Remaining mum on the topic of opposing fans and players displaying Horns Down would have behooved Mack Brown. The Texas head coach with a contract extending to 2020 went from a lengthy shelf life to one seemingly in jeopardy after surrendering well over 100 points in consecutive losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma. The Longhorns have since regained some level of favor. Saturday’s win over Texas Tech was the most goodwill Texas has established for itself this season, beating a quality opponent on the road and holding an explosive offense to just 22 points.
By now, you’ve probably read the quote, but here it is for those who’ve missed it:
“The horns down is disrespectful. We ought to talk about that as a league.”
Is the Big 12 Conference supposed to ban the gesture? Frankly if Horns Down is the most disrespectful thing going on at a football game, I’m pleasantly surprised and some of my lacking faith in American culture is restored. What a truly odd topic to spark Brown’s ire, particularly at this juncture in the season.
Then again, it may not be so much the Horns Down that has Brown perturbed. The 61-year-old coach has sounded off on other topics recently, including the Longhorn Network. ESPN doled out $15 million to Texas for the rights to LHN, and its creation nearly crippled the Big 12. LHN could reasonably be blamed for the conference losing Texas A&M, UT’s most historic rival, to the SEC. There aren’t a lot of issues that Brown would side with Aggies on, but LHN is seemingly one — albeit for different reasons.
But then, it’s likely not LHN that got Brown’s goat, either. His comments about the network came amid bubbling turmoil over his tenure at UT, one in which the Longhorns entered 2012 with two straight seasons of disappointment. This was to be the pivotal turnaround year that Texas regained national prominence. Saturday’s win in Lubbock regains some momentum, but this year isn’t going quite as planned — particularly on the defensive end. Defense has been where UT long made its bones, but 2012 marks the second season in three when the Longhorns vastly underachieved there.
Consider Manny Diaz is experiencing the same challenges this year that Will Muschamp faced in 2010, that turns blame more squarely on Brown, on least in public perception.
Perhaps what we’re seeing in his more bubbling frustration from a coach who has accomplished so much, and has little to lose. At 61, Texas is Brown’s last stop whether it’s when his contract expires, he retires, or if he’s forced out. Recently, I discussed Steve Spurrier’s willingness to say almost whatever he wants at the end of his career. Brown is certainly not as abrasive as Spurrier, so don’t expect the former to ever say Bob Stoops talks “a bunch of B.S.”
With added pressure on him though, Brown may find other ways to express his displeasure. Horns Down is less about a hand gesture than it is indicative of general malaise.