Mack made his mark
December 17, 2013
By Dan Daly
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September 13, 1986, Memorial Stadium, Texas vs. Stanford, I was seven-years-old. It wasn’t the first Texas game I had ever attended, not even close, but it was the first Texas game I ever remember attending. Texas lost that day 31-20 and it marked the beginning of the end for Fred Akers as the University of Texas head coach.
Over the next 11 years two men ran the Forty-Acres, David McWilliams and John Mackovic. I spent every Saturday in the fall as a kid living or dying on every play, either sitting in Memorial Stadium or watching Texas play on TV. I watched as Texas put up four losing seasons, five mediocre (at best) seasons and two 10-win seasons. The University of Texas football program was a far cry from the juggernaut that my dad’s generation grew up watching.
Then, after a 4-7 campaign my freshman year (1997) John Mackovic was fired, and the coach that followed would change the entire culture at The University of Texas.
Mack Brown made The University of Texas football program relevant again, plain and simple. That may seem hard to comprehend for anyone under 30 years old or anyone that jumped on the Texas Bandwagon in the 2000’s, but the day Mack Brown took over as Head Coach, he took over a football program that hadn’t been nationally relevant in decades.
Most Texas fans these days seems to have a sense of entitlement, an arrogance about them that ‘we are Texas, we have always been great, we will always be great and Mack just isn’t getting it done.’ Well, we might “be Texas” but we have not always been great, we will not always be great, and Mack was the first coach in over 30 years to actually “get it done.” Mack Brown is the reason University of Texas fans can even have a sense of entitlement in the first place, especially if you are under the age of 50.
After 18 years of growing up watching Texas Football if you had asked me in December 1997 if I would sign up for the 16 years Mack Brown was about to deliver, I wouldn’t have just signed up, I would have gotten down on my hands and knees to beg God and anyone else that was in the vicinity for it.
In 16 seasons Mack Brown was responsible for a 158–47 record, nine straight 10-plus win seasons, a 10-4 bowl record including a Rose Bowl win, a Fiesta Bowl win, two National Championship game appearances and one perfect season as the undefeated and undisputed National Champion.
What Mack did off the field might have even been more impressive. According to Forbes, “UT athletics had an overall budget of roughly $52.2 million in 1999-2000, and grew to $82 million during the 2005-2006 academic year. For the 2012-13 academic year according to the U.S. Department of Higher Education, UT’s athletic budget grew to $165.7 million. After adjusting for inflation, that’s a constant dollar increase of $87.1 million. A real doubling of revenues. Football alone generated $109.4 million in 2012-13, thanks in no small part to the Longhorn Network and the $15 average annual outlay the school receives from it (the total value of their deal with ESPN is $300 million over 20 years).”
The most impressive thing about Mack Brown though might not have been his record on the field or the money he raised off it…but the way he did it. He won with class, he won without even a hint of an NCAA scandal, he won the right way with players that loved and admired him.
There is probably no greater example than his speech in the locker room after Texas had just won the National Championship. "I don't want this to be the best thing that's ever happened in your life. When you're 54 I don't want you to say winning a football game is the best thing that's ever happened. You'll have it and you'll always be able to say you were a National Champion for the rest of your life. But you promise me, if you have enough about you to win a National Championship, then you have enough about you to be a great citizen, great role model, great father and a great leader in your family."
And he left the same way…despite the circus that surrounded him.
One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is from the movie Cocktail, “everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn't end.”
Were the last four years for Mack at Texas sub-standard for him? Of course, he has all but said as much. "We set a standard at this place. You've got to win all of them. That's the expectation and I understand that. I'm a big boy. I understand you don't win all the games here, people are unhappy. Other people love eight wins — not here.” The irony of course being that sixteen years ago that statement was a pipe dream as a Texas fan, now Texas fans demand it. Mack Brown, in a way, was his own worst enemy.
Do I think it was time for Mack to step down? Probably, but only because it’s hard to get to the mountain top and even harder to stay there for any substantial length of time. Very rarely in sports as a coach or a player does a person leave at the peak, Mack unfortunately was not the exception. Mack Brown took Texas to the mountain top in his 16 years as the head coach at Texas and he stayed there longer than anyone since Darrell Royal.
I don’t know who will replace Mack, or how they will do once they take over but I can tell you one thing for sure; if they can replicate all of the things Mack Brown did on and off the football field over the next 16 years, I would sign up for that run in a heartbeat. Anyone that wouldn’t simply doesn’t understand what it was like before Mack arrived.
Mack Brown deserves a statue, his name on the ring of honor and a thank you from every true Texas fan that ever runs into him. Mack Brown took a once relevant football program and made it relevant again. Mack made it fun to be a Texas Longhorn fan again. Mack Brown is, was and will always be a legend at The University of Texas and anyone that doesn’t see that or doesn’t understand that can go jump on someone else’s bandwagon.
"We're leaving it better than we found it," Brown said, "and it has been a fun ride."