I spent last week bumping around Austin, TX and was curious how big Texas football really is and what these folks were doing to elicit the extreme success they have enjoyed over the years. The answer appeared to be very simple: Everything's bigger in Texas, including the capital committed to being a top football team. So what makes up this fantastic football program and how is Mack Brown able to reload year after year in the land of the Longhorns?
I came away from this experience with very few surprises, yet think that analyzing what Texas does is important for all universities to evaluate in their efforts to keep up with the upper tier of the college football world. First, let me say that Austin is a really neat town. Austin has just about everything that you could want in a town. The terrain is slightly hilly with lush plant life all around. I was (ignorantly) under the impression that this area was desert, which is definitely not the case. Additionally, there are several lakes andrecreational areas here to provide year-round entertainment for the outdoorsman. Austin also has great food and a lively downtown area just around the corner from campus. All in all, UT is located in a pretty cool location.
Aside from location, Texas has a commitment to winning. Texans have a devout affiliation to two things: State Pride and Winning Football Games. This is something that really impressed me. These people are Texans first and foremost and embrace every aspect of their history. They view their football teams in the same fashion and have a deep love for the state's flagship university. This love for the University and the game of football cascades into a need to excel in the sport. This rabid affection and need for dominance reverberates through the fan base, the university, the community, and (ultimately) through the entire program. Supporters of this program will settle for nothing less than the best.
The Austin community and the university are flush in capital, which gives them the vehicle to invest heavily in their athletic programs. There are some very wealthy and influential individuals who are willing to put forth whatever it takes to give this football program the best facilities and equipment available. Look no further than Royal Memorial Stadium for evidence, as this place is constantly being expanded and improved to assure UT has a sweet crib for the team and its legion of fans.
Tradition runs deep for the Longhorns and is something that everyone prides. Their four National Championships and 32 conference titles are a testament to this tradition. Texas is 3rd all-time in winning percentage and 2nd all-time in overall wins. Legendary coach Darrell Royal won and won big,even whipping up on the Bear a few times in post season play. Tradition is something that you cannot buy or create from thin air...
Talent is the final piece of the puzzle. UT has a lot of clout in the Lonestar state as the most successful program in Texas. Needless to say, they carry a lot of weight in the talent-saturated state. There is no doubt that, along with Florida and California, this area is flush with talent. UT reaps the benefits with highly rated freshman classes each year.
What can we learn from this exercise? Texas has a lot of talent, support, history, money, and a great location. Other teams are at a huge disadvantage when facing this juggernaut and need to better emulate some of the things Texas does. First, fan loyalty breeds a sense of pride and generates capital for the university. Marketing campaigns and a commitment to fan/alumni involvement are critical to generate excitement around a football program. Getting the community around a program excited about winning football games puts forth the attitude necessary to be successful.
While most colleges cannot compete with the money (much of it old oil money), they can become committed to doing everything possible to raise capital and continually invest and reinvest in the football program. Texas boosters and coaches DEMAND the best for their players, and the rewards are there. While it may not be feasible to finance stadium renovations every five years, raising and reinvesting cash in an athletic program is critical to attaining continuous positive returns over the course of time.
The key here is overall commitment and a demand for the best creates a winning attitude that demands results. The fruits of these efforts result in better talent and more victories. While you may not be able to complete (on a state level) with the raw talent out in Texas, there MUST be commitment to giving each program and each coach the best materials and situations with which they work. The administration cannot handicap recruiting efforts and must commit assets to moving forward. When evaluating a program commitment from all levels must also be evaluated to determine if we are setting ourselves up for success or failure from the get-go.