The Eyes of Texas are no longer upon Mack Brown.
As the game clock struck triple zeros at Monday’s Valero Alamo Bowl, the embattled coach ran to midfield to meet his counterpart for the last time as head coach of the University of Texas.
Brown concludes his coaching career at Texas with a record of 158-48 in 16 seasons. During his tenure on the Forty Acres, Brown won a BCS Title, played for a second, and won 10 or more games in a season nine times. He was Coach of the Year in 2006. But since the 2010 season the Longhorns are just 30-21, and 4-15 versus Top-25 schools.
Known for his great people skills, Brown was able to rebuild the relationships that had been fractured by the previous coaching regimes. It started with Brown soliciting the advice of another legendary Longhorn coach, Darrell Royal. Royal had some sage words of advice for Brown:
“Darrell Royal told us what you have to do to be the head football coach at Texas,” Brown said at a Dec. 15 press conference. “Since it’s a diverse group that follows this team, you have to pull it all together. It’s like a box of BBs. The BBs are dropped all over the room, what you have to do it get the BB’s back in the box. And we were able to do that.”
Upon his hiring, Brown reconnected with fans, lettermen, boosters and Texas high school coaches. The latter helped Brown get into the homes of some of the states’ best football talent.
Moments after winning the BCS Title game in 2005, Brown paid tribute to those coaches. “What it means to us, been a long time,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of passion and a lot of pride. I’m proud of these kids, I’m proud of our coaches — high school football in the state of Texas. We love our fans and they love it.”
The relationship with high school coaches helped Brown routinely land top-10 recruiting classes. This earned him the nickname “Coach February” for his recruiting prowess.
In more recent years, however, this talent hasn’t translated into wins on the field. A 5-7 record in 2010 — the only losing season Brown has had at Texas — led fans to question his ability to coach the marquee players he was recruiting. This, along with missed opportunities to land prized recruits like Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston at the quarterback position further infuriated fans.
The 2013 season brought with it the promise of a return to glory. The Big 12 was up for grabs. Quarterback David Ash was developing into a leader on offense. The schedule was favorable for Texas to make a run at the BCS title game again. All the pieces were there for Brown to put his detractors in their place.
Following an uninspiring win over New Mexico State in the season opener, things began to unravel quickly. Texas dropped a road game to BYU while allowing a school record 550 yards rushing to the Cougars. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was fired following the game. It didn’t get any better the following week as Ole Miss came into Darrell K. Royal stadium and manhandled the Longhorns 44-23. Texas fans had seen enough, even going as far as to boo a public service announcement by Brown on the stadium’s Jumbotron. The building consensus was that Brown needed to go.
A soft Big 12 schedule allowed Texas to rattle off six straight wins — including a 36-20 drubbing of Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry – and earned Brown a short reprieve from the growing lynch mob. Then a home loss to Oklahoma State showed little had changed during the win streak. The run defense was still porous, and the offense was one-dimensional.
Despite the setback Texas still had a shot at the Big 12 title going into the season finale against Baylor. The Bears dominated Texas in all facets of the game while cruising to a 30-10 win.
Brown will finish his tenure at Texas second only to Royal in wins. He led the Longhorns to two Big 12 Championships and six South Division titles. Texas also won three of its four BCS bowls under Brown.
In the end, Mack Brown will be remembered for resurrecting a once-proud program and making it relevant again. But for all of his accomplishments, Brown will not get to ride off into the sunset on his terms. The circus surrounding this season will taint what has been a successful coaching career by a man who poured his heart and soul into reshaping a once-proud program.
The Mack Brown era has ended.