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THE BOYS FROM THE BOOT
Last week, we got to know the young man Charlie Strong refers to simply as “Christmas” - incoming Texas freshman DT D’Andre Christmas-Giles of New Orleans’ St. Augustine.
In the next couple days, you’re going to get to know the rest of the “Boys From The Boot” – DE Malcolm Roach, DT Gerald Wilbon and TE Peyton Aucoin.
A quick appetizer: Roach told me he calls Aucoin “a nerd” because Aucoin brags about being the first member of the 2016 recruiting class admitted academically to Texas.
Roach told me he was admitted to Texas “two weeks ago,” and Wilbon told me he was admitted to UT on Monday. Christmas-Giles said Texas is waiting on his final high school transcript before he’ll be admitted.
All four plan to arrive on campus either May 29 or 30.
“And we plan to show everyone in Texas they need to recruit more boys from the boot, because we know how to play ball,” Christmas-Giles said.
GROUNDHOG DAY - JARRETT ALLEN STYLE
Even though 5-star big man Jarrett Allen of Austin St. Stephen’s tweeted earlier this week that Kansas is still under consideration – along with Texas and Houston – as his college destination, it appears it’s down to Texas and UH, multiple sources told HD.
But trying to nail down exactly what Allen is thinking has turned into a sport all its own.
Shaka Smart was in Phoenix for Big 12 meetings the first part of the week and arrived back in Austin late Wednesday. I’m told Allen’s family wanted Jarrett to stop thinking about his decision for several days beginning last weekend (basically the timespan that Smart was out of town), because it was weighing so heavily on him.
The spring signing period runs through May 18.
I’m told Allen narrowing his focus to Texas and Houston was likely a good sign for the Longhorns. One source close to Allen told me they thought the odds were “70-30” in favor of Texas.
But Allen’s AAU coach Marland Lowe is very involved in Allen’s recruitment, and there’s speculation that UH coach Kelvin Sampson is considering hiring Lowe – a move that could influence Allen.
Shaka Smart’s decision to reassign assistant coach Mike Morrell and to promote former Longhorns’ guard and UT director of basketball operations Jai Lucas to full-time assistant coach could also influence Allen.
Jai Lucas and his father, John Lucas, have deep roots in the Houston AAU basketball scene (where Allen has played AAU), which could be seen as comforting to Allen and Lowe, I’m told.
Texas has just nine of 13 scholarships committed for the 2016-17 season. Allen would make 10. But I’m told UT doesn’t want to take action on any other possible scholarship players until Allen decides.
I’m told it’s possible Texas could still land a graduate transfer. But hopes of landing a Power 5 transfer small forward in the mold of P.J. Tucker appear to be fading, I’m told.
One source close to the situation wondered aloud if DeSoto 5-star big man Marques Bolden, who is still unsigned (and seen by most as either a Duke or Kentucky signee), could be waiting to see where Allen goes.
When I asked the likelihood of Bolden shocking everyone and possibly signing with Texas if Allen chooses the Longhorns, the source said, “Probably 10 percent. But stranger things have happened. It’s rare when you have two kids this highly rated still unsigned this late. Maybe they’re talking to each other.”
The Horns have five returning lettermen (G Kendal Yancy, G Kerwin Roach, SG Eric Davis, SF Tevin Mack and C Shaq Cleare) as well as three incoming freshmen (PG Andrew Jones, SG Jacob Young and C James Banks) and Tulane transfer PF Dylan Osetkowski (who will have to sit out next season under transfer rules).
Win or lose in the recruiting battle for Jarrett Allen, Shaka Smart won’t forget his first full recruiting cycle at Texas any time soon.
FOOTBALL WEIGHT ROOM FLOORED
The football weight room in Moncrief-Neuhaus is getting a new floor and some new wall decorations, I’m told.
The weight room at Moncrief, which used to be shared by most every sport at Texas but is now only used by the football team, had a floor with different platforms throughout.
Thus, the floor in the weight room had various step-ups that just didn’t serve much of a purpose except to reinforce the area underneath some of the weight stations.
The uneven flooring came to be seen as a bit of a nuisance and health hazard. So the floor is being replaced.
There are also a lot of new photo graphics of players in action going up on walls all over Moncrief that will give the weight room and halls inside Moncrief a new feel.
I was told this is not the beginning of any significant renovation of the south end of DKR.
I continue to be told that any significant renovation of the south end of DKR won’t begin – at the earliest – until after the 2016-17 school year.
SOURCE: TEXAS NOT LOOKING FOR NEW AD
Kirk Bohls of the Statesman reported on Wednesday, according to a source, that Texas would begin its search for a new athletic director this fall – despite current AD Mike Perrin having a guaranteed contract through the 2017-18 school year.
FWIW - my sources in the Tower were emphatic in telling me that school president Greg Fenves has no plans to search for a new athletic director this fall.
“Completely untrue,” the source said. “Mike Perrin is the AD through 2017-18.”
The source said school president Greg Fenves fully supports Perrin and won’t be engaging in an athletic director search until the end of Perrin’s tenure.
The source said, however, that the athletic department was “likely to look different in September,” because of some staff changes after the school year ends in June.
Now, a search for a possible deputy athletic director to assist Perrin? That search couldn’t get started fast enough – in the opinion of many connected to the department.
Right now, the biggest concern among UT coaches is the lack of a proven, veteran point person to head up academic support.
That area, arguably the most critical of any athletic department, has lacked strong leadership since last September – the beginning of the school year – when Randa Ryan began working from home “on a project,” according to women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky.
