Texas Coach Mack Brown gets a cold shower courtesy of his players following… (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles…)
Texas may or may not end up in the Pacific 12 Conference. Larry Scott, the Pac-12's commissioner, tried to lure the Longhorns last year before his dream for a 16-team super league was squashed — or maybe only deferred.
Texas once held a big stack of expansion chips, but was last seen in Norman begging Oklahoma not to go west. (Which is probably not going to work.)
Can Texas hold the fractious Big 12 Conference together? Will the Longhorns go independent?
Texas to the Atlantic Coast Conference is this minute's rumor. Weirdly, though, Texas already seems like Pac family.
Saturday marks Coach Mack Brown's fifth Texas trip to the Rose Bowl.
His first Longhorns loss was a 1998 drubbing by UCLA in Pasadena. It came a year after UCLA smoked Texas in Austin. That 66-3 defeat, discredited to predecessor John Mackovic, led to Brown's hiring from North Carolina.
So here we are, in a new century, with Brown leading another caravan west.
The rematch takes place a year after UCLA ran over the Longhorns in Austin.
Texas was coming off a 4-7 year in 1998. It's coming off a 5-7 year now.
"It's been a full circle," Brown said this week in a telephone interview from Austin.
Much of Texas' modern football story is told in Pacific time. Texas' Jan. 1 Rose Bowl victory against Michigan in 2005 ranks as one of the most dramatic in history and forged the collegiate legacy of Vince Young.
The Longhorns have since won, and lost, a national title in Pasadena.
Texas is not part of the Rose Bowl contract that has, most years since 1947, paired the Pac with the Big Ten. Yet, since 2004, only USC (four times) has appeared in more postseason Pasadena games. Texas is second with three, followed by Michigan with two.
In 2004, Texas contentiously denied California's first Rose Bowl trip since 1959.
So which school, Texas or Cal, had more Pac-10 sway?
It's almost comical. The Pac-12 is also tied to the Holiday Bowl. Mack Brown has taken Texas to four of those — 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2007.
Since 1997, Texas has played eight current Pac-12 schools.
Texas has played on three grand Rose Bowl game stages since UCLA, which calls the Rose Bowl stadium home, played its last.
The Longhorns' scrapbook is filled with misty-colored memories while Minnesota and Purdue and Indiana's are mostly black and white.
Two years ago, a visitor to the Sierra Madre monastery where Rose Bowl coaches used to stash players noticed a football sitting by itself on a shelf.
The curator climbed a ladder and retrieved it. The ball was scribbled with names she didn't recognize. Research revealed it to be a ball autographed by Indiana's last Rose Bowl team of … 1967.
Yet, Brown will walk into the Rose Bowl on Saturday and get teary-eyed. He raised his football children here.
The Texas team he brought here in 1998 was demolished by UCLA. A year after losing 66-3 in Austin, Texas trailed 35-3 at halftime.
What do you after getting outscored 101-6 in six quarters?
Brown walked into the locker room.
"Our guys were screaming, 'They're not any good, they're not any good!'" Brown recalled this week. "And I said, 'There's a bad team out there, but it's not them.'"
Texas rallied to lose only 49-31.
Before Texas played Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl, Brown called former USC coach John Robinson and asked him what to expect.
"He told me, 'Think how lucky you are,'" Brown said. "He said, 'Enjoy the moment, look at the rolling hills.'"
A year later, on the same field, Brown was lucky to be part of one of college football's greatest games, Texas' 41-38 national title win over USC.
"So many plays in that game, so many great moments," he said.
Two seasons ago, though, Texas returned to the Rose Bowl to face Alabama for the Bowl Championship Series title.
Texas had Alabama on its heels early when star quarterback Colt McCoy was knocked out with an injury.
"I thought it set up perfectly for us, just like the 'SC game," Brown said. "We were told we had no chance to win. We were in a perfect spot. The SEC had become a running league and we were throwing the ball so well. We did not think people could cover us."
Texas couldn't overcome McCoy's loss and really hasn't been the same since.
"I did not foresee the hangover from that game," Brown said.
For seven years, starting with Young, Texas' best running back had been its quarterback.
Texas tried to retrofit the offense around the less mobile Garrett Gilbert, but the plan failed. The Longhorns finished 5-7 last year, which prompted Brown to reconfigure his staff.
Thirteen years later, Texas is at UCLA, at the Rose Bowl, in search of an identity.
Brown thinks his 2-0 team has momentum after eking out a one-point win over Brigham Young. Brown is benching Gilbert in favor Case McCoy, Colt's younger brother.
"We are changing who we are," Brown said. "I think we're in mid-transition and we know who we want to be and are headed back there fast."
Brown is among the few who can look forward to a Rose Bowl at the same time he looks back.
"It's a different trip going back my fifth time than it was my first," he joked.
If Texas ends up in the Pac-12, what's the big deal? It will feel like putting on an old sweater.
But if the Longhorns don't come, won't it almost seem like they're leaving?