Is it really fun being a fan of a football program like Texas or USC?
Both have won national-championships within the last 10 years. Both have histories of big winning. So those fans have had experiences that never come to the vast majority of other schools.
But a downturn in fortunes doesn’t just bring grumbling like the kind heard here in Iowa after the Hawkeyes sank to 4-8 last season. You get routed by BYU and Mississippi in successive weeks like Texas did last month, and it brings nothing short of a firestorm.
Texas’ appearance in the BCS title-game of four years ago might as well have been four centuries ago. The Longhorns are 24-18 since that game, 12-15 in the Big 12, and have an unacceptable three straight losses to Oklahoma by a total score of 146-58.
No matter if his Horns handle Iowa State Thursday in Ames, Mack Brown’s tenure will be Texas toast if the Horns fall to the Sooners again next Saturday.
USC went 10-2 just two seasons ago. After getting drilled 62-41 at Arizona State Saturday night to slip to 0-2 in the Pac-12 this year and 5-6 over the last two seasons, Lane Kiffin was canned as coach in midseason.
Texas, with the largest athletic budget of any university on Earth, its own television network, and a huge and fertile recruiting base, can’t stomach 9-4 seasons that would tickle many fans.
So Brown, with a 152-45 mark at the school, is a goner unless his Longhorns thunder across the rest of their schedule. If Iowa State pulls the upset Thursday, no federal government shutdown could produce the kind of anger that will be vented Friday morning in Austin.
Don’t look here for condemnation of midseason firings and ingratitude over glories of the past. Brown is being paid $5.4 million this year. Only a business with an out-of-touch board of directors would let a CEO keep a $5.4 million job if his or her performance had tailed off and its customers were barking.
The final nail for Brown will be another loss to Oklahoma. But a big hammer was swung Monday when former Texas Heisman Trophy-winner Earl Campbell said this:
“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.’
“I’d just say this, I take my hat off for USC for what they’ve done. They didn’t mess around with it. They just said ‘Let’s do it now.’ ”
If you once rushed for thousands of yards, your opinion is made of solid gold at your alma mater. With the possible exception of O.J. Simpson, of course.
I covered the Texas-ISU game in Ames in 2011. I was surprised at the large number of Longhorn fans who made the long trip north. They care, and spend a lot of money to show it.
But there’s no “This should be a fun game,” or “We’re delighted with any Big 12 win” in their tailgates. It’s more like “We must not lose.”
So when USC hires the wrong coach and flops, or when Texas is ranked the fifth-best team in its own state by the Dallas Morning News, how can the rest of us not help but enjoy it?
All that tradition, money and recruiting advantages. All that self-importance. And yet, all that mortality.