Inside Texas Blog: What Curse?

Vince Young graces the cover of Madden '08 and finds himself in the crosshairs of one of the most consistent curses in all of sports. Is it real? Then again, when it comes to Vince Young, does it even matter?

Ever since EA Sports started featuring a player on its annual video game, named for announcer John Madden, misfortune has befallen whomever appears on the cover.

It started with Eddie George.

In the 2001 edition of the game, the Tennessee Titans running back was the first player featured on the cover and we all witnessed how his career began to spiral downwards, starting with a costly dropped pass in the AFC Divisional playoffs. George is actually considered the most fortunate of the lot, because every single player who appeared cover of the game after him missed games due to injury.

Daunte Culpepper, Marshall Faulk, Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, Donovan McNabb and Shawn Alexander. All injured. These were young, consistent, healthy players who don't typically miss football games. For many, their curse related injuries are the only of their respective careers.

Take Alexander, for example. The prolific runner hadn't missed a single game until he appeared on the cover of the game.

Now the curse meets Mr. Curse-Buster himself, Vince Young.

Young toppled the USC Trojans, who'd been crowned by ESPN as one of the greatest teams in history before they even played the championship game. Young also defeated what is perhaps the most famous of cover curses: The Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

Young has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated six times and been successful after each. The most telling is the one that came out on December 1st, 2005, detailing exactly what Young and the Longhorns needed to do.

Done and done.

Young hasn't been slowed by SI at all, but that's because the SI cover jinx is, frankly, a bunch of bull. Why? Because Sports Illustrated is a weekly. Anybody who does anything great in sports is going to show up because there are so many issues. Ipso-facto, almost anybody who was great who then falls off, was on the cover at some point. You typically aren't considered cursed if you were never any good in the first place.

But the Madden jinx, now that's a heck of a curse. The Madden cover is an annual, making the instances of injury and collapse much more surprising.

It'll be a tough task for Young. He is seemingly susceptible to injury because of how often he operates outside the pocket, but Young has also been the Teflon quarterback, deftly avoiding harm throughout his time at the position.

The Titans' quarterback may seem unstoppable, but 2007 will be a horrendous season for his team. However, the "Madden Curse" won't have a thing to do with it.

The are no wide receivers on his team, none. The man they want to step in at running back, Lendale White, has ballooned up to 265 pounds. The offensive line is in shambles and their only legitimate starter, Kevin Mawae, is 36 years old. Pacman Jones is the team's second best player and he's been sidelined by the commish for the entirety of the season. He's been removed from, statistically, one of the worst defenses in the entire league.

If there's anybody who could do it alone, it's Vince Young, but unfortunately for the former Longhorn quarterback, that's exactly what he has to do.

What do you think?

Star Appeal
by Clendon Ross
April 17, 2007

The national recruiting team just released its inaugural 2008 National Top 100, and future Longhorns are well represented on the list.

Aaron Williams continued his meteoric rise following standout performances at both the U.S. Army All-American Combine in January and the Dallas Combine in March, checking in as the top-ranked Texas commit at No. 21 overall (and the fourth-ranked corner nationally). Dan Buckner came in just one spot back, at No. 22 overall (and the third-ranked wide receiver nationally). Williams and Buckner's spot in the rankings earned each an early five-star designation (assigned to the top 25 overall prospects nationally).

UT pledges S Nolan Brewster (No. 63), OL David Snow (No. 78) and DT Jarvis Humphrey (No. 86) also received top 100, and four-star, mention. (Note: several of the Horns' other commitments, although outside this initial top 100, project to be four-star prospects as well.)

Realistic Texas targets LB Lynn Katoa (No. 30), who is scheduled for a Forty Acres trip soon, and DE Chancey Aghayere (No. 38) are also on the list.

So, with 18 of a projected 22 spots in the '08 class filled, how does this class with five Top 100 and two early five-star prospects measure up, at least at the top, to recent Longhorn classes? Starting with the 2002 class (the first in the Scout database), here is how each Texas class has broken down star-wise:

2002 (28 in the class)
9 Top 100 prospects
5 five-stars
14 four-stars
4 three-stars
2 two-stars
3 one-stars

2003 (18)
5 Top 100 prospects
1 five-star
7 four-stars
8 three-stars
1 two-star
1 one-star

2004 (19)
5 Top 100 prospects
2 five-stars
4 four-stars
11 three-stars
2 two-stars

2005 (15)
2 Top 100 prospects
1 five-star
9 four-stars
4 three-stars
0 two-stars
1 one-star

2006 (25)
6 Top 100 prospects
4 five-stars
12 four-stars
7 three-stars
2 two-stars

2007 (24)
5 Top 100 prospects
4 five-stars
16 four-stars
3 three-stars
1 two-star

