Coach's Corner

by Andy "Coach" Cotton I don't like being treated like a moron. I can follow the bouncing ball. Politicians treat us like idiots on a daily basis. For example, my mother might be the only person left in the country who still watches those stupid political talk things on PBS. The other night I walked in and there sat a circle of Washington "insiders" arguing in an animated fashion. The subject? Should the Vice President be hounded from office because he may or may not have made a phone call from his office downstairs instead of upstairs. Repeated polls show the American people don't care about this. They understand and disapprove of partisan attempts at manipulating the media, to make effective governing almost impossible. Every year politicians deplore the falling voter turnout. Duh! Anyway, to me, politics is an abstract irritation. UT football is another story. I'm insulted when the head coach and his minions at the state's proudest, most visible sports program, week in and week out, treat its many followers as if, at best, we're unable to follow the ball, at worst, like a kindergarten class waiting for crackers and milk. After the 63-point UCLA fiasco, Coach Mackovic wasn't too worried. He gave credit to UCLA. They really were a pretty good team. His defense just had a few breakdowns, the starting quarterback didn't play, and they'd all just have to work harder.

Two weeks later against the Rice Owls, a mid-level WAC team, Texas "won" a game that by every quantifiable measure, except the score, they should have lost. Mackovic and his coaching staff had the fantastic gall to tell us that the putrid defensive effort on the Longhorns' part, where the Owls ran up and down the field, gulping up huge swathes of yardage like Nate Newton eats Big Macs, was really, no matter what we all just saw, a good defensive effort. "After all," they seemed to say, "when you play a top program like Rice, you gotta be happy to get out with a win."

Now Oklahoma State. After another (adjectives are running low) embarrassing loss, 42-16, Mackovic tells us this effort was an "improvement." Over what, he didn't say. He thanked the opposing coach of a team he'd beaten by about 100 points last year for not running up the score. In your wildest nightmares, could any Longhorn fan imagine the coach of this proud old program, with a team many thought might actually win a national championship, making such a sad statement? In two losses, UT was beaten by teams it was favored to defeat by 89 points.

Not even halfway through what was supposed to be a great season, fans have suffered through three straight contests, any of which taken by themselves in a single season would have been cause for concern. The people responsible for this mess, the coaches, take little responsibility. They want to run a spin control capable of making Jesse Helms blush. "No, no, no. That wasn't really a cockroach you all saw out there. That there was a golden goose. Just a little constipated today is all." Look at the game film, that's the company line this week, to see what went wrong.

We're all stupid. We didn't really see what we saw. That was a "good effort." The other team was topnotch. (If Texas really was slaughtered by a "good team," what do you think the score would be if OSU played Florida?) All this criticism is so unfair. The breaks just didn't fall their way. This would be easier to take if someone over there, like the head coach, would stand up and take some responsibility for what's gone so badly wrong, instead of trying to pretend night is day and grass is blue. A little humility, like saying, "We stunk," or, "It's my fault, I'm embarrassed. The team's embarrassed." But honesty is out of style at The University. Delusional thinking wins the day.

More than a few high-profile college programs are struggling this year. The once proud Miami Hurricanes (1-4) just suffered a Longhornesque loss to Florida State. However, little was expected from Miami. Colorado, a team with almost identical pre-season expectations as Texas, has struggled, but at least they've competed each week. Only Notre Dame (1-4) rivals Texas in underachievement. Still, a first-year coach has a year or two of excuses to exhaust, and the Irish, though not winning, are not being humbled on the field.

No, that National Championship, no matter if Texas wins every game left on its schedule, goes to the Longhorns. Let's face a fact. Big-time college football is a professional sport in every way except that the players don't get paid. You rarely see a college player roasted in the media. This is fair. They don't get paid. Even the media realizes that college halfbacks are not fair game. The head coach, however, is. Some are paid over a million dollars a year. Steve Spurrier is paid close to $2 million. Ridiculous, you say. I agree. But does he do what he's paid to do? You bet... in spades. Most high-profile coaches do.

In Austin?? The Texas season has spun frightfully out of control. A little candor wouldn't change the facts, but it might make the medicine a little more digestible.