Program stability is typically measured by the head coach’s most recent record. With that in mind, Steve Sarkisian is going to finish somewhere between 9-4 and 7-6 a year after going 5-7. That’s not great, that’s not terrible. A win tomorrow over Baylor at home and it’ll be safe to say Sark met expectations in Year 2. That’s certainly stabilizing.
A deeper look at Texas reveals the most stability we’ve seen in the program in a decade. Given the lost decade of the 2010s, that’s not exactly saying much right now, but it is saying something about where things are headed.
Beyond the head coach, until the last couple of years Texas’ issues extended deeper into the administration. Texas did not have the right people in charge to lead sound hiring processes or guide the school into the future. That began to change a few years ago as it became clear how well Board of Regents chairman Kevin Eltife, school president Jay Hartzell, and athletic director Chris Del Conte were working together. We had not seen this type of cohesion between all three positions in quite some time.
This group working together, with an assist from the donor faction, is how they removed a head coach who recently went 7-3 during a pandemic and then made a logistically difficult, yet swift move to replace a disappointing basketball coach with one of the best coaches in the country. By now the triumvirate’s three-man weave was hitting its stride.
As stated numerous times in these pages, Hartzell and Eltife are fans like you, just with more power. With that knowledge, once the coaching situations were rectified, it shouldn’t have been a giant surprise the Texas brain trust worked diligently to depart the parasitic Big 12. Is there anything more stabilizing than moving to the best conference with presumably the most lucrative TV deals? Only Texas A&M can screw that up.
The Aggies are the perfect juxtaposition for Texas and that’s likely why the secondary rivalry has amused Texas fans while enraging Aggies. I can only assume this thankful reminder is why the game between the two was played on or around Thanskgiving.
This time last year, as A&M temporarily assembled the best class in the country despite going 8-4 and losing their defensive coordinator, Texas fans started to panic. The Texas leadership being strong leadership, did not. With a good understanding of what A&M was doing, Texas elected to play the long game knowing the Aggie house of cards would eventually crumble. The powers that be told Sark he had all the time he needed to rebuild the roster the right way. They said this with the knowledge UT’s ability to compete in the name, image, and likeness sphere would position Texas to annually recruit and retain the best talent in the country, not just in Texas.
Now we have two great examples of where stability really comes from. At A&M, Jimbo Fisher didn’t give himself a $100 million contract and then an extension, it’s just so unfathomably one-side it only appears that way. Meanwhile at Texas, everything is falling into place for the long term whether or not Steve Sarkisian and his school-friendly contract work out or not.
Fortunately it’s likely things will work out for Sark. Recently I wrote I felt he was probably doing a better job as a head coach than given credit for, and maybe a poorer job as offensive coordinator. Overall the program is improved in ways that indicate good stewardship at the top: strong game plans, much-improved team culture, effort and focus every week, players developing before our eyes, etc. Overall, there is a strong internal foundation.
Externally, when looking at the overall landscape it seems every new legislative wrinkle in college football benefits a school like Texas. We mentioned NIL, we could also discuss playoff expansion as Texas gets ready to enter the SEC, relaxing class limits as Texas continues to churn its roster, and also the proliferation of the portal where Texas can find high-end plug and play starters.
Talent accumulation was never a problem for Sark before and now it’s even easier. If UT’s biggest issue going forward is getting talented players to execute proven schemes, then I’d posit things are quite stable indeed, and for that, Texas fans have plenty to be thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving from Inside Texas.