DCTF's Greg Tepper on Mack Brown's departure and legacy, and where UT goes next
The most high-profile job in the state of Texas just came open.
After weeks of often-baseless speculation, the University of Texas announced on Saturday night that head coach Mack Brown would resign after 16 seasons as the Longhorns’ leader. Brown’s final game will come when Texas plays Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.
Before we get to the media feeding frenzy that will be the Texas coaching search, let’s take a moment to recognize one thing: Mack Brown has been a darn good coach. A constant lightning rod – especially since the Longhorns bottomed out at 5-7 in 2010 – it’s easy to forget that Mack Brown really helped shape Texas’ program into what it is today.
Remember: it wasn’t all sunshine and daffodils on the 40 Acres when Brown arrived from North Carolina. For nearly 15 years before Brown’s arrival – in the back half of the Fred Akers era and the entirety of the David McWilliams and John Mackovic eras – Texas would yo-yo between Southwest Conference contender and also-ran. Sure, there were some big years – the 1990 Cotton Bowl campaign under McWilliams, the 1995 Sugar Bowl run under Mackovic – but there were some awful lean ones, too. From 1986 to Brown’s arrival in 1998, Texas had an equal number of winning seasons and years at or below .500.
That all changed when Mack Brown arrived. After turning in three 10-win seasons in five years at North Carolina – NORTH CAROLINA! -- Brown came to Austin and immediately turned the Longhorns’ fortunes. From 1998 to 2009, Texas never won fewer than nine games, won 10 games nine times, played in four BCS bowls and three Cotton Bowls, and oh yeah, won a national championship.
Was it always good? Of course not. 2010 was a disaster, and Brown was routinely criticized for not getting the most out of his highly touted recruits.
But the fact remains: only one coach in the University of Texas’ storied history has had a more positive impact on the program than Mack Brown, and his name’s on the stadium.
So now, all eyes will turn back to Austin to see who will be the next coach of the Texas Longhorns. You’ll hear a lot more baseless speculation – here’s a fun game: whenever you read the word “Sources”, replace it with “Cowards Who Won’t Go On The Record But Desperately Want To Be Part Of The Story” – and you’ll hear a lot about how much money the University of Texas has to spend (which is true: Brown was and currently still is the highest-paid employee of the State of Texas).
I won’t insult your intelligence by pretending to know who Texas is going to hire; nobody does, despite what many will insist. But as Texas moves through its first coaching change in nearly two decades, here are a couple of things to remember:
1) Texas is a big job, but it’s not the only big job.
The history of the University of Texas is storied and proud, and it is absolutely a destination job. People don’t use the University of Texas as a stepping stone; they use other jobs as stepping stones to get to Texas. It’s a big, big job.
But it’s not like the Texas job is without equals. Places like Ohio State, Alabama, Florida, USC, Michigan and Notre Dame – to name a few – are at least equal to the Texas job, and maybe even more appealing. My point is that these notions that Texas can get anyone they want because they’re Texas are both correct and foolish. Would someone jump from, say, Georgia Tech to come to Texas? Almost certainly. But the idea that a coach who is already at a destination-type job (let's say there are 10 of them) would leave to come to Texas seems farfetched. That’s why the Nick Saban rumors always smelled funny to me.
2) It’s not just a head coaching job.
Yes, it’s absolutely true that the first and foremost job of whomever takes over for Mack Brown will be to win on the field. But the Texas head coaching job isn’t just about success on the field. What made Mack Brown such an asset to the University of Texas for so many years is that he’s equal parts head coach and brand manager. In his dealings with the media, with boosters, with administrators, with fans, with high school football coaches, Brown represented “the office of Texas head football coach” extremely well. It’ll take someone who can do that – be both a great football coach and a great representative of the program – to adequately fill Brown’s shoes.
3) There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen.
The great thing about being the University of Texas is that you have a lot of money. Longhorns benefactor Red McCombs had a quote for the ages last week: “Hell, all of the money that's not in the Vatican is up at UT.” So being able to pay someone what it takes won’t be an issue. But when you have a lot of money, that means you have a lot of money from a lot of different people. And when you have a lot of different people with a vested interest, they are going to want their voice heard. In the end, there are a few people – the Board of Regents, athletic director Steve Patterson and president Bill Powers – who are going to have a final say. But there’s a considerable amount of boosters and benefactors who are going to want the guy they think is best. That could muddy the hiring process.