Mac Engel

Aggies, Horns are too big but can fail

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, left, and Texas coach Charlie Strong face an uphill battle against donors and expectations heading into 2016.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, left, and Texas coach Charlie Strong face an uphill battle against donors and expectations heading into 2016. AP

As we watch our nation’s biggest businesses merge to become even more monopolistic, monolithic and role models for antitrust violators, watching Texas and Texas A&M stumble despite all of their power is a reminder that smaller can be a better alternative.

Yes, it helps when the small banks are worth more than $1 billion, such as the endowments at two of our state’s more modest mom-and-pop shops, TCU and Baylor.

It is heresy to suggest bigger is not better in the great state a’ Texas, but a man’s got to know his limitations. There is such a thing as “too big,” and too many voices in the room. There is no such thing as “Too Big to Fail.”

These are dire times at the two biggest schools and athletic programs in our state. The flagship schools are an embarrassment and offer a warning about the benefits of unlimited cash. It is fitting that neither will play the other in football; neither wants to provide evidence that it is more dysfunctional than the other.

Since September, the athletic directors at Texas and Texas A&M have left. Steve Patterson was fired from UT because he was glib, aloof and a remorseless capitalist in a land of socialism. On Monday, former TCU AD Eric Hyman left the position at A&M, where many of the school’s supporters felt he was distant, likely for good reason.

Eric is a decent and bright man, but he is distant and always lacked the touchy-feel gene. When he was hired by A&M he said, “These are my people.” He fit there as well as former Aggie football coach Dennis Franchione. Both are more Austin or Dallas than College Station.

A source said A&M President Michael K. Young, who was hired in May, prefers his own guy as AD, but just like what went down in Austin, if Kevin Sumlin’s football team won more, none of this would have happened.

A&M lost five of its final eight games, saw its pair of prized five-star quarterbacks transfer to Houston and Oklahoma, fired its offensive coordinator and now offers an OU reject quarterback — but a twinkle in Katy Perry’s eye — as the consolation prize. A&M will be starting its fourth QB in as many seasons, and there is a good chance that number will stretch to five because Trevor Knight is a one year rent-a-player.

Sumlin was OK to drive Kyler Murray off campus the moment that enabled punk lost sight of the fact he is a 5-foot-9 quarterback with no college skins, but the Swagcopter should have built a Trump Wall to prevent Kyle Allen from leaving.

UT put itself in a position to finish with three consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the 1930s, was rejected by a TCU assistant coach to fix the offense and needed the university president to secure an offensive coordinator.

With all due respect to the programs at TCU and Baylor, there is no reason why Texas and Texas A&M should be a combined joke and an embarrassment to the entire state. Hubris and short-sighted decisions are destroying both of these rich programs that can’t see Baylor or TCU with the Hubble Telescope.

Once Johnny left College Station/Austin, the Aggies have been what we all feared when they joined the SEC: average. They are 16-10 in the past two years, and 11-13 in the SEC over the last three seasons.

Don’t give me Texas volleyball or A&M basketball; this is about the pride and joy of Texas. If you are bad at football, it negatively affects the entire morale and image of an athletic department.

The two biggest athletic jobs at both schools — football and AD — have become impossible positions because the money donated by fat cat boosters and a legion of self-important Board of Regents has given these people a voice when they should shut up. When football is bad, those voices grow louder, and meddlesome.

It’s no different at most Power 5 jobs, but the number and volume of the voices in College Station and Austin are just a tick louder.

That should scare UT football coach Charlie Strong. He is entering his third season, has no quarterback, has not had a winning record and was an ish choice. If there is another blah season, he will be fired via text message from Red McCombs.

Sumlin, however, has more security than those named Jones with the Cowboys. Sumlin’s six-year, $30 million extension he signed in 2013 easily defeats the Rangers’ 10-year, $250 million deal handed to Alex Rodriguez in 2001 as the Most Needless Contract Ever Awarded in Texas.

If Hyman is responsible for handing Sumlin his contract, he should be fired. The A&M Board of Regents approved a deal that includes virtually no buyout.

If A&M wants to fire Sumlin, he is due every dime of his deal unless it can show cause; losing doesn’t count. The only way to lower that number is if Sumlin leaves on his own before the end of this season, which would mean he would receive $5 million. That’s not going to happen.

However shiny his visor was during the glory days of Johnny Manziel, it is now covered in mud. It has been 10 years this week since Vince Young won Texas its first national title since 1970, and both schools are actually behind Baylor and TCU to win another.

All teams are due down cycles and bad years, but too much of what is going down in College Station is inexcusable and there are few encouraging signs. We know UT and A&M are the biggest in the state, but not only are they not the best, they also are embarrassing.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel: 817-390-7697, tengel@star-telegram.com, @macengelprof

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