Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said he was a little surprised by recent comments from Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, who publicly told Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire that he “better take care of business” against the Longhorns.
The Longhorns will host the rival Red Raiders on Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving, in their final Big 12 game before departing for the SEC. Texas Tech beat Texas last year in Lubbock, 37-34 — an upset that Yormark referenced last week while speaking to the Red Raider Club.
“Coach [McGuire], I’m not going to put any pressure on you, but I’m gonna be in Austin for Thanksgiving, OK? And you’d better take care of business like you did right here in Lubbock last year,” Yormark said.
When asked Monday about Yormark’s remark, Sarkisian joked that the reporter was “trying to get him in trouble” before responding.
“I got a letter from the commissioner about sportsmanship the day before that speech, so I’m trying to figure out what are we promoting to our student-athletes,” Sarkisian said. “To go say those types of things? I’m not guessing he’s gonna have his Thanksgiving dinner with us the night before that game.”
Inside the Texas locker room, the message this spring has been to “embrace the hate” that the Longhorns know they’ll face from hostile crowds. Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte has been vocal about it as well, including responding to a fan that sent him a photo of a T-shirt mockup with the mantra.
“Pickin’ up whatcha putting down,” Del Conte said in reference to an “embrace the hate” shirt.
“The reality of it is that a lot has been made about [Yormark’s comments],” Sarkisian said. “A lot has been made about a T-shirt being made. Let’s not make this more than it is. This is about us. We’re focused on what we get to do and why we get to do it. We’re proud to be part of the University of Texas. … We know who’s behind us, and that’s OK. Now let’s go play.”
Texas, ranked No. 11 in the preseason Associated Press poll, hasn’t won the Big 12 since 2009. The Longhorns also were picked as the conference favorite in the league’s preseason media poll.
One reason for the optimism around this year’s season has been the the development of quarterback Quinn Ewers, according to Sarkisian, who said that the lack of a starting quarterback battle has allowed him to handle Ewers differently this year.
“It’s coaching him to be the best that he an be and not feel like sometimes that I’m pointing things out that he’s doing wrong,” said Sarkisian, who added that the backup race between Maalik Murphy and Arch Manning has yet to be determined.
“Who do we feel like come Thursday is the guy that earned that opportunity to be the backup this week, that’ll be who the backup is,” he said.
Texas opens its season Saturday at home against Rice, which has lost the last 15 meetings with the Longhorns.