C-BOG Commentary: 100 Mil Doesn’t Buy What It Used To

IT Special Contributor Jeff Conner delivers another outstanding commentary when he tackles the subject of Texas and Money, from Justin Beiber, Red McCombs, to Obamacare. 
I wonder which will happen sooner: Rick Barnes wins Big 12 Coach of the Year honors or Justin Bieber gets spit out of the bottom of the gay porn industry, catching in a series poorly-made, poorly-selling, direct-to-video films, each titled with an increasingly bad “Bieber” pun (“Just In Bieber,” “Master Bate-ber” and “Lock, Stock and Two Stroking Biebers”)? They’re both coming, trust me. It’s not a question of if, but when.

In the meanwhile, what the hell is up with Red McCombs? Chuckie Gruden would win five national championships in 15 years? Fer reals? A guy who hasn’t coached/recruited in college since 1991, when he was in charge of wide receivers at Pitt? You’re sure he’d win a natty every three years over and over for a decade and a half? Sorry, Red, but I call BS; I haven’t seen so many numbers randomly pulled out of someone’s ass since the selling of Obamacare.

McCombs told a San Antonio radio show he considered the hiring of Texas head football coach Charlie Strong “a kick in the face,” because Strong isonly qualified to serve as a position coach or “maybe a coordinator.” For crying out loud, McCombs, the guy has two national championship bling rings as DC from his Florida days. If I didn’t know better, Red almost sounded like a polite Southern gentleman bumbling to discretely describe why the field Negro can’t be trusted in the main house.

Honestly, I don’t think that’s what McCombs meant. His ignorant comments had nothing to do with skin color and everything to do with acting like a petulant child now that he is no longer in the driver’s seat of the University of Texas athletics. $100 millionis the approximate sum McCombs has donated to my alma mater over the years. I guess 100 mil doesn’t buy what it used to.

When I was practicing law, I did a lot of estate planning. It’s not all wills and trusts; a large part of what I did was set up documents for lifetime giving. Inevitably, one of the purposes of the giving was control. You remember the Golden Rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” People with money want to control the person or entity receiving their money.

A husband and wife want to exert influence over a church’s governing board to get rid of or keep a pastor. Parents want to reign in an out-of-control spend thrift son-in-law. An old dude wants to make sure his young, hot wife doesn’t get remarried after he’s pushing up daisies.

Problem is, exerting too much control over a gift makes it an … uhm … ungift. If the party receiving the gift doesn’t really own it and can’t really do what they want with it, the I.R.S. can rule the donor still owns it and therefore gets no deduction. The money would then go back into the donor’s estate when they die for estate tax purposes. Estate planners call it giving gifts with strings attached. The old joke is a cautionary one: “Gifts with strings attached can give you rope burn.”

Which explains why estate planners get laid much less often than personal injury attorneys.

Guys like Red McCombs made their millions knowing the value of a buck. They never gave $100 million to anyone or anything without expecting something substantial in return. Their gifts almost always come with some type of strings attached, either real or mutually understood. Under Mack Brown’s administration, McCombs could waltz into the head coach’s office unannounced, plop his pointy-toed cowboy boots on Mack’s desk and shoot the Aggie for an hour.

In exchange for the inconvenience, the school received much-needed, extremely generous donations, and Mack had a sugar daddy who had his back in times of 5-7.

But the problem at UT goes much farther than wiping the bottom of Red’s boots off Brown’s desk. Big Money Guys are used to running things; that’s how the vast majority of them earned their wealth. They are accustomed to being the big, swinging male appendage in the room. They have egos larger than a Kardashian ass, and every single one of them thinks they know best how to run the athletic department.

McCombs’ quote was telling: “We have boosters that have a lot of knowledge about the game.” Do tell. What exactly qualified you to pick a head football coach? Playing a few years of junior college ball in the early 1940’s? Owning the Minnesota Vikings? You hired Mike Tice, for crying out loud, not Bud Wilkinson. Your first choice for UT head coach was Jon Gruden, a man with no college head coach experience who has been holding a microphone the past five years.

Jerry Jones knows less about football than John Travolta knows about vaginas, but at least he played Division 1 ball, and he’s never tried to hire John Clayton as his coach.

Look, I don’t doubt Texas’ Big Money guys are smart and capable. I don’t doubt they love my school deeply. I get that the Big Cigars are respected and important and that they’ll donate more to worthy charities with one stroke of a pen than I’ll be able to in a lifetime. I teach 8th grade algebra, and there are few jobs more lowly, but, by God, UT is just as much mineas it is theirs.

Enter Steve Patterson, the first guy in years to treat The University like the public trust it is. Minimizing the frantic input of the Big Cigars, Patterson picked his guy for this most important hire, free of the influence or manipulation of big donors. The strings to the gifts have been snipped; the Grande Cohibas no longer control either the process or the outcome.

I honestly don’t know how the Charlie Strong experiment will end. The more information I get, the more it looks like a good hire. But that’s just my view from the cheap seats.

What I do know for sure is that the way Texas chooses its head coach changed for the better.

Regardless, if Red McCombs holds his breath until he turns … uhm … blue.

Hook ‘em.

A 1986 graduate of the University of Texas, Jeff Conner has held many jobs in his life: husband, brother, uncle, son, oil field roustabout, short-order cook, sandblaster, irrigation pipe mover, musician, retail assistant manager, attorney-at-law, public school teacher, preacher, cartoonist and writer. While he does have a hot, young wife, Conner is neither as clever nor as good-looking as he believes himself to be. Jeff is currently teaching 8th grade math and Pre-A.P. algebra in Taylor, Texas, home of the Fighting Ducks. Conner’s regularly submitted commentary appears in and Inside Texas Magazine. The opinions presented do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inside Texas editorial staff.