There is no denying that when Mack Brown first came to Austin more than fifteen years ago to coach the Texas Longhorns, he awakened a sleeping giant, but as is the case with many coaches, it’s starting to appear that he may have hung on too long. Throughout the offseason, he truly belived that he could turn things back around after a short string of mediocre seasons. However, any hopes that he and the fans clung to were dashed after the Longhorns were soundly defeated in an embarrassing loss to the Brigham Young University Cougars last weekend, leaving many fans doubting Brown’s ability to ever get the Horns back to the top.
Since the loss, the program’s most rabid fans have been hitting the message boards in various degrees of outrage and emotion. Some feel that Brown should be fired immediately. Others think he should be fired at the end of the year, regardless of whether or not he finds a way to miraculously save the season. Then there are those who feel that he has earned the right to resign on his own time (though even most of those people begrudgingly feel it’s time for a change on the Forty Acres).
After seeing his reaction to loss to the Cougars, it’s clear that Brown is shell-shocked. It’s obvious that he strongly believed things would be better this season, and who could blame him? After all, the players are a year older and more experienced while the rest of the conference is rebuilding. But then the debacle in Provo forced Brown and fans to admit that they still aren’t where they want to be, and with David Ash’s availability still undecided for the immediate future, they may not get there at all this year.
Personally, I believe that we could be witnessing Mack Brown’s final season, regardless of the way it ends. In my mind, I think that if he’s able to finish the year with a respectable record, he very well could be ready to pass the baton onto the next man for the job, leaving the program with momentum as it prepares for the future. On the other hand, if the season ends in disaster, things could get ugly, very ugly; I would hate to see that happen to a man who has done so much for the program.
Some may argue that in his 15 seasons at Texas he has only won two outright conference championships and one national title. That’s true. Yet even though championships are the zenith of a program’s success, they are not the only indicator.
When Mack came to Austin, the Longhorns were in shambles; for over a decade they were completely irrelevant in the college football world. Then Mack Brown showed up, making them relevant once again. In his tenure on the Forty Acres, he has produced one Heisman Trophy winner and three more finalists, garnered the the best bowl record in school history, won three BCS titles, including a national title, set a record for consecutive ten-win seasons, and pushed the Longhorns back to national prominence.
Sadly, that legacy is in danger now and the Longhorns are falling further and further into that same dark pit from which Mack Brown worked so hard to pull them. Only he can salvage that legacy and he knows it, which is why I believe that, win or lose, this could be Brown’s swan song.
As a Brown supporter (though I do agree he has hung on a bit too long), I would love to see this year conclude with a storybook ending: the team rebounds, plays as hard as they can for the coach they adore, and Brown rides off into the sunset with his legacy in tact. After all that he has done in Austin, he deserves that. Unfortunately, we all know that not everything ends the way we’d always hope.
Though much of the overly passionate fan base is furious with him right now, I have a feeling that history will be kind to Mack Brown. It may take a few years, but if Mack makes the right move sooner rather than later, fans will remember him as the man who, behind Coach Darrell K Royal, did the most for the Texas Longhorns.
But until then, it could be a very, very bumpy ride.