The Texas football program dates back to 1893. Each day, we look at a little piece of Longhorn history. We’re starting by looking at each Longhorn football season.
John Mackovic arrived at Texas the most accomplished new Texas coach since Dana X. Bible.
The 48-year-old Mackovic had been a graduate assistant coach for Bo Schembechler at the University of Miami in Ohio, then served as Tom Landry’s quarterbacks coach for the Dallas Cowboys.
Mackovic had no ties to the University of Texas when he took the job, just like Bible and Darrell Royal. He had played college football at Wake Forest and was a native of Ohio.
From 1978 to 1980, Mackovic was the head coach of his alma mater at Wake Forest and went 14-20. After a 5-6 season, he left and spent the next two seasons working for Tom Landry in Dallas. He left Dallas to become the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1983.
Boy how different things would be if Mackovic’s first NFL Draft had gone better.
His first draft featured seven NFL Hall of Fame players. The Chiefs had the No. 7 pick in the NFL Draft. Five of those Hall of Famers, including Dan Marino, were taken after the seventh pick. But Mackovic took Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge. Hall of Famer Jim Kelly went fourth. Marino went 27th. Even 15th pick Tony Eason, who led the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, would have been better than Blackledge.
In four seasons in Kansas City, Mackovic went 30-34.
He didn’t coach in 1987 then became the head coach of Illinois in 1988. He was also the athletic director for the Fighting Illini. He went 30-16 and tied for first in the in the Big Ten in 1990.
Following a 6-5 season in 1991, Mackovic became the head coach of the Longhorns.
Mackovic was a completely different type of coach than the Texas fan base was used to. An offensive-minded guy, Mackovic’s wide-open attack style was something never seen on the 40 Acres. He also wasn’t shy, much like new coach Tom Herman, pointing out how the facilities need upgrades. Unlike Fred Akers and David McWilliams, Mackovic was taking over a program that had been losing more than it had been winning in recent years. Yes, Texas wasn’t that far away from the 1990 season, but three of the four seasons prior to his hiring had been losing ones.
Texas had won one bowl game since 1981. Texas had played in just two bowl games since 1986. The Longhorns were beating the Oklahoma Sooners, but had gone 1-7 against Texas A&M– and make no mistake, the Texas A&M game was the most important game on the schedule.
Texas started the 1992 season ranked No. 25 in the nation. Joining the program that off season was one of the top recruits in the nation, Shea Morenz, who would be the back-up to senior Peter Gardere. Running backs Adrian Walker and Phil Brown were back. Meanwhile freshman Anthony “Priest” Holmes made his debut in 1992.
Defensively, Winfred Tubbs emerged as a leader, recording 157 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
A new coaching staff was put in place. Leon Fuller stayed on staff, but was replaced as defensive coordinator by Gary Darnell. Gene Dahlquist became the offensive coordinator. Austin-area radio listeners should note that Mackovic’s running back coach was Bucky Godbolt, who famously would help recruit Ricky Williams.
The new coach didn’t start off well. Texas played back-to-back ranked squads in Mississippi State and Syracuse and lost both games. Texas’ first win of the year was against North Texas, which at the time was a Division I-AA program.
After picking up a win against Rice, Texas played No, 16-ranked Oklahoma and won its fourth straight game against the Sooners, 34-24. Gardere is one of the few Texas quarterbacks to never lose to Oklahoma.
After four straight wins, Texas was 4-2 and back in the polls, coming in at No. 25. A loss to TCU, 23-14, sent them out of the rankings. Texas finished the season on a two game losing streak, losing to Baylor 21-20 and Texas A&M 34-13.
Texas missed a bowl game for the fourth time since 1988.
On the bright side, Mackovic was establishing himself on the recruiting trail and would begin building strong rosters that included standouts like Tony Brackens and Bryant Westbrook and eventually, in a few years, a Heisman Trophy winner from San Diego.