How one question changed everything with Texas's master plan for Schlossnagle

Chris Del Conte and the Texas Longhorns thought they had everything figured out with their under-the-table machinations—right up until the 11th hour.
University of Texas baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle, right, is introduced by Athletic Director Chris Del Conte at his introductory news conference at the Frank Denius Family University Hall of Fame Wednesday June 26, 2024.
University of Texas baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle, right, is introduced by Athletic Director Chris Del Conte at his introductory news conference at the Frank Denius Family University Hall of Fame Wednesday June 26, 2024. / Jay Janner/American-Statesman / USA

How Texas's master plan with Schlossnagle is falling apart at the final hurdle all because of one question

The following is what I think happened. That is not the same as what happened, but in this case, I certainly don't feel as though I'm having to do a whole lot of conjecturing here. There are certain facts that are pretty well-established, and it's not a far walk at all to get from there to here.

In retrospect, the plan that Chris Del Conte and Jim Schlossnagle had to cripple the Texas A&M baseball program almost worked. Everything was lined up—finish out the season and abscond promptly, robbing the Aggies of their coaching staff and best players in the lineup. Then, Texas baseball enters the SEC as a power, while the Aggies are trying to put the pieces back together.

There were some unexpected twists and turns along the way, sure. Getting to the College World Series final wasn't something anyone is ever likely to do, and so the timeline had to extend out in a somewhat unforeseen manner. I do wonder if the notion that Schloss winning it all may give the man second thoughts ever crossed CDC's mind. In any case, it was a moot point. The Aggies fell by one run in the final game, and the plan was a go.

Up until now, everything had proceeded without a hitch. Everything had gone according to plan. In an emotionally volatile time for the players and coaches, they were even more likely to follow Schloss without thinking twice. All he had to do was get through that last press conference.

And he almost did.

The very last question was what tripped him up. He showed a side of himself there that he had yet to up until that point—an ugly, sneering, self-righteous side. It wasn't an overly prejudicial question—it was evenly phrased, and didn't even mention Texas by name. On what was the tail end of weeks of rumors that had gone unaddressed, the time was far past for Schloss to say something. And boy, did he.

He was fiery. He was emphatic. He was definitive. I took this job to never have to take another job again. And that hasn't changed in my mind. Strong words. Could he have been even more definitive? Sure, but everyone says things in their own way—to hold his feet to the fire over specific phrasing seemed to be a nitpick borne out of insecurity.

That was well-founded insecurity, as it turned out.

The proximity of the timing between his answer to that question and the news of his departure is something that should not be forgotten. The stark contrast between his words in that press conference and his actions the following day caught the attention of the nation. And they were none too happy with what they saw.

I don't think either Schloss or CDC anticipated the national firestorm that descended upon them in the wake of this move—just like I don't think Schloss anticipated answering that question. No, I think he was anxious to get up and get out of the last presser he would ever do in an A&M uniform without once having to say something publicly about the Texas job. It was understandably frustrating, then, when the very last question of the presser was about the exact thing he wanted to avoid talking about.

Still, though, there were so many ways he could have answered that question that would have been better. Hindsight is 20/20, but we've seen many examples of coaches on the brink of a move that answered much more pointed questions in a much more noncommittal way.

Maybe it was frustration that led him to seem so venomous and self-important. Or maybe, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

In any case, it was such a bad look that it quickly began to spiral out of control. Far be it from me to ever claim that the University of Texas has anything less than a highly developed media apparatus to push out their favored narratives, but in this case, it moved beyond the scope of what they can normally manage. Even though they put their crisis management specialist on it, apparently.

The public look was so bad, in fact, that the plan—to bring in the Aggie portal prospects in order to remake the Longhorn program with the constituent parts of what would have so recently been a CWS runner-up—all of a sudden seemed to falter. Even though many Aggie players jumped in the portal, there was no flood of commitments to Texas, despite the prognostications of the Longhorn insiders.

Maybe Schloss underrated the commitment that these Aggie players had to the university—after all, if he had had one eye elsewhere for the duration of his time at A&M, then it's conceivable he thought everyone else thought just like him.

But while loyalty is a foreign concept to some, it is the lifeblood of others.

Whatever pull Schloss, Nolan Cain, and Max Weiner may have had, too, was severely diluted by the intense negative attention from the media during this point. It's harder to pick up the phone and believe whatever the coaches are saying when how dishonorably they have conducted themselves is being constantly reinforced from all sides.

When Michael Earley was hired, the Longhorns' fate in this arena was sealed. The man who had done yeoman's work in recruiting the lion's share of the Aggie lineup was now back leading the A&M program, thus rendering redundant any thought of absconding to Austin.

With some of the hires that Earley has already made, too, it could be the Longhorns who end up losing players to the Aggies rather than the other way around. This could make what was already a daunting rebuild even tougher down in Austin. That has yet to manifest, but there is certainly a lot of buzz around it at this point.

A program like A&M isn't so easily killed, it turns out. You may plan meticulously and lengthily, laying out the who, the what, the when. But sometimes, there are things you can't plan for. A national media firestorm. The motivation of the Aggie boosters to up the A&M NIL game in response. The way certain players feel about the coach who made the jump.

And it all could have happened differently, if not for that one question.