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October 6, 2013

Powers still fighting for his UT presidency and more ...


I was checking around on the regents meeting Friday to see if the Bev Kearney lawsuit came up in any way, and it didn't - except to say that the idea of any kind of settlement was all but off the table.

I was even told a Hail Mary settlement from a booster (like Jim Bob Moffett coming through for Mack Brown's former director of operations Cleve Bryant) was almost politically impossible.

Why? Because there's still four of the nine Texas regents who want Bill Powers out as the president of Texas and are unwilling to settle that lawsuit for the nearly $3 million Kearney wants. (Regents have to approve any university expenditure exceeding $1 million.)

More importantly, however, there still appears to be an active drive from the four regents who oppose Powers - all appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, Powers' long-time adversary - to get Powers thrown out as president.

In talking with several people close to this situation, Powers has made it clear he and he alone will make the call on the new athletic director. He said so publicly on Tuesday at DeLoss Dodds' retirement press conference.

And those comments were perceived as a shot across the bow of regents who want Powers out. Those regents, I'm told, want their influence on such decisions to be heard or a new president at Texas to make those decisions.

Perry has been at odds with Powers for more than a year over several differences, including the direction of higher education at UT. There have been several runs by Powers' four nemesis regents to take him out. The most recent came last August, when regent Wallace Hall asked for a vote by the entire regents board to boot Powers. It fell short of the five votes necessary.

Despite a new law aimed at keeping the peace between Powers and the four regents who oppose him, I'm told, if those four regents can find one more vote, Powers will be out.

And I'm told those four regents are actively recruiting that fifth vote right now.

There was a law passed this year that ordered a legislative committee to study where the authority of regents begin and end.

The committee asked regents across the state not to take make any sweeping decisions until the committee has finished its work. No deadline has been stated for that work to be completed.

But the four regents who oppose Powers appear to be actively courting a fifth vote, no matter what the new law or legislative committee says.

So now the question for Powers is if he'll try to expedite the naming of a new athletic director on his own simply to beat any chance Powers' nemesis regents can find that fifth vote to boot him out?

There is so much political infighting going on right now as it pertains to the regents, Powers and where the athletic department is going, I'm not sure anyone truly understands the dynamics, including all involved.

That's why anyone who thinks they know the answers right now about the next athletic director or football coach may not know anything.

Why? Because the entire power structure of the university, and thus the hiring of these key figures, could completely change in an instant.

And how would a new athletic director feel about coming into a work environment in which his boss (Powers) could be gone in an instant?

Texas regents Alex Cranberg and Wallace Hall have been identified as two of the Perry regents working to oust Powers.

Hall, who was identified in a recent Associated Press story (along with former UT regent Tom Hicks) as having spoken to the agent of Alabama coach Nick Saban in January, is expected to go through impeachment hearings over potential abuses of authority before the end of the year.

But the end of the year suddenly feels like a long way away.

That's when Powers would like to have a new athletic director in place, although Powers may be trying to expedite that process with the regents once again sizing up his neck.

This is a much more fluid situation than people realize.

Powers appears to have the support of the Texas faculty and students as well as the Legislature and is seen as one of the most effective UT presidents in the history of the school. So there would figure to be a lot of political push back against Rick Perry, if Powers was voted out by a block of regents appointed by the governor.

And even though Perry has said he won't seek re-election as governor in 2014, Perry is still the governor for more than another year. And some of his UT regents' agenda toward Powers doesn't seem to have changed.

Several people I spoke with wonder how much longer Powers, 67, is going to be willing to put up with this political situation before simply retiring.

It's clear there are a lot of agendas in play right now as Texas embarks on this critical period of change.

***

Don't look for Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby to be the next athletic director at Texas.

Bowlsby issued a statement last month saying he plans to honor a long-term commitment as the Big 12 commissioner. Bowlsby's statement came on Sept. 13 in reaction to my story on DeLoss Dodds stepping down.

In addition to that statement, I'm told Bowlsby has privately stated to key officials in the Big 12 that he is not a candidate for the UT athletic director job.

***

The news on David Ash missing the Oklahoma game with an ongoing head injury is why I was clamoring for Tyrone Swoopes to have gotten snaps well before now.

I kept saying you didn't want something to happen to Case McCoy and for Swoopes' first college snaps to be in the crucible of the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 12.

I said before the Iowa State game Mack Brown should simply commit to playing Swoopes on the third series of the Iowa State game (like he used to with John Chiles and the Q Package … remember those days?).

My argument was it would be early enough in a game to rebound from any potential turnover. The bottom line is with Ash iffy, the Iowa State game was the last chance to get Swoopes some snaps before the OU game.

And then, low and behold, on UT's third series of the Iowa State game, Texas up 10-0 and the absolute PERFECT time to bring in Swoopes presented itself.

You had a lead on the road and the perfect chance for Swoopes to maybe come in and run a bunch of read option with Johnathan Gray and/or Daje Johnson. Instead, Texas' next three drives stalled, allowed the longest pass play in Iowa State history (97-yard TD pass), and the Longhorns inexplicably abandoned the run.

After the game, Mack Brown said, "As tight as that game was, it's hard to put a freshman in."

It wasn't tight at 10-0 in a quieted stadium. It was the perfect time to get Swoopes some snaps, and it didn't happen.

Now, he goes into the Cotton Bowl next week as the backup without a single college snap.

And for those who say the season is a lost cause and to redshirt Swoopes for the next coach, I'm coming at this from the standpoint of those who are 2-0 in the Big 12 and still draw a paycheck to help Texas win games now.

***

By the way, we heard from a couple top sources last week that David Ash will not play again this season. But Mack Brown and UT continued to deny any such decision was reached by UT's medical staff and said Ash is still being evaluated on a day-to-day basis.

The decision to announce Ash being out for the Oklahoma game before even getting into the practice week, however, seems to fly in the face of that day-to-day evaluation.

I asked for an explanation on the timing of the announcement and was simply told the Texas medical staff ruled from its most recent evaluation of Ash that he should sit out for a week. Thus, UT officials decided there was no reason to act like Ash might play in the OU game.



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