These are strange days for University of Texas intercollegiate sports.
I’m not talking dumb or odd, like attention whore Miley Cyrus tattooing “Rolling $tone” on the bottoms of her white trailer trash feet. I’m talking full-blow weirdness, like Crispin Glover and Lady Gaga trying to conceive Osama Bin Laden’salien love child, wearing adult diapers made of Cool Ranch Doritos while rolling around in a bed of guacamole dip, pickled pigs’ knuckles, Queen Latifah hair extensions and recycled Sly Stallone film scripts.
What the hell do I know? Maybe for Lady Gaga, that’s a pretty normal evening.
At any rate, long-time Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds announced he would step down from the position he has held for since 1981. While the announcement was neither surprising nor unwanted, it was significant.
1981? Has it really been thirty-two years? Dodds is the only AD I’ve known during my high school, college, graduate school and adult life. He’s been the driving force of the face of the University longer than the Simpsons has been on the air, as long as there has been an MTV, as many years as Joan Rivers has had that thing growing on her … well, you get the idea.
While the vast majority of my Longhorn friends and acquaintances believe it’s past time for Dodds to retire, life without him will be odd and awkward at first. Being DeLoss-less will take some time to adjust.
Dodds has irrevocably changed the face of the University and, by extension, all college athletics. In an era that focused on conspicuous consumption, frenzied building and revenue generation that would make King Midas facepalm, Dodds played the game as well as anybody, raising annual Longhorn athletics revenue from $10 million to over $150 million. Under Dodds’ tenure, UT spent upwards of $380 million on facilities upgrades. The Horns regularly top the list of Forbes’ most valuable football teams (in 2012, worth $133 million, up from $129 million in 2011), a pretty enviable position, considering we haven’t fielded a competitive football team since Colt McCoy’s throwing arm became a pickled pigs’ knuckle in the Alabama national championship game.
That was almost four years ago.
While money can’t buy happiness, love, national championships or acting skills for Paris Hilton, it can occasionally solve a problem or two. Cash in college athletics is like a good, quality tight end: It’s always better to have than not.
“Breaking Bad’s” Walter White famously noted he was in not simply selling methamphetamine; he was in the “empire business.” Forget empire, Dodds was founding a dynasty – a thousand year Reich. Even Blue Sky couldn’t create permanent, long-term cash flow like the Longhorn Network or have every third person in the state of Texas buy any and everything burnt orange at the local Wal-Mart. It’s good to be king.
I understand people are unhappy with where our athletic department is right now; I am one of them. However, a small minority use that discontent to retroactively try to minimize Dodds’ responsibility in building the behemoth that Longhorn athletics has become.
When the car crosses the line first at Daytona, how many times do we thank the pit crew and sponsors before we acknowledge all that fancy drivin’? Empires don’t just build themselves; they are created from the iron will of Ramses the Great, Citizen Kane, Tony Montana or a former Kansas State track star.
“But our conference is an ugly mess.” Yeah, but it’s OUR ugly mess. We bought for it, we paid for it and we own it. Big fish, small pond.
Besides, if you don’t like the Big-12, where should we be? PAC 16? Yeah Tuesday night travel to Corvallis for a volleyball game sounds delightful. Big-10? You sure they would have taken OU and their … uhm … academics? SEC? You really, seriously want in that cheating snake pit? All I’m saying is I can make a good argument for the Big-12 with the LHN as opposed to another conference without it, especially after Time Warner.
“But we don’t win anymore.” Yes, our major three men’s sports all need to be scooped off then lawn, but nobody was bitching about Mack Brown when he held up the crystal football, Augie when we won two national championships in four years or Rick Barnes when the football school crashed the Final Four. At one point, they were all brilliant hires.
Just not any more.
“But he didn’t fire Mack.” Yeah, and your wife didn’t leave you after that thing with the aerobics instructor. Speaking generally, it’s easier to stay out of prison when you pull the trigger too late rather than too early. Except in Florida, of course.
But I digress. Eventually, the dynasty builder must, however reluctantly, pass his tools to the next generation. Winning cures many ills in collegiate sports, and, provided our next head football coach wins big, the foundation laid by DeLoss Dodds will be the basis for things more grand and magnificent than most of us could even imagine.
We don’t judge John Wayne’s acting career based on “McQ”; we look at his entire body of work. Please, don’t judge Dodds on his unwillingness to fire his long-time friend and partner Mack Brown. Look at the entirety of Dodds’ work, breadth of vision and positioning for future growth.
Then we can all get freaky with the guacamole.
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 InsideTexas.com and Inside Texas Magazine. The opinions presented do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inside Texas editorial staff.