Mack Brown is done after 16 years of Texas. Whatever your current feelings on his successful, sometimes maddening, financially fruitful, and NCAA approved ethical reign, he was a fixture in your life, as familiar as your morning coffee.
Chai latte, anyone?
Welcome to a new era of Longhorn football.
Despite the lack of a banquet announcement, I was still certain that Mack Brown was gone.
That banquet I watched was a wake. Sally Brown smiled as often as Eee-Orr on botox. Understandably.
Mack spoke for six minutes. After a keynote speaker delivered a memorial infomercial on Mack's greatest hits. If I'd successfully overcome a coup attempt absolutely unscathed, I'd strut to the stage in a spiked codpiece to Queen's We Are The Champions. My tone would be defiant, if not celebratory, and I would address a litany of slights that would make Michael Jordan's Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech look like Mandela putting on a Springbok jersey and hugging PW Botha. Maybe that's just me.
If, however, I'd just come from a jarring meeting where I'd learned how shallow my support truly was - forced to finally confront my own cognitive dissonance and the insular world I'd created around me - and was told that I was going to lose my job, but also received an extraordinary package of goodies to make the sting less painful, with an assurance I'd be able to tell others that it was my idea, then I'd look a lot like Brown did.
Shattered, but sufficiently motivated to deliver on the necessary theater of the moment.
That's what I saw. The lack of an announcement last night, which was not completely unexpected, signaled panic for many the moment it was paired with the announcement that Nick Saban had re-upped with the Crimson Tide. Saban Fever powers anxiety.
Nick Saban Fever
I cautioned against it. Not because I'm some insider, but because I've been around humans before. And it represented terrible tactics.
Getting Saban required precise execution between multiple (irrational) actors and a school president rolling over after being circumvented by a hated political enemy, with a fresh vote of confidence in his hand. Mack Brown and Bill Powers didn't want Nick here. The number of actors involved, and absent a galvanizing clarity of action from someone in charge, and with a fair amount of politics, if not enmity, sprinkled throughout, good luck overcoming Clausewitz's dictum. No matter the prevailing fan winds.
Even if Texas had every duck in a perfect, orderly row, Nick Saban could still say no. And I'm guessing our ducks were all over the place, humping decoys and diving in the toilet bowl. Let's be clear: Powers vote of confidence fowled the promise of any Saban golden goose. So Saban shrugged and signed a million dollar a year raise. Process wins again.
Constructing the necessity of replacing Mack Brown around the shiny future promise of Nick Saban, instead of sufficiently reinforcing the necessity of replacing Mack Brown and making his job available, was a strategy- deficient coup that deserved to die when Mack and Bill ran out the clock with their North Carolina style four corners. The Sabanmania also set a construct that came very close to biting us in the ass. When dumb clumsy things fail, I'm generally happy for what it says about the universe. Even if I'd be happy with the dumb result.
I hope that explains why I was writing seemingly out-of-step articles selling you on Jim Harbaugh while the rest of the internet was counting down to Nick's arrival like the New Year's Eve ball drop in Times Square.
Hi! All information is instantaneous.
Hi. I'm social media! It's 2013. Don't tell Bellmont.
While portions of the mainstream media - particularly the pundit class, Bellmont, and some portion of our fan base still think information is controlled and rationed by telefax via an Illuminati chain letter of power brokers, social media makes all information and speculation available instantaneously. It does so in broadly democratic, occasionally meritocratic ways, generally arriving at a middle-brow median. That the conventional media or Bellmont is breaking stories on these tools and using it to inform their own reporting without reflecting on what the tool actually means is a bit like your grandmother's relationship with her computer (i.e. "the e-mail box where I get pictures of my grandkids and coupon surf").
They're on it. It's useful to them. They don't fully understand it's implications.
Ease of information dissemination means pure message control to and from the anointed is dead. Leaks win. Whether motivated by spite, boredom, commerce, or to influence events. You cannot control message. No one can. Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. The message for organizations and individuals is to worry about your actual actions and competencies instead of the perception of a national media or commentariat more interested in plucking the low hanging fruit of false outrage over what's being done to Mack, SEC worship, or TEXAS IS RICH AND AWFUL memes. Weather it, ignore it, laugh at it.
What do we do now?
We just did the most important thing. We made the head coaching job at Texas available.
Want to clarify the real candidates for your job? Make the job available. Don't attempt to contingency hire based on implicit understandings, facial tics, and emissaries who aren't empowered or tasked to hire in the first place. Eliminating Saban was as much an exercise in disciplining naughty billionaires and regents with silly hair as a referendum on Texas culture.
What you experienced was theater. An orchestration to curb a Saban coup from "dastardly rogue boosters."
We just started the real job search.
In the big picture, perfect, immediate succession is a pipe dream. And irrelevant.
What? Job searches are undesirable - everyone in the media knows that. There will be uncertainty. Our lives built on instant gratification will be in limbo for a matter of...days. And how unseemly. To be seen looking for a coach. We're Texas. What if...what if....someone rejects us! Real organizations already have the replacement lined up!
Replacement hires are rarely lined up. Most firings, though inevitable in retrospect, are organic events.
The need for orderly, controlled ascension is a fine goal. But some of the best college hires of the last few years came after a legitimate job search - with the early shoo-in candidates discarded or discredited or impossible to land - there were even multiple public rejections - and the press nattering about it all. Here are some untidy, surprising hires as a result of that process: Nick Saban. Pete Carroll. Jim Harbaugh. Mack Brown. Jim Tressel. Oh yeah, long ago - that DKR guy.
Here are some tidy hires, demonstrating lovely succession management: Larry Coker, Bill Stewart, Tyrone Willingham.
Look, hire the right guy tomorrow if it fits. But let's shoot down the fallacy that a competent organization can't post a job without having the candidate in the bag. You ask questions to get answers. A job posting is a question. After 16 years, Texas would do well to compile some answers and think about what they mean. We've been on dumb financial auto-pilot for far too long.
Similarly, if we're rejected by Jim Harbaugh, deal with it. If you think Texas should avoid going after 10s because they might say no and you prefer 6s for their easy affirmation, go burn your diploma.
Get the right coach. Do it on our own time. Kick the tires. Aim high. Deal with rejection philosophically. If that causes fan consternation, communicate better, more frequently, and directly. No one will mind the wait outside of the perpetual hand-wringers.
Everything else from the national media (the Texas job search has dragged on FOR ELEVEN DAYS NOW! WHO IS IN CHARGE AT THAT MADHOUSE!) is noise.
If you're nervous and concerned about the judgement of our decision makers, that's perfectly valid. I am too. We have no idea what Steve Patterson & Co will do. But if you're upset because Texas didn't have Nick Saban rise up from the banquet stage draped in lasers and smoke while Mack committed ritual sepukku in a perfected choreography of harmonious succession, you should probably reassess.