Texas Longhorn’s Football Coach Mack Brown is leaving the team after 16 years.
In an email released Saturday night, Brown said the Longhorn job was the best in the country and that he wants to team to get back to the top of college football.
"I sincerely want it to get back to the top and that's why I am stepping down after the bowl game. I hope with some new energy, we can get this thing rolling again," Brown said.
UT-Austin president Bill Powers and new athletic director Steve Patterson heaped praise on Brown in the release. Patterson said Brown was a, "...tremendous coach, mentor, leader and ambassador for our university and our student-athletes." While Powers simple said, "Mack is just the best and he will be missed."
In stepping down, Brown will end his coaching tenure, which is currently the third longest in Division 1, and leave behind a legacy that saw him place 10 bowl game victories and a national title on the University of Texas’ mantle.
Brown’s departure was the center of much speculation and passion on social media throughout his final season. It’s a season that stands in stark contrast to his arrival.
When Brown first came to the University of Texas in 1998, the fan base lacked exuberance and the football program was in the middle of an identity crisis. The team had ended its previous season with a 4-7 record, the worst in its last 50 years. A rift had formed between the Athletic Department and the school’s legendary coach Darrell Royal. Meanwhile, the fans had grown weary of the team’s lackluster performances.
Chip Brown, a reporter for Orangebloods.com, remembers how Mack Brown was able to revitalize the program and engage fan interest.
“(When) Mack came in, he immediately embraced Darrell Royal, welcomed all the letterman back, told the fans, ‘Come early, stay late, wear orange.’ (Brown) literally told them how to cheer,” Chip Brown said.
The team ended Mack Brown’s first season with a 9-3 record that included victories over perennial rivals Oklahoma and Texas A&M, as well as a Cotton Bowl victory. Brown finished each of his first six years ranked in the top 25.
In 2004, sophomore quarterback Vince Young took control of the team. In his first full season, Young lifted the team to a 11-1 record. In his second, Young carried the Longhorns to a dramatic national championship win over the University of Southern California. With the victory, Brown’s cultural overhaul of the 40 acres was complete.
“I don’t want this to be the best thing that’s ever happened in your life,” Brown told his players after the victory. “Promise me, if you’ve got enough about you to win a national championship, you’ve got enough about you to be a great citizen and a great role model, a great father and a great leader in your family.”
Vince Young headed to the NFL, and in his place stepped quarterback Colt McCoy. The team didn’t skip a beat under the supervision of Brown, and proceeded to go 42-7 in McCoy’s four regular seasons. At the end of McCoy’s senior season, Brown found himself back in the national championship game. This time the opponent was Alabama, and the challenge became much greater after McCoy suffered a left shoulder injury on his fifth offensive play of the game. The Longhorns lost the game 21-37. Chip Brown says the loss changed everything for Mack Brown.
“He left the Rose Bowl that night haunted by that loss,” Chip Brown said. “And (he) was already telling his assistant coaches that they were never going to be in that position again, where they didn’t have a running game to support a throwing quarterback.”
Brown immediately went to work on a new offensive system, but the results wouldn’t be the same. In 2010, the team went 5-7, which ended a 12-year streak of being nationally ranked and getting an invitation to a bowl game. That led to multiple staff changes, and a dramatic philosophical change away from the strategy Brown had just put in place.
But wins and losses only serve to tell part of Brown’s story. While the team was rebuilding, ESPN came calling with an opportunity to promote UT athletics like never before: The Longhorn Network. ESPN bought a $300 million 20-year contract for the third tier broadcast rights to Longhorns football games. Third tier rights are games that the broadcast networks of ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC decide to pass on.
In its first two years, the network got off to a slow start and wasn’t even available in most of Austin. However, on the field, the team bounced back by going 8-5 and making it back to a bowl game. The team made slight improvements in 2012 by winning 9 games. The 2013 season was supposed to be the year the rebuilding was done and the team reclaimed its spot among the nation’s elite. But in the second game of the season the team gave up over 500 rushing yard in a blowout loss to Brigham Young University.
The next day, Brown fired his defensive coordinator. It was the first time he had made a high level staff change in season. Despite a 1-2 start to the season, Texas was in a position to win the Big 12 on Dec. 7, but lost to Baylor University by 20 points.
The low note marked the end of a 30-20 stretch for Brown, and a time frame in which the Longhorns struggled to stay above .500 in the Big 12, a conference they are predicted to dominate. The expectations of fans, boosters and the administration, expectations Mack Brown created by making Texas an elite football program, just weren’t being met.