For everyone who predicted Will Muschamp never would become the head coach at Texas, take a bow.
As things turned out, the head-coach-in-waiting might have gotten tired of biding his time. Or maybe Florida, with all its football resources and family ties, was simply too good a coaching job to pass up.
The particulars are less important than the impact — Texas lost its heir apparent and now has three vacant coordinator positions (defense, offense and special teams). Maybe, just maybe, the situation represents as much of an opportunity for coach Mack Brown as it does a lesson in crisis management.
Fan message boards have done a nice job of outlining the potential for doom. A potentially great recruiting class could fray, or worse. Muschamp might still raid Texas for assistants, although the odds appear to favor the return of running backs coach Major Applewhite. After a 5-7 finish, Texas hasn’t been this vulnerable since the ’90s. At 59, can Brown overhaul the program he built into one of the nation’s best? Texas might well be at one of those great crossroads.
Still, something good can emerge from the chaos. Really.
For now, Brown has a nearly blank canvas with which to work — not necessarily a bad thing.
He can sell tradition, facilities and recruiting territory. The pay isn’t bad, either. Muschamp earned $900,000 as one of the highest-paid coordinators in the country. Greg Davis made more than $400,000. Potentially, Texas could offer $600,000 or more for the offensive and defensive coordinators slots, enough to get anyone’s attention.
Beyond the money and the other lures, a Texas coordinator job just became a lot more lucrative.
As the weekend began, Muschamp was the heir to the throne. Any ambitious coach joining the staff faced a glass ceiling, with the top job out of reach.
Now, college and pro assistants can look at Texas and view a major opening to something much bigger and better. With one good season in 2008, Muschamp was able to elevate himself — although that had more to do with a desire to win a national title in 2009 than long-term planning.
After 36 hours or so, Randy Shannon seems to be the Internet’s defensive coordinator leader in the clubhouse. The former Miami Hurricanes coach might be the answer, given his track record under Larry Coker at the U. But even with recruits anxious for stability, Brown can probably afford to wait a day or two to see who else might be attractive. He had not spoken to any candidates as of Sunday and still had not relayed a timetable, according to a Texas football spokesman.
Don’t be surprised if in some ways this energizes Brown after a season that seemed to take a physical and psychological toll.
Consider what he said after a loss to Texas A&M concluded his worst UT season in 13 years.
“You can head two ways with a negative year: You can lay down and feel sorry for yourself, or you can go back to work and learn from it and make everything better,” Brown said. “Hopefully, that’s what will happen. We’ll tighten everything up.”