'll explain why.

Unquestionably, the AD Hire Comes First

God help me, I love Pat Haden. One blowout loss to ASU, and it's: "I don't like your jerk-off name, I don't like your jerk-off face, I don't like your jerk-off behavior, and I don't like you, Jerk-off."

I've already written that Pat Haden should be UT's model for a new athletic director, but last Sunday he went and made my point for me. When you ensure your school's AD is also an alumnus, you get someone who recognizes a brand violation the first time they see it. You also tend to get decisive action in support of the brand.

As UT fans, I've literally lost count of how many figurative blowouts to ASU we've endured under DeLoss Dodds and Mack Brown. But I have counted four five blowout losses to OU, each of which was a far more elemental brand violation than Southern Cal's loss to ASU last Saturday.

What should otherwise be an unacceptable loss (due to opponent, or margin of defeat, or both) is easy to rationalize when you have only a situational and contractual relationship with a school - especially if revenue remains steady. I actually don't blame Discussing Te Dodds entirely for this. I mean, I certainly don't know what constitutes a brand violation type of loss at Kansas State (beyond NDSU, I guess), and even if I were Kansas State's AD, I doubt that I would ever know on the intuitive level that I'm referring to here.

This is precisely why I'm asking all of the Oliver Luck advocates out there to tap the brakes. I know, he got his law degree here when he was playing for the Oilers. If he'd been playing for the Packers, he would have gotten it in Madison. That's not what I mean by an alumnus. You want someone who was a varsity athlete at UT, and playing flag football for Charles Alan Wright doesn't count. Trust me on this. You don't want Oliver Luck. YOU. DON'T. WANT. OLIVER. LUCK.

Like our opinions will really matter.

But because the AD hire must come first, it follows that you'll need an interim coach for the rest of the 2013 season. I would appoint Larry Porter as interim HC, and I come to that decision mainly by process of elimination.

First, it's wrong to tank the rest of the 2013 season. It's not fair to the players or the fans. The coaching staff and team should do whatever is necessary to win as many remaining games as they can, and then go crush defeat Iowa in the Armed Forces Bowl on December 1.

With that written, we can cross off the other interim candidates together. We know that all of the defensive coaches have their hands full with learning a new system. On the offensive side, Major Applewhite has his hands full trying to figure out ways to score more points than the defense allows. Stacy Searles still needs to teach the OL how to block, and injuries have forced Darrell Wyatt to prepare freshmen to play. Bruce Chambers . . . I'm sorry; I couldn't keep a straight face and type that. That leaves Larry Porter, who conveniently already has head-coaching experience.

I would also let Coach Porter interview for the head coach position in 2014, although I hasten to add that I would very candidly tell Coach Porter what kind of background and qualifications the job calls for, why his results as interim HC are immaterial to his chances, and why his prospects for getting the job are dim.

Regardless Of Whether It Was Optimal Before, Now That the USC Domino Has Fallen, It's Right To Fire Mack Brown on October 13.

Yes, that means I'd wait until after the OU game on the 12th regardless of what happens in Ames on Thursday night. At this point, a two-touchdown loss to the Cyclones shouldn't surprise anyone.

I'd wait because the beatdown loss to OU will capture the attention of the media, casual fans, and diehards alike. Accordingly, I believe that firing Mack the next day would engender at most 10-15% disapproval within the fanbase, and most of them would object only to the timing.

Okay, so we can get away with firing Mack on October 13. Here are the reasons why that's the right call:

  1. It sends an immediate signal to the CFB world that the UT brand has been violated. Yeah, I know. That's like sending an immediate signal that Pearl Harbor has been attacked. I still say better late than never. At this point, there's no way to protect the UT brand from significant devaluation (that takes a Haden-like reaction with Haden-like alacrity), but at least it's some evidence that the decision makers at UT actually care about the quality of their varsity football team.
  2. Since another of the Top 5 HC jobs is vacant for 2014, there may be formidable competition to land the ideal candidate. This creates a potential first-mover advantage. In my opinion, HC at Southern Cal is a better job (narrowly) than HC at Texas. But even if you invert the order, the fact that Southern Cal is already looking, combined with some uncertainty regarding whether the Texas job will actually come open at the end of the year, means that USC will choose first unless UT creates their opening now.
  3. Naturally, this is only a problem to the extent there's overlap between candidates for the Southern Cal and Texas positions. For example, I'm certain that USC will look at Art Briles, Charlie Strong, Al Golden, and Chris Petersen - you know, the usual suspects. They'll also make some kind of a run at Saban. USC might or might not look at Gary Patterson, but sadly they're more likely to consider Patterson than UT is.

    The point is that if Southern Cal makes their HC hire before UT does - and they won't even be contemporaneous hires unless Mack is fired soon - that's one fewer from among the top CFB HC candidates that UT can select, and perhaps the same candidate who would have been at the top of the wish list.

  4. It gives the big donor wing of the search committee plenty of time to start vetting candidates. That's not to say they haven't already started, but it's all hypothetical until there's an actual opening.
  5. For example, if a HC candidate is going to insist on defending his wife, even in the presence of a big donor, it's better to know that now. Let's be real here - it takes time to ferret out all of the scratchy personalities and the irrational focus on winning.

  6. It signals to underclassmen and recruits, now, that it won't be business as usual in 2014. I'm not sure I've ever been in an analogous situation, but if I'm a kid who's currently running second-team at UT, it's got to be hard to put up with Bennie Wylie every day. I mean, where's the payoff if Mack is still going to be the HC in 2014? Unless I have legitimate NFL prospects, I'm not sure that the occasional co-ed I can impress is enough.
  7. If Mack remains in place as HC, we will begin to lose recruits. Mark it down. Now admittedly, I'm not as incensed by that as some. Looking back on the 35-40 years that I've followed UT football, there have been fewer than 10 UT players, and maybe fewer than 5, whose absence from the roster would have made a truly significant difference in season outcome. I'm just as troubled by the prospect that some kid will pass up the opportunity to attend UT and choose an inferior school just because he doesn't want to waste his four years of CFB eligibility.

  8. It appeases the rank-and-file alumni and the fans, almost all of whom have seen enough at this point. This is the least compelling reason, but you can't deny that it's a valid consideration. Okay, and I'll feel better if it happens. So there's that.