Embattled Texas coach Mack Brown leads his Longhorns into a potentially tricky game tonight when they play at Iowa State.
Under coach Paul Rhoads, the Cyclones – who admittedly are down this year – have found ways to score stunning upsets over league opponents. The biggest victory came in 2011 when Iowa State dropped No. 2 Oklahoma State, ruining the Cowboys’ path to the BCS National Championship Game.
At this stage of his 16th season, Brown can ill afford to suffer a similar fate under the lights in Ames.
Brown is under enough pressure as it is – especially during a week in which USC fired Lane Kiffin.
Texas and USC are unquestionably two of the cornerstone programs in the history of college football. They are trekking along two entirely different paths as to how they transition to new eras of their respective programs.
USC AD Pat Haden took the Band-aid approach, deciding to fire Kiffin during the third quarter of USC’s 62-41 loss at Arizona State and getting it over with that night.
Longhorns fans everywhere, meanwhile, continue to hope the day the university realizes Brown’s best days are behind him comes soon.
Naturally, a 2-2 start with blowout losses to BYU and Ole Miss stirred up the restlessness among the Lone Star State faithful again this year.
Only AD DeLoss Dodds continues to stand by Brown, who led Texas to the 2005 BCS national championship and returned it to the title game in 2009. He shows no indication of firing Brown midseason – much less pulling him off a team bus at the airport to do so.
Brown, unlike Kiffin, has deserved a more graceful exit. The feeling among Texas fans is that Brown has, however, reached the point of needing to exit.
One loss into the season, Brown tossed overboard defensive coordinator Manny Diaz as if to hope that would keep the ship from sinking. Of course, tossing a man overboard doesn’t plug holes on the bottom of the boat.
How Texas handles the Brown situation could dictate whether the program becomes a mess under the next hire.
Dodds’ recent decision to retire – but not until August 2014 – only further muddles an already murky picture. Had Dodds retired immediately – or even at year’s end – it would put Texas in reasonable standing to enjoy a relatively seamless transition in football.
Instead, the current direction reflects a potentially turbulent situation.
If Brown can’t correct course and struggles to yet another mediocre season – a good bet at this stage – Texas’ decision to keep him on as coach would further alienate an already impatient fan base.
Firing him – now or at season’s end – though, puts the next coach in a precarious, win-immediately position.
Look up and down the history of football coaches hired by outgoing athletic directors. The track record isn’t good.
One of the most recent examples just showed what happens in a tradition-filled program when said coach misses on expectations – Kiffin. Former USC AD Mike Garrett was already on his way out when he hired Kiffin, a former Trojans assistant.
Haden took the job as USC athletic director just months later, unable to make a handpicked hire at the most important position within the program he inherited. Not even four seasons into Kiffin’s stint at USC, Haden pulled the plug.
Brown getting fired now would mean Dodds’ not-yet-hired replacement would have no say in the hiring of the athletic department’s most important person – the football coach.
That coach would have to produce immediately because athletic directors would far rather take heat for their hires than for someone else’s.
There is little defense for the mess Brown has led Texas into in recent years. The point here is not to say “Texas should keep Brown into 2014.” It is to say this: How the university handles the Brown situation in the coming months will carry real and critical weight for the next five years of Texas football – regardless of what happens tonight at Iowa State.