AUSTIN, Texas -- The commitment was there to be taken.
Mack Brown had done his job. He had sold Texas. And now the Texas coach only had to accept a yes from the high school football player and the bill of sale would be final.
"I want to commit but I've got one more visit I want to take," the unnamed recruit told Brown in the past couple of days.
"No, we are not doing that," Brown told the recruit. "That's not the message we want to send. We want you to be sincere with the people you're going to see and we want you to be sincere with us."
College football’s one-time recruiting hare has officially turned tortoise. Now the wonder becomes if Aesop knew anything about recruiting.
Brown, to his credit, does know a thing or two about it. He was the one who stormed into the state more than 15 years ago, offering early, getting commitments before the ink had dried on the previous class of signees.
In fact, from 2007-10, 72 percent of recruits committed to Texas before the end of February. Brown had learned at his previous stop in North Carolina that if you wait, you’re late.
It was a philosophy he carried with him to Texas and a gospel that spread across the Big 12.
"Now what’s happened is people are offering sophomores. They’re offering some freshmen," Brown said a year ago before his program started offering sophomores. "I think it has gotten out of control and we’ve kind of gotten credit for it."
Well, consider the brakes pumped. Or, at least, slightly depressed.
"We are trying to make sure that we slow everybody down," said the coach who sped everyone up.
Texas will still have to offer early. It’s part of the game now what with the ever-encroaching Alabama and the fast-rising Texas A&M. But in Texas’ case it appears, at least from the slow-rate of action coming out of its two junior days, that both the program and the recruits are being much more judicious in their decision-making processes. (Texas did have eight commitments prior to the junior days.)
Given the abysmal rate of return on the 2009 and ’10 classes, both of which were wrapped up nearly a year in advance, not to mention the five decommitments of 2013, the slow-and-steady approach in which players must spurn all other interest from other schools if they commit to Texas might be the more prudent course of action at this time.
Of course, that switch is hard to flip for the masses around Texas who have come to expect might returns out of junior days. Of course, fueling the panic that Texas did not secure a plethora of commitments are the recent defections and recent seasons of less than stellar returns.
But Brown, who has flip-flopped on some things (ahem, the spread, not recruiting sophomores, etc.) appears steadfast in his commitment to not take a commitment who has any interest in any other school.
It’s a gamble, given that recruits are now likely to take more visits and experience other programs before making a final decision. But Brown is willing to bet that when players see what other programs have to offer they will determine that what Texas offers is better.
The players have to roll the dice as well since they will almost always be in the dark about how long their Texas offer stands and will never truly know if Texas could fill their position with another prospect.
Eventually someone will blink. But right now both parties are engaged in an eyes-wide discovery phase. Texas is trying to slowly and surely figure out what players fit its future and players are trying to figure out if Texas fits into their future.
"We don't care if they commit when they are here," Brown said of the recruits attending junior days. "Don't care. If you're going to come, come and stay, and that's not the environment out there at all."
The environment has changed. So, too, has the philosophy.
"We are going to try to stand strong with who we are and that's what we are working on," Brown said.