2008 (18 pledges in a probable 22-member class)
5 early Top 100 prospects
2 early five-stars

Despite the considerable gnashing of teeth about the current crop of Texas commitments among some in the Longhorn community, with questions about the early offer decisions on several of those 18 pledges (and the decision not to offer others, particularly No. 14 national prospect Jermie Calhoun), this class doesn't project to look markedly different from Mack Brown's 2003/04/05 classes, each of which ranked just in or on the cusp of the top 10 classes in the nation. Plus, it's still early. The rankings could change (as with Aaron Williams, who wasn't originally considered a top national talent) and as mentioned above the Horns have a realistic shot at at least a couple more top 100 types, and other opportunities may pop up. In the end, I don't expect that this class will push the top of the rankings, as the 2002/06/07 classes did, but this still shapes up as a very solid class.

What do you think?

Gettin' Paid
by Bill Frisbie
April 16, 2007

The University of Texas System's Board of Regents is expected to make Rick Barnes the Big 12 Conference's first $2 million dollar man following an anticipated pay raise. However, there is a longstanding mindset at Bellmont Hall that the Texas football coach should invariably be paid more than the basketball coach. Agree?

Brown's base salary is in the $2.55 million dollar range. On Monday, the Regents are expected to approve a raise (and other incentives) for Barnes, boosting his annual stipend from a guaranteed $1.8 million by an additional $200 grand. (Note: Barnes' assistants are also expected to receive raises, but this would not require Board approval). The move would keep Barnes' in the elite company of Ohio State's Thad Matta and new Kentucky coach Billie Gillispie, who reportedly are in the $2 million club. It would also keep Barnes at least $500,000 below Brown's paycheck.

Barnes is the most successful coach in the history of Texas basketball. He not only has taken the program to a school-record nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances, he is also one of just three active coaches to notch four Sweet Sixteen appearances in the past six years. The program has recorded three Top 10 finishes in the past five seasons and reached the Final Four (2003) for the first time since 1947. His 216-86 record (24 wins per season) makes Barnes' the winningest-ever Longhorn hoops coach. The kind of talent (notably Kevin Durant, T.J. Ford, LaMarcus Aldridge) that Barnes has brought to Austin was unimaginable two decades ago.

We all know that Men's A.D. DeLoss Dodds has the bank vault to make Barnes not only the highest-salaried collegiate hoops coach in the country but also the highest paid coach on campus (regardless of the sport).

But the question, here, is whether the decision to invariably pay the UT football coach more than its basketball coach is defensible.

The opinion, here, is absolutely.

The football program generated approximately $53.2 million during the 2005 national championship season, and more than $38 million of that was pure profit. Salaries for UT football coaches derive from football revenues and donations. It is estimated that each home football game pumps nearly $10 million into the Austin economy. Longhorn home football games are always 'official' sellouts and current north end zone expansion will increase stadium capacity to more than 91,000 in 2008.

Meanwhile, the 16,755-seat Erwin Center sits half-empty during most home games. Sellouts are rare; they are typically achieved only when a traditional football rival sends its hoops team to Austin. Longhorn basketball, regardless of its current level of unprecedented success, will never approximate the revenue-generating juggernaut that is Longhorn football. And that has less to do with Barnes' considerable efforts to upgrade his program's stature than it does the nature of the deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas football culture.

You've heard the adages more than you can remember: In Texas, the two most important sports are football and spring training. Then again, football is not a sport in Texas -- it's a religion. What's good for the football team, according to the old saying, is also good for the library (i.e., in places like Austin, there is a demonstrable correlation between a successful football program and monetary donations to academics).

One would be hard-pressed to find a single entity that more powerfully affects a sense of identity, and of place, that creates a semblance of cohesion and of community than does football in the Lone Star state. No one is arguing that this is the way it should be, but we would certainly concur that this is the way it is.

It may be a symbolic gesture that the Texas football coach's salary remains the highest on campus, but, in this instance, it is not symbolism over substance. Longhorn football allows for the other Burnt Orange state-of-the-art facilities and world-class coaching staffs enjoyed by traditionally non-revenue producing sports. For all these reasons, and more, the Texas football coach is charged with not only a multi-million dollar operation, but also a product that (as legendary coach Darrell Royal observed) "20 million Texans care about every day."

The Texas football coach deserves to be the highest paid on campus. By the time the sun sets Monday, Barnes will have been justly compensated for taking the basketball program to new heights by remaining one of the Top Three salaried coaches in the country. And Brown's paycheck will (reportedly) trail only Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, USC's Pete Carroll and Notre Dame's Charlie Weiss.

The University of Texas must always be a Tier One football powerhouse that is annually in the mix for the national championship. The school should also have an outstanding basketball team that advances in the NCAAs. The head coach's salary of each sport should reflect that commitment.

What do you think?

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