Mack Brown is still the head coach at the University of Texas.
Music to the ears of some, fingernails on a burnt-orange chalkboard to others.
While whispers have turned to blood-curdling screams for Nick Saban in some fan circles, Brown was on a recruiting trip in Tampa, Fla. on Wednesday with plans to appear at a pre-Alamo Bowl golf tournament Thursday in San Antonio, followed by Friday’s annual football banquet.
Meanwhile, for those who are living and dying with every Saban rumor, a high-ranking university source told the American-Statesman on Wednesday there was no movement on that front, adding there would be “No contact (with Saban) until (Brown’s situation) is resolved.”
Brown’s actions appear to be those of a man intent on coaching here next season. Any sports fan who didn’t visit Mars over the last two weeks has tuned in to the saga and heard the echo of questions regarding his future.
- Is he on the outs with the administration for good?
- Can he possibly sell new athletic director Steve Patterson on allowing him to climb that mountain for at least one more year?
- And the big one: What happens if he isn’t the head coach in 2014?
Well, let’s just start by saying that whatever happens over the next few days, it’s been a solid run for the highest paid state employee in history.
When DeLoss Dodds brought Mack aboard 16 years ago, there were no guarantees he would return this program to national prominence.
But he did.
There were no guarantees the fans would fill the stands after living through a period when you could score game tickets in the checkout line at H-E-B.
But they came in droves and bought Longhorns merchandise at a record pace.
Those are feathers in Mack’s cap, but they don’t absolve him from being responsible for what has happened over the past four years. If we’re going to credit him for returning this program to the loftiest of heights, then we should also put this recent slide at his doorstep.
With that said, we’re living in the Twitter generation, one of immediate gratification and 140-character pseudo-scoops from non-journalists who gleefully post from Mom’s basement. Fan bases are all about “what have you done for me lately?” and they want 12-0 regular seasons followed by Januaries filled with crystal balls and recruits who will play in future Pro Bowls.
Coaches like Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno wouldn’t last 30 years in this era. Could you imagine JoePa sending tweets to recruits?
To his credit, Brown has adjusted with the times, and while he has his detractors, one shouldn’t feel sorry for him if this turns out to be his swan song.
Here are three reasons why:
1. Brown has been well compensated. Mack has made a mint here and earned every penny — plus the $2.75 million buyout that would kick in if he is let go — and for those who are labeling him a $5.4-million-per-year martyr with all of this Saban talk, please point me to that martyr line so I can sign up.
2. He’s had time to fix it. Colt McCoy left here as college football’s all-time winningest quarterback four years ago, and the Horns haven’t won 10 games in a season since. After the 2005 national title, Texas went 45-8 overall and 31-6 in Big 12 games over the next four seasons, winning a Fiesta Bowl and playing for another national title in 2009. In the four years since, the Longhorns are 30-20 overall and 18-17 in conference play.
Along the way, Mack missed out on some key recruits (particularly at quarterback) and stayed with several veteran coaches who had worn out their welcome in the production department.
3. Texas football has gotten stale, and the fan base is fractured. Mack likes a good fight, but I know for a fact that he won’t stick around if he isn’t wanted. He doesn’t want to be a guy cashing more big paychecks well past his prime. He has options outside of Austin.
Above all else, Mack doesn’t want your pity. He will leave before he becomes a shell of the guy who won titles here. While he may indeed be capable of turning things around, he has had four years to win big again. He hasn’t to the fan base’s satisfaction.
The coming days will tell the tale for Brown and this program. For those who are buying into unsubstantiated stories that Saban has been offered $100 million over the next 10 years, just be prepared to watch Alabama call that $100 million and raise it another $20-$25 million.Those people will move heaven and earth to prevent St. Nick from sliding down an Austin chimney in December.
As of this writing, Brown is still the proud head coach of Texas Longhorns, deserving of all the trappings and expectations that come with the gig.
He has earned your respect and appreciation for the good old days, but not your pity.