The biggest offseason addition for Texas football every year isn’t an offspring of the Manning family or a QB from the Ohio State discard pile. It’s hype. People point to recruiting rankings, staff changes, the Texas flag, the sky, an armadillo, and, presto, people who follow college football develop amnesia and forget that the Longhorns have finished in the top 25 twice since 2010, and one of those was the COVID year when they only played 10 conference games.
The narrative this year surrounding Steve Sarkisian I guess is he has too much talent to fail with QB Quinn Ewers’ arrival from Ohio State and a couple of skill players transferring in from Alabama. Whatever the pipe dream, a few college football preseason rankings stories have at least sipped the burnt orange Kool-Aid. (Mmm, tastes like rust, cumin, and sweat.) Sports Illustrated has a team that finished 5-7 a year ago in the top 25, CBS sports ranked them No. 29, and some asinine formula at ESPN had them in the top 10.
The transfer portal has become so popular it’s doubled as another barometer to raise the expectation meter, and when you meld that with a top-five recruiting class, people forget Sark wasn’t a good head coach at USC or Washington before that. He just got to recuperate his image helming Nick Saban’s offense as if anyone who’s played Madden in the past decade couldn’t guide that parade of all-pros to 40-plus points per game.
However, we all know this is a gap year for the program. Ewers will have to play so well under center that his mullet stops looking like a desperate plea for attention and develops the ironic coolness he’s going for because Arch Manning is coming to Austin, and he’s going to fix the Longhorns before returning the Cowboys to glory.
Hell yeah! God bless Texas!
Only, what happens if — and this is entirely possible — they’re radiating garbage yet again? I know this is only Sarkisian’s second year, but he didn’t even make it two full years in Southern California. There were more reasons than just on-field performance that led to his departure five games into his second season in LA, and while he hasn’t been the lightning rod for off-field issues this time around, there have been plenty of less-than-flattering happenings at the program. From fighting with receivers at practice, to Monkeygate, to silencing senior players when they criticize the culture, Sark had more embarrassing moments in his first season than most coaches amass in five years.
So say Texas gets dismantled by Alabama, who they face in week two for reasons unclear to anyone, then drop one to West Virginia, which they did last year, get blasted in the Red River Rivalry game, and are .500 before mid-October. How much patience will UT boosters have then? Is Manning giving a coach job security before he even plays a down?
I know coaches have coasted off the hype of a recruiting class before — hell, Sark is doing it as we speak — but we’re about to see if all it takes to overlook flagrant incompetence in one Manning. The instantaneous turnaround afforded by the transfer portal has given coaches even less time. It used to be that a guy got a full recruiting class before becoming an unsightly entry in the university ledger.
There are even fewer excuses for Texas to keep rolling out high-grade dog food every fall, and this will be a fascinating experiment of the power of recruiting if this season goes like so many have in Austin of late.
Even if he’s no longer the No. 1 quarterback in his class, Arch’s name recognition alone gives fans hope. And we know what Red said about hope in Shawshank.
Hope is indeed a dangerous thing, and if it can drive a man insane, what does that say about hype?