Mack Brown‘s successor will be luckier than Mack Brown. Texas’ next head coach will inherit a program that’s not only not broken, it’s not even in terrible shape. Just a little rough around the edges.
The Longhorns, we should remind you, just played for the Big 12 championship and a BCS bowl berth a week ago on the final day of the regular season. That does not suggest a shattered program. Anything but.
Mack Brown leaves Texas far better than he found it. When he took over for John Mackovic starting in 1998, he had to restore Longhorn pride, mend fences with ex-players, alumni, fans and the Texas high school coaching community.
He did all of that and more, though it took a while. In his first season, he played with a walk-on at cornerback and a Heisman Trophy winner at tailback. He had a winning season that year and every year since but one. He beat the Aggies regularly and won bowl games as well.
Mack Brown represented the university with class and integrity. But he clearly did not want to leave the job. He told that to some of us often in private, but it was time for a change, and Texas President Bill Powers and Athletic Director Steve Patterson gave him more than a gentle push. The program had gotten stale.
Make no mistake: The game didn’t pass Mack Brown by. Top quarterbacks did. That failure to evaluate, recruit and develop outstanding quarterbacks had as much to do with his resignation Saturday night as any. That and an overall sense of coddling and entitlement.
One former Longhorns player said he couldn’t remember Mack screaming at them once during the entire 5-7 season. He clapped and hugged and encouraged, and that drove the Longhorn fan base crazy. But that’s who Mack Brown is.
Mack‘s a good guy, one of the best in the business, although some will believe his delay in his resigning had a lot to do with sabotaging Texas’ efforts to entice Nick Saban to Austin. (By the way, has Terry Saban put her new Austin home up for sale yet?)
Texas should have gone after Saban. He’s the greatest coach in college football history. And it’d be wise to check if Urban Meyer is completely happy in Columbus.
Otherwise, Texas should look very hard at Stanford’s David Shaw, Baylor’s Art Briles, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Miami’s Al Golden and Louisville’s Charlie Strong. Those would be at the top of my list.
None of those coaches will be the quintessential leader and CEO that is Mack Brown. His personal attorney and best friend Joe Jamail told me Saturday night that Brown has had three head coaching offers – two of them firm – this fall alone from other colleges.
“I don’t know right now if Mack wants to keep coaching, ” Jamail said. “He’s a little tired, but he’s only 62. Mack decided to do what he thinks is best for the university. He feels that he has done all that he can do here. Mack does not want Texas to go back to half-full stadiums.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if Brown decides to coach again or goes into television work. Jamail said Mack will continue a long-term relationship with Texas and will serve as adviser to Powers on all athletic matters.
Brown deserves all the wonderful tributes that will come his way. He’s an outstanding coach who didn’t cheat, who won big if not quite big enough, who won the school’s first national championship in 35 years and who restored the luster to the Longhorn brand.
It’s my guess that Mack Brown‘s replacement will be a better overall coach. But not necessarily a better person. Leave, Mack, with the Longhorns’ blessings and thanks.