Ryan, who drew criticism in a recent independent review of UT’s academic support for athletics, was pushed out more than a month ago (literally told to stop coming to work) - although she will continue to draw her salary through August.
Ryan’s dismissal follows the decision by former AD Steve Patterson to fire Brian Davis, who headed academic support for Texas football for more than 17 years. Patterson fired Davis without consulting Charlie Strong.
And when Strong inquired about the possibility of Davis coming back to Texas, I’m told Mike Perrin supported it – but that Davis’ return was rejected “by people above Perrin who were influenced by allies of Plonsky.”
Even though Plonsky denies it, I’m told Plonsky and Ryan convinced Patterson to get rid of Davis because he didn’t see eye to eye with all of Ryan’s approach to academic services.
Davis had earned the respect of faculty across the UT campus for the way he communicated with them about the academic progress of student-athletes.
Right now, without the experience and relationships established by Ryan and Davis – several coaches are on edge about the lack of direction in UT’s academic services.
Two of the most concerned coaches are Charlie Strong and Shaka Smart.
Strong and Smart have experienced nothing but turmoil in academic services since their arrivals on the 40 Acres.
BEV KEARNEY'S LAWYERS ARE BACK
Talked to a source close to the situation Wednesday who said they think it’s very possible the discrimination lawsuit filed against Texas by former UT women’s track coach Bev Kearney will be settled.
“I think the chances are better now that it gets settled, because this could now be seen as a problem that Greg Fenves and Mike Perrin inherited – as opposed to something they were involved in and were trying to make go away,” the source said.
Kearney’s attorneys have vowed to unveil a culture of inappropriate relationships within the Texas athletic department that led to Kearney getting fired after having a relationship with one of her female track athletes – 10 years earlier.
Meanwhile, Kearney’s attorneys contend, former football assistant Major Applewhite was allowed to keep his job after being intimate with a graduate student trainer for football.
UT unsuccessfully appealed for dismissal of the case, causing a nearly two-year delay in proceedings.
Settling could help Texas avoid a lot of tabloid type of embarrassment.
Before the delay, the next to be deposed by Kearney’s lawyers were former athletic director DeLoss Dodds, former Texas football coach Mack Brown and former school president Bill Powers.
Kearney is seeking in excess of $1 million. UT regents would have to approve any expenditure in excess of $1 million, and there might not be a consensus on the regents board to spend that kind of money to settle the suit.
The source said it’s more likely that the suit gets settled “privately” – the same way the Joe Wickline lawsuit was settled.
TEXAS' (NCAA-BOUND) HOMELESS TENNIS PROGRAMS - MORE BAD NEWS
Texas was supposed to host the 2016-17 Big 12 tennis championships in its new, $17 million facility just north of Disch-Falk Field and across Comal Street from UT’s softball stadium.
But according to Big 12 sources, UT officials have informed the league they won’t be able to host the conference championship next spring because the facility is already at least six months behind schedule.
According to university sources, there are underground water and electrical utilities used by the Disch and McCombs Field that need to be relocated before construction can begin on UT’s new tennis facility.
Those sources said it’s unclear why moving those utilities weren’t made a priority, because the project went six months without a bid. Now, instead of completion by the end of calendar year 2016 - it's looking like completion by the end of calendar year 2017.
Sources in the Tower said it went without a bid simply because there are so many other construction projects currently on campus – namely the medical school – that the earliest they could get a company to complete the project was after a six-month wait.
“It wasn’t anyone’s fault,” said a Tower source. “It was just a casualty of already having so many other university contractors working on projects.”
Because of the delay, the Texas men’s and women’s tennis programs will be without a facility for a third straight year.
I repeat – three straight years.
This season, UT’s tennis teams have had to play home matches at four different sites in and around Austin - some of them more than 30 miles apart. Players spend hours in their car or in a coach's car - in Austin traffic - trying to get to and from practices and matches and back to campus for meals and study halls. It is the picture of inefficiency.
Public high school tennis programs have it better than Texas. At least they have their own locker rooms. Sophomore tennis players at UT have never had their own locker room or a place for the team to meet.
Having to recruit into a such a fire drill the past three years could have killed off lesser programs.
It nearly killed the women’s program.
Chris Plonsky was turned down four times – twice by Rice coach Elizabeth Schmidt of Austin Westlake – before Yale coach Danielle Lund-McNamara took the job.
Lund-McNamara quit after one year, because the program and Texas athletics under Steve Patterson and Plonsky were in such disarray.
Plonsky was lucky new women’s coach Howard Joffe, who led the Texas A&M women’s team to three straight Top 10 finishes, was looking to make a quality-of-life move to Austin for personal reasons.
Then, Plonsky welcomed Joffe to Texas by totally undermining him and complicating his first season. After Joffe made it clear he’d be dismissing one of his scholarship players for repeated rules violations, Plonsky renewed the player’s scholarship anyway after the player’s father, a lawyer, allegedly applied some pressure.
Joffe still dismissed the player but had to compete this season down a scholarship.
In what will go down as one of the more amazing-yet-overlooked stories in Texas athletics this year – the homeless men’s and women’s tennis programs have both qualified for the NCAA championships.
Joffe’s 24th-ranked Texas women open NCAA play Friday morning in Durham, NC, against William & Mary, while Michael Center’s 18th-ranked Texas men meet Lamar Friday in the first round of the NCAA Championships in College Station.
While Texas administrators have repeatedly failed them and delivered them one piece of bad news after another, Joffe and Center have built teams against all odds that should make every Longhorn proud.
WHAT'S NEXT IN REALIGNMENT - TEXAS STYLE
Talked to a high-ranking UT source who said, "The only way I see us giving up LHN is to change conferences eventually."