I remember thinking as a child how sad it was when old people reminisced about the “Good Old Days.” I always thought maybe a good idea would be to recognize when the "Good Old Days" are actually happening and enjoy them then, rather than when you're missing all your teeth. That sure seemed like a better deal.
Well, if you are a University of Texas football fan (or basketball or baseball fan, for that matter), those good old days are happening right now. Regardless of whether the team wins or loses the BCS National Championship Thursday night, Longhorn fans should be soaking up every second of what's going on right now. Bless the football gods for sending us Mack Brown. The turnaround for UT’s football program under the UT head coach has been nothing short of remarkable, especially over the past six years. If Texas wins Thursday, they will be 6-0 in their last six bowls (including four BCS Bowl games) against other stalwart programs including Michigan, USC, Alabama and Ohio State.
And if it wasn't enough to just have Brown, UT's coach-in-waiting—Will Muschamp—is probably one of the 10 most sought-after coaches in the land. The recruiting classes the last three years have also made the future look bright indeed, indicating the program may be hitting a plateau of greatness.
During these good times, people sometimes forget how miserable it is to be at the bottom looking up, especially if in the past you had achieved great heights. Back in the '60, '70s, and early '80s most of college ball's classic programs — USC, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Alabama — seemed destined to be on top of the world forever. But with the advent of cable television and the expanded revenue it brings to more schools, the rise of Florida State and the University of Miami, and the development of the passing game, many, if not all, of those programs began to teeter badly in the face of stiffer competition and reduced exposure.
Texas' rival for the championship, the University of Alabama, must know the feeling well. Since the '93 Sugar Bowl and national title, it has been a long, humiliating, sordid, embarrassing road that most ‘Bama fans would rather forget. The Longhorns’ drought from the mid-1980s until the Brown era was also filled with the lowest of lows. It's too bad some of the younger UT fans can't travel hop in the wayback machine to the sweltering UCLA defeat, or the Rice defeat in the pouring rain, or watch Baylor tear down the goalposts in Waco. Then they'd understand.
Many other schools like USC and OU have also had some extended down times, and Notre Dame is currently in the middle of its own nightmare, going back to 1990 or so. When (and if) that sleeping giant will wrestle itself awake, nobody knows.
And what about those other schools? The ones that at times thought they were on the cusp of something great only to see it slip away? Tennessee, Auburn, Texas Tech, Tennessee, UCLA, Wisconsin— no doubt they’d love to be in the middle of the sort of run where great years produce national titles, good years a BCS Bowl Game, and down years mid-tier bowls like the Holiday Bowl.
Texas' historical record of national titles surely doesn't match those at ‘Bama, USC, Notre Dame, and OU, but since the beginning of the BCS era around 1998 or so (and the hiring of coaching greats Bob Stoops, Nick Saban, Jim Tressell, Pete Carroll, and Mack Brown), the Longhorns’ record stands with the best. But it can all go away very quickly and stay away for a long, long time. So every now and then at the tailgate, take a break from the trivial things like berating the offensive coordinator, kick back with your beer and enjoy the good old days while they’re still here.