This fall marks the 20th anniversary of the Mack Brown Era starting at Texas. During that time Brown won 158 games, a national championship and a total of 10 bowl games.
But what are the five moments of his 16 years at Texas that shaped his tenure? Over the next few days we’ll reveal the five moments that help tell the Mack Brown story on the 40 Acres:
No. 5 Oklahoma hires Bob Stoops
It may seem odd that one of the biggest moments of Brown’s time at Texas didn’t involve Brown at all.
Or did it have everything to do with Brown?
In 1998, Texas’ first-year coach led Texas to a five game improvement from 1997. In doing so, Texas finished second in the Big 12 South, saw its superstar running back win the Heisman, won a bowl game and handed one of it’s biggest rivals, Oklahoma, a 34-3 loss. Texas had captured the momentum in recruiting as Brown would land one of the top classes in 1999, his first full cycle at Texas.
Oklahoma was in the midst of a 10-year funk after Barry Switzer resigned following the 1988 season. Gary Gibbs was 44-23-2 from 1989 to 1994, but was just 2-15-1 against his three biggest rivals: Texas, Colorado and Nebraska. Howard Schnellenberger lasted one 5-5-1 season at Oklahoma. John Blake, then the defensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys, was hired and the young coach was 12-22 in three seasons.
Oklahoma didn’t fire Blake because of Mack Brown’s success at Texas. But it might have motivated them to get the next hire right.
So they hired the hottest coordinator at one of the best programs in college football in Bob Stoops, who had previously worked for Bill Snyder at Kansas State before joining Steve Spurrier’s staff at Florida as the defensive coordinator.
The rest is history.
Every protagonist needs an antagonist, and for Texas fans who saw Brown as the former, Stoops was the latter.
It’s somewhat of a unique coaching rivalry at Texas. While Darrell Royal had Frank Broyles at Arkansas, he only coached against Switzer four times. Switzer and Fred Akers faced off from 1977 to 1986, with Akers going 5-4-1, but Switzer was an established superstar coach at Oklahoma by the time Akers took over. The fact that Stoops arrived a year after Brown and the two found so much success for more than a decade — making the October meet up one of the most important games of the year in terms of BCS and Big 12 title status for entire 2000s– made the coaches linked like few are.
Throw in reporting tidbits from December 1997 that Brown was possibly hiring Stoops as his first defensive coordinator, and they are even more linked.
Both coaches won national titles at their schools. Both played for others. They produced Heisman winners, Doak Walker winners and more. They went head-to-head in recruiting every cycle as the two had a 16-year never-ending arms race.
You can’t tell Mack Brown’s story without Bob Stoops because Brown’s time at Texas is both one marred by Oklahoma maulings and hero’s journey like triumphs of Stoops and Oklahoma.
Plus the personalities were so striking: Stoops being straight forward guy unafraid to ruffle feathers compared to the folksy Brown. This wasn’t Woody and Bo, the great Michigan and Ohio State coaches who had similar personalities during their “10-year war.” It was a guy with a grandfatherly CEO clashing with a Youngstown steel mill foreman forever mad at his union.
Rarely were the games memorable for being competitive.
The first game is one of the exceptions. Brown beat Stoops by 10 in their first meeting in 1999, but not before OU took a 10-0 lead and eventually a 17-3 lead to end the first quarter. Texas bounced back to score 28 over the next two quarters that spurred a 38-28 win.
Year 2 was the official arrival of Bob Stoops Oklahoma football. The Sooners beat Texas 63-14 in 2000 en route to a national championship. In 2001, Oklahoma won 14-3 in a clash of the No. 5 team losing to the No. 3 team. A third lose came in 2002 when No. 2 Oklahoma beat No. 3 Texas 35-24.
The lowest moment came in 2003. No. 1-Oklahoma beat No. 11 Texas 65-13.
Four years. Four losses and two of them are some of the worst Mack Brown ever suffered. The 2004 season was yet another excruciating loss. Oklahoma won 12-0 and scored the game’s only touchdown with eight minutes to play.
All this set up one of the most important moments in Texas history that never gets talked about enough — especially when discussing the 2005 title team.
Five straight years Brown had lost to Oklahoma. He was 1-5 against Stoops, who at the time had the best running back in college football, Adrian Peterson, who also happened to be from Texas. Even after beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl earlier that year to end the 2004 season, even after beating No. 4 Ohio State in Columbus and even with Oklahoma unranked for the first time in the matchup since Stoop’s first season, few were going to take the Longhorns’ national title hopes for real until they slayed their rival.
Texas led 24-6 at halftime, 31-6 entering the fourth quarter and Rodrique Wright’s 67-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 7:41 left in the game capped a 45-12 win that truly made Texas a serious title contender in the eyes of so many fans. Texas won the national title a few months later.
The rivalry didn’t end after that game. But it did start to even out the rest of the decade. Brown went 3-1 against Oklahoma from 2006-2009. The dip at the end of his Texas years dropped his record to 6-9 against Stoops.
If there’s no Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, and the Sooners’ lost decade that was the 1990s turns into a lost generation in the 2000s, what stops Texas and Brown from being even better at recruiting the state of Texas? What stops Texas from winning the league and possibly playing for national championships in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 and even 2001. Though much of the conversation was about Major Applewhite and Chris Simms, Texas went 11-2 that season and would have entered the game against Colorado 11-0 had they not lost to OU.
The only Big 12 team Texas struggled with during those seasons was Oklahoma — and yes, Texas was 2-0 against Kansas State from 2000-2004. In that time Texas lost just two games to Big 12 teams not from Norman, Okla.: Colorado in the Big 12 title game in 2001 and at Texas Tech in 2002.
What happens in 2008 if Oklahoma doesn’t have Bob Stoops coaching?
The last time the two squared off was in 2013. Unranked Texas beat Oklahoma 36-20. Stoops finished his career with two more wins over Texas after Brown left Texas.
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