Texas Coach Mack Brown is out to restore Longhorn order in this state where Texas A&M Coach R.C. Slocum has built a budding football dynasty and has set his sights on making A&M a national contender. It seems apparent that these two are running things now and both are here to stay awhile.
Yet neither Brown nor Slocum were even born in this great state. Slocum is Cajun-Louisianan by birth, but grew up in Orange; Brown is a Tennessean. However, to quote a former UT coach that is the only former UT coach worth quoting, both are “dipped and vaccinated Texans.” And as Longhorns offensive tackle Jay Humphrey said of Brown: “At least he’s not a Yankee.”
The two coaches and their goals will cross paths today at 10 a.m. at Royal-Williams-Memorial Stadium.
Brown, who speaks at 78 rpm, has already dazzled onlookers by reversing last year’s 4-7 season and giving the Longhorns hope that they might win another national championship in our lifetime. Slow-talking Slocum simply averages nine to 10 wins a year, clones linebackers in his basement and even wins a Holiday Bowl or an Alamo Bowl now and then.
Aside from the different speech patterns, hometowns and hair color, these two coaches have a lot in common. They are nearly identical in their personalities, their defensive approaches to football, their cultivation of high-school coaches, their preference for the college game, and their people skills worthy of United Nations mediators. Both even beat Nebraska this year. These good-humor fellows are cut from the same championship cloth.
“Both are good ol’ boys,” said recruiting expert Jerry Scarbrough of the True Orange newsletter. “If R.C. was our coach at Texas, we’d all like him. And if Mack was their coach, they’d like him.”
And they like each other. Curiously, there is nothing in the Big 12 bylaws that requires the Texas and Texas A&M coaches to hate each other. Slocum was friends with John Mackovic and fishing buddies with David McWilliams.
“Coach Royal and Frank Broyles at Arkansas were fierce competitors and coached in big shootouts,” Slocum noted. “But when the season was over, they’d go golfing in Palm Springs together.”
Brown and Slocum have even gone on Nike-sponsored coaching trips together, most recently to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, although Slocum said he caught no fish and Brown said he mostly slept. In his 11 months on the new job, Brown has even asked Slocum for advice.
Of course, Brown also got along famously with Bobby Bowden during their Atlantic Coast Conference feud despite losing to the Florida State Methuselah all six meetings. “I liked him better off the field than on,” Brown wisecracked.
Clearly, this is a state that is big enough for the both of them. Put this down as a dramatic leap of faith, but Brown and Slocum could make Texas and Texas A&M the Florida and Florida State establishment of the Southwest. Luckily, neither coach could possibly be abrasive enough to become the Steve Spurrier of Texas. We don’t want to win that badly.
The two have very similar goals to keep the in-state blue-chip talent in the state. Slocum has done his part over the past decade and won 85 games this decade with them — more than all but five Division I-A teams. For his part, Brown has already corralled 18 recruiting commitments, 16 of whom make Scarbrough’s top 100 state list. Of the starting 44 players for both teams today, 37 are Texans.
“You can play right here in Texas,” Slocum said. “That line about having to go off to get recognition, I’ve always said that’s a bunch of bull.”
They both fully appreciate the need to sign high-impact players, especially if they like to keep eating. Neither expects the outcome of today’s game to have a residual effect on recruits because most are predisposed to one side or the other. While Brown said he’d go head-to-head with Clemson or Virginia on practically all of the in-state North Carolina recruits, Texas and A&M could divide up the state’s dominant players, get 15 each and then bump into each other on front porches of maybe five other blue-chippers’ homes. That’s fine with Mack.
“We don’t need for A&M to have a bad team,” Brown said. “If we’re both 6-4 coming into this game, that would not help either one of us. We need every player in the state to want to play in this game. If we have good players, we’ll be fine. If we have bad players, we’re going to be fired.”
Neither’s job security is on the line today. But this game could enhance A&M’s chances of finishing in the top five for the first time since 1956 with a shot at a major bowl. Or it could further validate Texas’ rebound under Brown — with another win over an arch rival to go with the one over Oklahoma — and send UT to the Cotton or Holiday bowls.
“I think this is a whole new beginning of Texas football,” Horns wide receiver Wane McGarity said. “I think our teams match up perfectly. UCLA and Kansas State are way better than A&M, but don’t get me wrong. The Aggies are a great team. But A&M had their reign at the top, and we’re on our way up there.”
Assuming Texas’ Major Applewhite doesn’t become too bomb-happy — as he did against Texas Tech — or give up anything cheap — as he did against Kansas State — bet on a 24-20 Longhorns win.