With Dodds‘ retirement, search for Brown’s replacement heats up at Texas

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Texas began two-stepping its way toward major changes in the Longhorns’ football program Tuesday.

Step One: As expected, men’s athletic director DeLoss Dodds announced he will vacate his position as leader of the nation’s wealthiest college program in August 2014. But the search for his successor already is ongoing, with a replacement possibly in place by the end of the year to take care of …

Step Two: Hiring the replacement for coach Mack Brown, whose tenure in charge of the football program cannot be expected to extend past this season now that Dodds no longer will sit in judgment of Brown’s postseason fate.

That is the bottom-line takeaway from Tuesday’s proceedings in Austin, where Dodds, 76, basically washed his hands of any involvement in making a call on his embattled football coach.

“Anything that this department does significantly in the next year needs to have the hand of the new person,” Dodds said at a news conference to announce his retirement. “Because that’s the person that’s going to have to manage it and live with it and be responsible for it.”

University President Bill Powers said he hopes to have a new athletic director in place within “the next couple of months,” which dovetails nicely with the end of the Longhorns’ football season. Powers also offered a lengthy and deserved testimonial about Dodds’ 32-year journey from overseer of a department with a $4 million budget to a national mover and shaker whom Powers called “one of the giants in college athletics” as CEO of Texas’ $170 million sports empire.

Both men made it clear Tuesday that the new athletic director, once in place, will oversee any organizational makeover. That could result in imminent coaching changes in the program’s three highest-profile sports: football, men’s basketball and baseball.

All three sports have underperformed in recent seasons by Texas standards. But the cash cow that funds the Burnt Orange Empire, triggers huge alumni donations and keeps the ESPN checks flowing to fund the Longhorn Network is the football program. Fixing that will be Job No. 1 for the new AD, regardless of his or her identity.

And the final blow to Brown’s ability to recapture a fractured fan base probably landed Sunday, when Longhorns legend Earl Campbell called for the coach’s ouster in an interview with a Houston TV station.

Campbell, the 1977 Heisman Trophy winner, minced no words when endorsing the departure of a coach who led the Longhorns to the 2005 national championship but is only 24-19 in his last 43 games at the helm of a program expected to be one of the nation’s best on an annual basis.

“Nobody likes to get fired or leave a job, but things happen. I’d go on record and say, ‘Yes, I think it’s time,’” Campbell said. “Some people get too old. If players get too old to play a game, why can’t a coach get too old to coach it?”

Brown, 62, is a first-class guy with an enviable coaching record. But he’s lagged peers as a recruiter and strategist since his last elite quarterback, Colt McCoy, moved on to the NFL after the 2009 season. Campbell, arguably the school’s highest-profile living letterman, merely joined a growing chorus of former players and other Texas supporters in going public with that sentiment as the Longhorns (2-2, 1-0 Big 12) prepare for Thursday’s game at Iowa State (1-2, 0-0).

Rest assured, Campbell’s voice carries more clout than the pocketbooks of most influential donors, making this a hit Brown probably cannot offset with anything less than a 2013 Big 12 championship. Especially not without the protective presence of Dodds, who brought Brown to the school in 1997, to determine the coach’s status if Texas winds up in another second-tier bowl game in December.

To most Texas fans, it really does not matter whether Oliver Luck (West Virginia athletic director), Tom Jurich (Louisville athletic director), Joe Castiglione (Oklahoma athletic director), Bob Bowlsby (Big 12 commissioner) or someone else slides into Dodds’ chair. What matters is when Dodds’ successor makes the call on Brown’s future. And, if a change is made, who emerges as Texas’ next football coach.

As of Tuesday, the clock is ticking toward a December declaration on both fronts. Although Powers stressed there is “no timetable” to identify Dodds’ successor, all signs point to a desire to begin the transition before the end of the year. Dodds said he has been talking to Powers about his impending retirement for “a year or two,” so you’d think the vetting process for successors is well under way.

Dodds said Tuesday was “the right time for the university” to go public with his plans, although you’ve got to wonder whether Campbell’s comments and the football team’s struggles had something to do with that timing.

“People might say, ‘Well, football’s struggling a little and that’s why you’re making a move,’” Dodds said. “We could be 4-0 in football and we’d be sitting here doing this. Or we could be 0-4 in football and we’d be sitting here doing this.”

Just a guess, but I’m thinking Tuesday’s announcement could have waited until December if Texas was 4-0, not 2-2, heading into Thursday’s game. Either way, expect an eventful December in Austin now that Dodds has begun what appears to be a significant Texas two-step.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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