Saturday afternoon featured many of the same feelings Texas Longhorns fans have been accustomed to the past decade: disgust, anger, sadness, and nausea. Losing to Oklahoma in Dallas hurts. Blowing a 21 point lead hurts. Blowing a 21 point lead to Oklahoma, who had to pull their ‘Heisman front-runner’ quarterback, is a fate worse than hell to most Longhorns. However, with perspective, there are reasons to believe that things are indeed different now.
Renewed energy around the program
The most obvious reason for optimism that things will be different now for the Texas Longhorns is that things are. There is an entirely new staff that has been hot on the recruiting trail the past two months. This staff recognized the inadequacies of the current roster.
There are already seven defensive line recruits committed to the Longhorns to go along with two interior offensive linemen. Beefing up on the lines is the quickest way to improve, as this is where UT has struggled so far in the Sark era. This goes into the next reason that things are different: the move to the SEC.
The three letters representing the Southeastern Conference are often tongue-in-cheek ridiculed by Twitter when a school breaks out into an S-E-C chant. We have grown exhausted from hearing our neighbors in College Station gloat about their SEC monopoly in Texas. With Texas’s (hopefully) imminent move to the premier conference in college football, there is a renewed energy around the program. The stakes are higher in our new home, but the benefits are as well.
Recruiting will obviously be positively affected (goodbye A&M recruiting advantage). Marketing will skyrocket for the most valuable brand in college football. Key states will be opened up for a brand new suitor to create pipelines. The benefits will be huge for Texas to contribute to a conference instead of carrying eight other members to national relevancy.
There have been improvements already
It is easy to be struck by Deranged Longhorn Fan Syndrome (DLFS) after witnessing what transpired in the Cotton Bowl. The trip to Fayetteville was a complete disaster that showed exactly where this team is lacking talent. It does take some perspective to see that the team has already improved at this point.
Mid-majors Louisiana and Rice were not even close contests; this could not always be said during previous administrations. Texas Tech vs. Texas in years past was a shootout usually won by the team possessing the ball last or the team not making the last mistake.
It was over by halftime this year, with Sark taking his foot off the gas after hitting the 70 point mark. TCU has been a problem for Texas since its acceptance in the Big XII in 2021. The Longhorns found a way to win in Ft. Worth when the passing game was not clicking in a hostile environment.
The four wins so far should not be discounted or cheapened by what happened in Dallas. Texas still controls its destiny in the Big XII title race. Given what we have witnessed this season, Texas should have confidence that this coaching staff has what it takes to take care of business against the middle-to-lower-tier conference opponents.
A coach that has been through it all
Charlie Strong and Tom Herman had great resumes until they accepted the head coaching position with the Texas Longhorns. Transforming mid-major powers Louisville and Houston were impressive feats, with each winning a BCS/New Year’s Six bowl before departing for the 40 acres. However, neither had the resume, both on and off the field, as Steve Sarkisian.
Coach Sark was ½ of the golden boy assistants (With Lane Kiffin) that Pete Carroll featured on his staff. The Trojans won big, put up huge numbers, and met very little resistance (except January 4, 2006). Sark was on the fast track to stardom at this point and parlayed it to the head coaching gig at Washington. He was able to build up enough equity there to get his dream job at USC. But this is where the true education of Sark began.
We all know the story of his fall from grace, so ill spare the details. But what happened from that point is why I have the most optimism for the future of Texas. Sark rebuilt his image with an off-field role at Alabama, a mixed result dip into the NFL, and a return to Alabama. In 2019 and 2020, he piloted record-setting offenses for the Tide and captured the 2020 national title.
Steve Sarkisian is not another coach coming off a hot run as a Group of 5 head coach or a Power 5 coordinator. Sark is someone who has had everything in front of him and lost it. He has ventured lower than most coaches will ever have to. He has scratched and clawed to get back to this point, once again powering a blue blood program.
As far as the future of Texas Longhorns football, Sark will not be afraid to make the tough calls on assistants, in-game management, or critical calls during a game. When you have lost it all once, you will do anything in your power to not lose it again.
Most importantly, Steve Sarkisian understands how special being the head coach on the 40 acres is, unlike his two predecessors. Standing beside Pete Carroll in cardinal and gold on January 4, 2006, Sark saw what can happen when the coach and program mesh together perfectly in Austin, Texas.