University of Texas president Bill Powers told the American-Statesman on Thursday that he did not authorize one current and one former regent to contact Alabama football coach Nick Saban’s agent in January about the possibility of Saban replacing Mack Brown as Longhorns coach.
Powers also said he only recently became aware of the clandestine conversation when it was reported on a fan website, and declined to give a reaction to Thursday’s Associated Press report about the January telephone conversation.
The AP reported that current Texas regent Wallace Hall, former regent Tom Hicks and Jimmy Sexton — Saban’s agent — spoke by telephone a few days after Alabama beat Notre Dame on Jan. 7 in the national championship game.
“Mack Brown is our coach, and is working hard to move the program in the right direction,” Powers told the American-Statesman.
Hicks was heavily involved in the 1997 search for John Mackovic’s replacement that led to the hiring of Brown. Hicks’ brother, Stephen Hicks, is a current regent; he told the AP he was out of the country at the time of that January conversation and was unaware of it.
Attempts to reach Sexton on Thursday were unsuccessful. A message to Alabama’s sports information staff was not returned.
Saban, speaking on his weekly radio show, did address the report Thursday, the website AL.com reported. “Every year it’s something,” Saban said. “… Quite frankly, I’m just too damn old to start all over some place else.”
Two days after the phone call, Tom Hicks met with Brown over lunch and told the Longhorns coach about the conversation, according to the AP, which reported that Brown told Hicks he was not yet ready to retire. After that, the dalliance with Sexton went no further, Hall told the AP.
Hall said he has not been in further contact with Sexton, and didn’t know if anyone else from the university had spoken with the agent.
Brown, however, was very upset by the conversation, a highly-placed Texas source told the American-Statesman.
“Mack was furious with Hall,” the source said, who added that Brown and Tom Hicks remain friends.
Joe Jamail, a billionaire Houston attorney and Brown’s personal friend and attorney, suggested to the AP that Hall had acted on his own and that Jamail threatened to sue anyone outside the university if they try to pressure Brown to resign.
“If there are any more, get ready for a lawsuit,” Jamail said. “Mack has publicly stated he wants to coach.”
Brown, who is under contract until 2020 with a salary of $5.4 million this year, won the 2005 national title and lost to Saban’s Alabama team in the championship game in the 2009 season, but his team continues to struggle to get its footing. Texas, off to a 1-2 start this year, has gone 23-18 since that title game loss, and if the Longhorns fall to Kansas State on Saturday, they would start a season 1-3 for the first time since 1956.
Texas is favored to beat Kansas State, although the Wildcats have beaten the Longhorns five straight times.
Texas men’s athletic director DeLoss Dodds also declined to be drawn into the story Thursday, telling the American-Statesman that “it’s a regents thing, and I’m going to stay out of it.”
Last week, both Dodds and Jamail told the American-Statesman that they still were supporting Brown.