December 3, 2012

Sports Economics: Texas Longhorns Need a New CEO

By EconMatters

Since the Vince Young and Colt McCoy era the Texas Longhorns Football program has been in steep decline with a 21 win and 16 loss record over the last 3 years despite having financial resources, high end facilities, and top-five recruiting classes that most University programs only dream about.  Mack Brown makes over 5 million dollars a year, at the most valuable football program in the country estimated in the range of $800 million.

Texas has recruiting advantages over their rivals for instance, Johnathan Gray a freshman running back at Texas who was highly coveted, well his father played football at Texas Tech, and poor Texas Tech couldn`t even get a visit from the player. Texas often says, “they don`t recruit, they select” so for the last three years the Football program is just above 500 while selecting the best players in the state of Texas which is ground zero for division I players. Football is religion in the state of Texas and produces the most college football players along with Florida and California. So Texas is getting beat by all the players who weren`t good enough to play at the University of Texas, i.e., Texas didn`t ‘select’ them.

Mack Brown has a lot of great qualities; he represents the University well off the field, great at Banquets, dealing with boosters, visiting hospitals and the soft coaching duties necessary at a high profile program like the University of Texas. But make no mistake, college football is big business these days, the longhorns are even trying to get their Longhorn Network off the ground to increase Texas prominence even more. The problem is this is all contingent on having an elite program, and Mack Brown is paid to win games, he is one of the highest paid coaches in college football due to the elevated expectations regarding having an elite winning program defined as top 5 in the polls each year with a major BCS bowl appearance annually.

So Texas has the most financial resources at their disposal, high end facilities, the best recruits, great fan sponsorship, their pick of assistant coaches, and yet they are just a middle of the road average at best performer over the last three years. Mack Brown dealt with the poor performance by bringing in new assistant coaches hoping to deflect some of the pressure and criticism for the poor performance on the field, but the quality of performance remains average at best. It isn`t just the record, it is the level of play that concerns critics the most, routinely getting blown out by interstate rivals, and putting on lackluster performances that have fans scratching their heads year after year.

Last night Kansas State University fans chanted as the game was winding down “We own Texas” after beating them for five straight years, a KSU program that lacks all the advantages that Texas enjoys, all except one; a Great Head Coach. So Mack Brown is the only constant, he is really good at everything expected of a high profile coach except for the most fundamental aspect of his job coaching and leadership in setting the tone for exceptional performance on the field.  The glad handing and relationship management is the icing on the cake; first and foremost you are paid to win games in the modern era of big time college football.

The University of Texas Football Program is not getting a positive return on their investment in the head coach at this point. Mack Brown often positions himself as more of a CEO than a head coach, well the Texas program is starting to look like RIMM to Alabama`s AAPL, and RIMM`s sharp decline led to an executive change at the top. It is time for Texas to have a leadership change at the CEO level, before it becomes too late and their program has declined to the point where they are no longer “selecting” the best athletes in the state, but rather taking Texas A&M`s leftovers. Think in terms of HP, when a company declines too far, all the CEO changes in the world cannot turn a losing organization around. 

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