Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Everything’s bigger – and in complete disarray – in Texas

Texas fans don’t like Steve Patterson, the athletic director who, according to sources, has been fired after 22 months on the job.

I have a hunch Texas fans won’t like anyone until the Longhorns start winning a bunch of football games.

The Longhorns, 1-1 in 2015 after being rolled up by Notre Dame and surviving Rice, are supposed to rule the Big 12. They have their own television network. They practically kicked Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M to the curb.

Nothing gets done in the Big 12 without Texas signing off. The Longhorns’ clout is powerful.

So isn’t it fun to see them in such disarray?

Relatively speaking, of course.

Texas has won 47 regular season and 105 postseason championships in all sports since the Big 12 came to be in 1996. Both numbers dwarf those of the Longhorns’ conference rivals.

But neither football nor men’s basketball is doing so hot at the moment. And while – going into political correctness mode here – everyone appreciates the efforts put forth by the swimmers, volleyballers, softballers, track and fieldsters and every other athlete in every other sport, Texas is emasculated without a powerhouse football team. And men’s basketball has its own sordid recent past.

After the 2013 season, Patterson hired Charlie Strong to replace Mack Brown as football coach. Strong came from Louisville, where he had tremendous success. So far at Texas, though, he’s stumbling.

Patterson hired Shaka Smart to replace Rick Barnes as basketball coach and Smart, so successful at VCU, is in his first season.

And now Patterson is gone, mostly because of his distant relationship with the Texas fan base. Again, Longhorns fans don’t like him. But it could be because Longhorns fans have been in a nasty mood for a while now.

From 2001 through 2009, the Longhorns won 101 football games and lost 16. All of those Texas-sized egos could fit into that 85-game win-loss differential and parties were thrown all across Austin.

But the party started to break up in 2010 and now there’s nothing but empty bottles and a few cigarette butts in the ash trays.

Over the past five seasons, Texas was 36-27 and 23-21 in the Big 12. That’ll play in Ames, but it gets heads rolled in Austin. And it makes for some interesting times for an athletic director like Patterson, who is under contract through 2019 for $1.4 million per year.

New Texas president Gregory Fenves, on the job since June 3, is making this call. He was not involved in the hirings of Patterson, Strong or Smart, which indicates just how tenuous things are inside the athletic department and how Fenves is wasting no time making his mark.

I say again, though: Isn’t it fun to see the Longhorns grasping?

Texas deserves this, if for nothing else than being Texas. Meet a Longhorn on the street and he or she will tell you about the great Texas facilities, all of the money that goes into athletics and about that great UT tradition. Then they’ll give you that irritating “Hook ‘em Horns” thing with their hand and be on their merry way.

Except that their way isn’t so merry these days. All that’s been missing from Texas over the past couple of years is Donald Trump to scream, “You’re fired!”

The men’s basketball team has created its share of apprehension, too, by accumulating a meager 66-54 record in the Big 12 since reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament in 2008.

The natives are unhappy. Which, let’s face it, makes the rest of us just as happy as we can be.