You just knew Tennessee and Clemson would be ringing their dinner bells during this off week for Texas. Those programs are not nearly in as bad a shape with an uphill fight as, say, Syracuse and Iowa State. That’s where previous Longhorn defensive coordinators have been lured to lately, but Tennessee and Clemson are an entirely different breed of cat, with advantages and resources that can’t be found in Syracuse, New York or Ames, Iowa. Hunting season is under way and the ones with the .30-.30s are the programs in Knoxville, Tennessee and Clemson, South Carolina.
I can just imagine the phone calls to DeLoss Dodds from Tennessee and Clemson, both wanting to interview defensive coordinator Will Muschamp (plus those from Auburn that already ‘unofficially’ dialed Muschamp’s number even though that head job isn’t open – yet). There’s little doubt, though, that the entrance of the Vols into the picture forced Texas’ hand on this matter and they moved in an aggressive manner.Instead of sitting back and waiting for Muschamp’s shoe to drop, DeLoss Dodds and Mack Brown went on the offensive.It didn’t take long, I’m sure, for Brown to recognize that his football team has played with a passion for 10 straight Saturdays and lots of the fire has come from Will Muschamp. That’s exactly why he was hired earlier this year. And on the near horizon lurks Texas A&M, a team that has sawed the horns off Mack Brown’s team two years in a row and almost pulled an upset in 2005. It was no time for Will Muschamp and family to be worrying about which moving van will pick up their stuff.But there’s a much bigger picture that both Brown and Dodds recognized and acted upon: here is a bright, fiery young man with all the necessary traits that any school would want as a head coach. Muschamp’s family likes Austin, he realizes that Texas is the center of the very best high school football in the country and if he can wait on the opportunity for a really great head coaching job, then the deal can work. So keep him at Texas heading up the defense until Mack Brown decides to step down or lose him and again go out into the night to first find a new coordinator, and eventually, find just the right man for the head coaching job. They saw the right man for both. It also makes a statement to recruits that the Longhorns will play the best defense in the Big 12 to go along with a prolific offense.Dodds and Brown had the ball in their court and they served an ace.In Darrell Royal’s day at Texas, arrangements like Muchamp’s didn’t happen. If Royal could have appointed Mike Campbell in such a role say in 1973 after the thrilling Cotton Bowl win over Alabama and the Bear, it would have saved lots of wasted years of head coaching changes at Texas. That’s just part of what this deal hopefully accomplishes when the transition from Mack Brown’s tenure takes place.How does this affect the other Longhorn assistants? Texas assistants will still be on the short list for other head jobs, or when coach Brown does step down, they could be asked by coach Muschamp to continue on the Longhorn staff. Let’s put it this way, to be offensive line coach at Texas is a world of difference from being line coach at UTEP. Texas wins games, you are coaching the very best recruits from the state of Texas high schools and there is significant recognition within the profession for coaching in Austin, which is huge in the coaching ranks.Most importantly, even if there are changes in the Texas staff over the next few years, the leadership is in place to stay, which separates the Longhorns program from most of its competition.With all this settled, the focus now turns towards defeating Texas A&M. Texas has a potential national championship game berth on the line, or at least a BCS bowl berth, plus the Horns can send the Ags into an off-season of sheer frustration. It is a nightmare that Coach Brown, after two seasons, has the opportunity to relinquish to the Aggie coaching staff.Mack Brown and Will Muschamp cement a great relationship for Texas football and for Longhorn fans. Simply put, it was a stroke of genius.
Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.