It’s the quote heard around Ames, Iowa on Saturday following Iowa State’s comeback win over Texas to essentially clinch a berth in the Big 12 title game. “It’s a five-star culture vs. five-star players.”
Breece Hall gave this quote to Travis Hines of the Des Moines Register.
That quote couldn’t be more true and it’s a helluva line. Iowa State doesn’t recruit anywhere close to the Texas Longhorns, yet here there are, beating Texas in Austin for a chance at their first conference championship in 108 years.
But here’s the problem for Texas: that quote could have been used by many of their opponents over the past decade, and there’s no end in sight.
In the Class of 2020, Texas has the No. 1 class in the Big 12 and No. 8 class in the nation. In 2019, the number was even better: No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 3 in the country. 2018: No. 1 in the Big 12, No. 3 in the country. That was an improvement on the prior four years, but even from 2014-2017, the average Texas class ranked in the Top 15 in the nation, according to 247Sports.
But here we are going on 11 years since Texas will have won a conference title. Last time Texas went this long without a conference championship FDR was in office. The gap spanned 1930 to 1942 that Texas went without a conference title.
So what now? There’s certainly plenty of concern as to whether or not Tom Herman is the man to lead the Longhorns going forward.
But one of the things Herman convinced boosters, alumni, fans and the media was early in his tenure was that he would not let the five-star player be entitled. He would work them hard and make them earn everything they get.
Maybe Herman has done that privately and in practice, but the reality is that it has not transferred to wins. Or at least it hasn’t transferred to enough of them. And when you’re the head coach of the richest program in the sport recruiting Top 5 classes every year, it’s the “enough of them” part that you’re judged by. As you should be.
It’s a mystery as to why Texas can’t get the “five-star culture” with the “five-star player”. Alabama does it. Clemson as well. So does Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
But for Texas, they aren’t keeping up with those teams. Heck, they aren’t even catching up with the teams without the five-star players, but with the five-star cultures, in the Big 12. Iowa State has won the last two meetings. Oklahoma State has won four of the last six (although UT won the last two). TCU has won six of seven against the Longhorns.
These are teams who don’t generally come to within the ballpark of recruiting as well as Texas. But they’ve been having success against them for years now.
I don’t know how it changes and I don’t know who will change it. But I do know this: getting top talent to Texas is the easy part. Frankly, it always has been. It’s the highest revenue-generating program in the sport, with the richest boosters, in the most fertile and passionate high school football territory in the country. Kids grow up dreaming of wearing Burnt Orange. Heck, current QB Sam Ehlinger was once one of those kids.
But no matter who the head coach or coordinators or position coaches have been the last decade, it hasn’t mattered.
I don’t know what Tom Herman’s future will be in Austin. But I do know this: if Texas thinks it can do better, that’s fine. But the issue with culture, player development and simple motivation has to be the top criteria that is discussed.
Because the five-star culture has been beating the five-star players for too long in Austin.
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