Gil LeBreton

January 3, 2014

Briles-to-UT wouldn’t be a shocker

Texas coaching search seems to change by the hour.

Here’s how crazy this has gotten:

On Thursday afternoon, the nation’s No. 1 high school recruit, running back Leonard Fournette of New Orleans St. Augustine, announced that when he made his college choice known later in the day, he was going to “shock the world.”

Wild speculation immediately ensued.

LSU was roundly assumed to be home-state star Fournette’s first choice. So that wouldn’t shock anybody.

And since Nick Saban and Alabama were reported to be running a close second, that choice wouldn’t have stunned anyone, either.

But, aha! There could only be one “shocking” interpretation, the Internet fan boards quickly concluded:

Fournette was headed to Texas, where he would be playing for Saban, who would announce sometime Friday that he was changing his mind and will indeed become the new coach of the Longhorns.

Sometimes, you can’t even make this stuff up.

Alas, during the fourth quarter of the nationally televised Under Armour All-America Game, Fournette did not-so-shockingly commit to LSU.

At the start of the day Thursday, both the Austin American-Statesman and were reporting that Baylor’s Art Briles would accept the Texas head coaching job, if it was offered.

By dinnertime Thursday, however,’s Chip Brown was writing that a new candidate, UCLA’s Jim Mora, will soon be interviewed.

Last week’s hot candidate, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, has already been interviewed by new UT athletic director Steve Patterson, according to reports.

So, what? No interview for Briles?

Even my smuggest UT friends are mortified by all this. It’s as if Saban was Texas’ No. 1 choice, and no one had deigned to consider a Plan B.

Anyone but Saban, the burnt orange nation has concluded, would know that he wasn’t Texas’ first choice.

I’m guessing the new guy, for an expected salary of $5 million-plus, will get over it, but the angst in Austin continues.

After openly pining for his offense for two or three years, some Texas fans were quick to erase Briles from their after-Christmas lists Thursday. Briles’ Bears put a stain on their memorable season by losing to Central Florida, a 17-point underdog, in the Fiesta Bowl.

But that’s silly. Except for the BCS title game, the college football bowls are like the proverbial box of chocolates. Teams can change during the four weeks between the bowls and the end of the regular season. Some squads get healthier. Other teams get sabotaged by knuckleheads who misbehave and get suspended. Still more teams expend so much emotion getting to 11-1, there’s nothing left in the mental tank by the week after Christmas.

Didn’t Briles show Texas what a good coach he is when the Bears beat the Longhorns 30-10 four weeks ago?

Reports from Austin that Briles would accept the UT job are not all that surprising, even though he agreed to a 10-year contract extension in mid-November. The Baylor makeover, like the TCU renaissance over the past decade, has been one of the state’s great stories — and not only in football.

But Briles has to know that at the end of the recruiting day, the coaching job will always be easier at Texas. In the fall, Baylor will open its new $260 million stadium. Texas, however, not only has the big hat, but also the cattle — plus its own TV network.

It’s hard to imagine Jimbo Fisher leaving Florida State for Austin, not with his Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback coming back for another season.

Mora? From an image standpoint, he might be the most “Texas” type on the Longhorns’ short list.

Charlie Strong? A name to watch, but how soon after he arrives in Austin before the NFL rumors start?

Briles knows what the job is all about. He knows the state of Texas. He should know, as well as any coaching candidate, how close the UT program is to putting all the pieces back together.

No interview? Don’t need one, really.

The choice should be easy, unless Steve Patterson also wants to “shock the world.”

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