After hearing the news of your announcement this past weekend, I felt obliged to send you a thank you note for all that you have done for the University of Texas football program, the young men whose lives you have molded through the years, and The University as a whole. As a lifetime Texans Longhorns’ fan, I have been embarrassed by much of the sentiment that I have seen expressed through email, text, blog, etc. over the past few weeks (really years) and assure you that they do not reflect the views of the much larger fan base. Those self-important folks who have chosen to hide through “creative” pseudonyms often represent the worst of the reputation of entitlement and arrogance that unfortunately continues to plague our institution.
I have always said that you epitomized everything that I would want in a head coach and none of these qualities has anything to do with wins and losses (though a return to prominence with a national championship and another “would-be” were it not for the “what if” of Colt’s injury, has surely been enjoyable). I have long appreciated your communication skills and your ability to make your targeted audience feel as if they are the most important people in the world. I also never questioned your sincerity and found you to be truly genuine in all your words and actions.
You maintained outstanding relationships with high school coaches and assured them that they were the best in the “biz” and produced the finest young athletes in the country.
You constantly praised the fan base and convinced us that all those hard fought wins would never have been possible without our support and desire to “come early, be loud, stay late, and wear orange.”
You were a PR and fundraising machine for the University whose tireless efforts encouraged alumni to dig deep and help make the athletic program the envy of the nation.
You were the master recruiter who forged relationships not only with kids who all believed they would be playing on Sundays, but with parents and family members who recognized your sincerity and knew their children would be in good hands under your care.
I have long said that if I were fortunate to have a son looking at schools and football programs, there would be no other coach for whom I would want to see him play. Even in these most recent pressure-packed days, you have handled yourself with class and dignity and I have never doubted that you put the program, the University, and the kids above all else including personal motivations.
I attended and graduated from the University of Texas in 1984 and (apparently unlike many other “fans”) maintain long memories of the good times and bad. I remember the Fred Akers’ years and the “close but no cigar” title that eluded us after a heartbreaking Cotton Bowl loss to Georgia during my senior year. I remember that true Orangeblood David McWilliams and the “Shock the Nation” tour that ended with a disappointing 46-3 shellacking at the hands of Miami in 1991. I remember John Mackovic and the first Big 12 Title capped by that unexpected 4th down “roll left” that sealed the victory. I remember the endings to each of your predecessors’ regimes, none of which occurred in a 24-hour news cycle or played out like daily soap operas in often mean-spirited blogs and other correspondences written by Woodward and Bernstein wannabes. Sadly, that represents a sign of the times.
I also remember a less than enthusiastic Game Day experience on the 40-Acres where fans seemed more concerned with hiding a flask in their boots before entering the stadium than showing any team spirit. I remember many Texas/OU games in which half of the Cotton Bowl was adorned with Sooner Red, while the UT side depicted only sparse sightings of orange as well as many empty seats even at kickoff as the late-arriving crowd grabbed one last corn dog and beer before the game. My dad was an Aggie and I always felt a bit jealous about the atmosphere surrounding Kyle Field prior to a game. You did wonders to change that mindset at UT and create a similar experience with spirited tailgaters and enthusiastic fans.
I also remember shedding a tear when witnessing the classy manner in which you embraced the Aggie culture and lent your heartfelt sympathies in the aftermath of the Bonfire tragedy. Similarly, I remember the overwhelming emotion I felt when welcoming Cole Pittman’s family to a game shortly after his untimely passing and admiring that manner in which you handled that very sad ordeal. While I will surely never forget Ricky running to the NCAA rushing record, Dusty Mangum splitting the uprights to beat Michigan in the “second” most memorable Rose Bowl, Vince hoisting the trophy a year later and realizing a National Championship, and Colt taking us oh-so-close just a few years later, I believe that these non-football moments stand out most to me when I think about you as a coach, leader, passionate individual, and stellar representative of the University.
Thank you again for all that you brought to the University of Texas and for giving me so many great memories as an enthusiastic fan. I wish you and your family nothing but the very best in all of your future endeavors.
Class of ’84