Good thing Will Muschamp got the head-coaching job at Florida a couple of years ago. He might have grown old waiting for Mack Brown to retire at Texas.
Brown hardly sounds like someone who ever needed a coach-in-waiting, a lucrative role that Muschamp assumed in 2008 to go along with his defensive coordinator’s title. Four years later, Muschamp is laying the groundwork for his third Florida team, and Brown seems happily committed to returning Texas to football supremacy,
The Cookeville native will be honored Saturday as a recipient of the Neyland Trophy, presented annually by the Knoxville Quarterback Club in honor of former Tennessee football coach Gen. Robert Neyland.
It will put Brown in elite company. Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes and Bobby Bowden have all won the award.
Brown, 61, ranks 11th on the NCAA all-time list with 236 victories. And he has averaged just under 10 victories per season in 15 years at Texas, where he won a national championship in 2005.
Retirement was a more relevant topic a few years ago.
“I thought about that,” Brown said. “But I had a knee replacement and feel really good. I want to coach as long as I’m effective and having fun.”
Brown had no grand career plan when he started out. He just knew — like his brother, Watson — that he wanted to coach. Their father coached, and their grandfather, Eddie Watson, was a legendary high school coach in Putnam County.
Brown has been presiding over one of football’s most prominent programs so long, you easily could forget about his circuitous coaching route. None of his previous stops had Texas-size resources. Some of them looked more like career killers.
Take Tulane for instance. He went there in 1985, after three consecutive one-year stints at LSU (quarterbacks coach), Appalachian State (head coach) and Oklahoma (offensive coordinator).
Brown won one game in his first season at Tulane. That accounted for the second worst sports news at the school, which was rocked by a point-shaving scandal in basketball.
Brown was soon thrust into the dual role of football coach and athletic director, and the school was exploring the possibilities of dropping the sport. How’s that for a resume builder?
Although Brown won only 11 games in three seasons, that was enough to impress North Carolina, which offered him another rebuilding job.
Things got worse before they got better. His first two North Carolina teams went 1-10, leaving him with a five-year Division I-A coaching record of 13-43.
“North Carolina promised me five years,” Brown said.
He took the Tar Heels at their word, starting 11
freshmen his first season, and it paid off. His third team finished 6-4-1; his last two teams combined to win 20 of 23 games.
Next stop: Texas, and another rebuilding job.
In the seven seasons before Brown, Texas had averaged fewer than seven victories per year. He proceeded to win nine or more games for 12 consecutive seasons.
In 2010, a year after Texas lost to Alabama, Brown had his first losing season with the Longhorns. Since then, they have improved to 8-5 and 9-4. So he’s in the building mode again, and optimistic about it.
“I think we’ve got another national championship in us,” he said.