Non Sequitur – You’ve done it again, Longhorn hyper-fans September 24, 2015Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, blogfoolery, foolishness, history, non squitur, paganism, sadness, silliness, Society.
History does not repeat itself, but historical situations recur. That’s a famous line from whom I cannot remember, but I’m not entirely certain it’s correct. I think on occasion, history does repeat itself. More specifically, I think the history of UT football repeated itself, first in 1986 and then in 2013.
In 1977, Fred Akers inherited a team from the legendary Darrell K. Royal that had gone 5-5-1 in 1976. They had quite a bit of talent but were badly under-performing. In his first year, Akers took that team, with basically the same talent, and went 11-1.
He had a number of other good years, but some controversial decisions in the 1984 Cotton Bowl, and again at the Cotton Bowl later that year against Oklahoma, began to convince the kind of idolatrous fan that literally lives and dies with each game that Akers could not with the big game. A bad call against Georgia helped precipitate a 10-9 loss and the subsequent loss of the national championship. A decision to go for a tie against OU instead of a win, in a driving downpour, helped cement Akers reputation.
From that point on, influential alumni, fans, and donors began a whisper campaign against Akers. They undermined recruiting. Morale on the team slumped. After a couple of sub-par years, Akers was fired. A hero from the Royal era, David McWilliams, was hired. It was glorious! DKR was back! National championships would come rolling in.
Only, it didn’t work out that way. What really happened was that the team became mired in a 10 year period of misery, losing seasons against pathetically weak schedules and a program in utter turmoil. I got to “enjoy” that while I was at UT, in the midst of the very worst of it all, 1988-1993. They went 39-38-1 in those 6 seasons, with only 1990 as a bright spot, ruined by the Miami debacle in the Cotton Bowl (which I attended with a murderous hangover).
94-96 was a little better, with the team winning the first ever Big 12 championship in 1996, but 1997 saw a serious reverse and the team drop to 4-7, including a blowout loss to UCLA at home.
So, instead of a return to glory, the UT program stagnated badly from the firing of Fred Akers in 1986 until the hiring of Mack Brown in 1998.
Brown immediately turned things around. Brown took a 4-7 team to a 9-3 team, with essentially the same talent. Even more, Brown completely revitalized the program from top to bottom. Facilities were greatly improved, recruiting reached heights not seen since Royal’s glory days, the fan base and alumni were very happy, and money was pouring in. From 2001-2009, the heart of the Brown era, Texas went 101-14, including playing in two national championships (winning one) and winning two other BCS bowls.
But then things took a bit of a downturn, just as they do for every team from time to time. Disastrous quarterback play led to a 5-7 record in 2010, followed by 8-5, 9-4, and 8-5 records. The fan base became restive again, as they did under Akers. A lot of these people view anything but a 100-0 victory as being total failure. The more extreme fans were calling for Brown’s head even during the 2010 season, even though the team almost certainly would have won another title the year before if Colt McCoy hadn’t experienced a freak injury in the first quarter that sidelined him for the rest of the game. After a few more “sub-par” years (which I would have been ecstatic to have seen when I was at UT!), all the great accomplishments, the re-building, the excitement, the victories, all was forgotten. Brown was finished, no good, washed up. Even though the great Darrell Royal suffered three consecutive 6-4 seasons from 1965-7, but then ran off six incredible seasons from 1968-73, including 6 consecutive conference championships, the fans patience with Brown was exhausted.
As early as 2011, murmuring campaigns were hurting recruiting efforts. Big dollar donors were undermining relations with high school programs. Every year, the rumors grew, and recruits became skittish to sign with a program in apparent turmoil. The quality of recruits dropped badly. The program was sinking, but a good amount of it was not Brown’s fault. It was the never-quite-satisfied hyper-fan.
And they got their way. He was fired. Charlie Strong was hired to replace him. But things did not go as planned. Strong took a 8-5 team and saw it go 6-7 in 2014 In spite of brilliant play from freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard, 2015 does not seem to be starting much better. Many predict another losing season.
It’s still early, but to this erstwhile Texas fan, it sure feels like 1987 all over again. If Texas fans have a group sin, it is unbelievable hubris, and God tends to spite the very proud with humiliations. We may get to enjoy quite a bit of that over the next 10 years or so. I actually hope I’m wrong, but given what I’ve seen in two games this season, this team doesn’t look like it’s quite going to come together. The defense is the worst I’ve ever seen on a Texas team.
I hope the hyper-fans, like a lot of the guys I see writing at various Longhorn bulletin boards, SBnation, etc, finally learn their dang lesson. They’re not coaches. They’re not scouts. They don’t know football 1/10th as well as they think they do. And there is always a worse alternative. Just because you fire the guy who hasn’t lived up to your lofty expectations, doesn’t mean his replacement is going to be any better.
I really hope I have to eat my words, but looking at the schedule, I’m predicting 6-6 at best. It’s 1991 all over again.