A few years ago, Mack Brown was called a “CEO” coach by Sports Illustrated and after covering the team as a student and professional reporter and watching every UT football game since 2003, the label fit the 62-year-old perfectly.
And those who are around college football know that it is a business. And like the corporate world, despite what the profits were in the past, when a company sees diminishing returns, changes come next.
That moment came on Saturday night when Brown’s 16-year run as Texas Longhorns head coach ended with the national championship coach resigning.
“Sally and I were brought to Texas 16 years ago to pull together a football program that was divided,” Brown said in a statement. “With a lot of passion, hard work and determination from the kids, coaches and staff, we did that. We built a strong football family, reached great heights and accomplished a lot, and for that, I thank everyone. It’s been a wonderful ride. Now, the program is again being pulled in different directions, and I think the time is right for a change. I love the University of Texas, all of its supporters, the great fans and everyone that played and coached here.”
Full disclosure, this piece is written by a 2009 graduate of
the University of Texas who honed his craft on the 40 Acres interviewing prominent coaches like Brown, Augie Garrido and Rick Barnes.
But after attending games at Royal-Memorial Stadium the last four seasons and seeing the look on Brown’s face after losses and having to put a bow tie on wins over mediocre teams like West Virginia and Iowa State, the writing was on the wall and entering the month of December change was in the air more than the new season of winter.
Victim of his own success
Brown will go down as the second-best coach in the history of the program and should have a statue overlooking DKR in Austin one day.
He came to Austin after the Longhorns suffered through a disappointing 1997 season.
Brown reunited a fractured fan base, came up with a catchy slogan, brought in-state talent to the capital city and put Texas back in the national spotlight.
By 2001 the Longhorns were vying for a Big 12 championship and a spot against the mighty Miami Hurricanes in the BCS National Championship game and the best years were yet to come.
From 2001 until 2009, UT went 101-19, won two Big 12 titles, two Rose Bowls, a Fiesta Bowl and along with Vince Young, helped Texas win its first national championship in 35 years.
Burnt Orange and green
The Longhorns might wear burnt orange, but Brown ensured green would be the other color associated with Texas.
Under his watch UT became a financial giant, extended the capacity of DKR from about 83,000 to more than 100,000 and the Longhorns have been one of the highest grossing licensed logos in college sports.
That led to renovations at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, the Frank Erwin Center and a men’s basketball team that made the Final Four in 2003 and a baseball team that won a couple of national titles and came to within a game of winning another in 2009.
In 2010, UT and ESPN agreed to a $300 million agreement to set up the Longhorn Network where Longhorn fans can get their nightly fix of university news, watch countless games and even catch a glimpse of football practice if they have a free afternoon.
That also benefitted me as a student as aspiring sports reporters had a chance to cover big time events and network with the big wigs at national publications and stations, sell themselves for internships, etc.
Despite a 2011 season when UT had a down year and went to the Holiday Bowl, the athletic department had $163 million in revenue and had a football income of more than $103 million. That was the first time a college has reported more than $100 million in revenue for one sport.
The red years
But with all that in consideration, Brown was not getting the job done since losing to Alabama in the 2009 BCS title game.
The sky appeared to be the limit for Brown in January of 2010, but things went south the second that Colt McCoy injured his shoulder against Alabama.
Texas entered the 2010 season with a recruiting class that was ranked third by Rivals.com, but has left much to be desired.
Texas has gone 5-14 since 2009 against ranked teams, including eight straight home losses to ranked teams, hasn’t had a consensus All-American since 2009 and only six players have earned All-Big 12 honors.
The 2013 season was supposed to be the one when UT would return to the national spotlight, but that hope ended with early season losses to BYU and Ole Miss and an injury to starting quarterback and Belton product David Ash.
The burnt orange faithful watched Texas backup quarterback Case McCoy struggle in a de factor conference championship loss to Baylor.
In a state that is growing quarterbacks like bluebonnets, the Longhorns recruited future Heisman winners Robert Griffin III, a former Copperas Cove star, and Johnny Manziel to play other positions, has seen Baylor roll out Nick Florence and Bryce Petty and saw Heisman finalist Andrew Luck leave the Lone Star State for Stanford.
Missing the boat on recruiting has come at a time when Baylor is experiencing unprecedented success and Kevin Sumlin is resurrecting Texas A&M.
In Brown’s last four years UT went from being the standard of college football in the state to merely the third-best school in the state.
An unexpected win over Oklahoma and six-game winning streak could not stop the bleeding of the last four years.
Pockets of empty seats at DKR and losses in the recruiting battles point to some serious heat being pointed in the direction of Brown.
The last few days have seen reports of Brown resigning, followed by reports of him not; to even some stories surfacing of Brown threatening to leak information about UT flirting with Saban for two years.
Like any failed marriage, the beginning was all flowers and sunshine and end saw Brown fighting for his job.
Are we the Joneses?
Former UT Athletic Director Deloss Dodds once said of the school “We are the Joneses.”
But that phrase should be changed to past tense.
Red McCombs also said this week that all the money that’s not at the Vatican is at UT.
All that money has bought in the last three years are two drives to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl and a trip to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl.
Money may buy a lot of jerseys, hats and better season tickets, but it does not buy the services of the best coach in the country.
Texas should be proud of the pristine football stadium and LHN deal, but until accountability becomes more important than accounting, the Longhorns football team will be an also-ran in the conference and state.
Let the speculation over whom will be the next head coach begin.