John E. Hoover: Will Mack Brown's job go the way of 'Big Tex'?
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Saturday, October 20, 2012
10/20/12 at 4:32 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blog.Original Print Headline: Will Mack Brown's job go the way of 'Big Tex'?
Big Tex didn't survive Oklahoma's latest blowout victory over Texas.
Will Mack Brown?
The iconic automaton, 52 feet tall and 60 years old and reuniter of countless separated families at the State Fair of Texas over the years, caught fire on Friday morning.
Seems he fell victim to an electrical short that rendered the large, likeable Texan a lifeless, burned out shell of his former self.
Just to clarify, that last paragraph was in reference to Big Tex, the giant statue. Not the Longhorn head football coach.
But last Saturday at the Cotton Bowl, after absorbing another embarrassing blowout at the hands of the Sooners, the 61-year-old Brown bore a similar resemblance: ashen-faced, no longer saying much, moving only a little.
In the week since OU's 63-21 devastation, Brown has gone back to work. He said he won't leave Texas in disrepair. The Longhorns have to play Baylor this week in Austin, after all.
It's potentially a pivotal game toward Brown's immediate future at Texas.
Don't misunderstand. If the 'Horns beat Baylor for the first time in three years, all is not forgiven. Piling up blowout losses to the Sooners - four in the last 13 seasons now - puts any Longhorn coach in the crosshairs. Brown will need to bounce back big-time this season, and maybe next, for the latest meltdown to go away.
But losing to the Bears? For the third year in a row? Not good.
If the OU blowout is the spark that ignites Brown's demise, another loss to Baylor would be the flame that consumes him.
Here's the truth: Everybody likes Mack, from recruits to fans to the UT administration, from local reporters who cover the 'Horns to regional and national media who don't. He's kind, he's engaging, he's grandfatherly. He's enjoyable to be around. He's uplifting, he's positive. And, aside from the blowout losses to Oklahoma and a few inexplicable decisions he's made on the Texas quarterback situation, he's a very good coach. Or, at worst, a very good recruiter.
But here's another truth: The ones who like Mack the most - a wealthy and politically influential short list of Longhorn boosters - may also be the ones who have to step in and put out the fire.
Brown showed great savoir-faire early on by aligning himself and his affable personality with some of Texas' most prominent financial backers. All those hallways and entrances and sidewalks around Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium bear the names of millionaires and billionaires who have written checks to the University of Texas primarily because they like Mack Brown - and because Brown went 124-25, won a national championship and two conference crowns and finished in the Top 10 seven times in his first 12 seasons.
That remarkable run, in and of itself, brought the university and the athletic department millions of dollars.
But since Colt McCoy's shoulder injury in the 2009-10 BCS National Championship Game, Brown's Longhorns are 17-15.
They've lost three consecutive games to the Sooners (by an average score of 49-19), two in a row to Baylor and four straight to Kansas State.
In 2010, Texas had its first losing record since 1997 - the year before Brown arrived, which went down as the program's worst in 50 years. So Brown cleaned out his coaching staff, citing entitlement and decay.
In 2011, he hired a couple of hot-shot but largely unproven coordinators, young and energetic but, in hindsight, clearly overmatched in big-game experience.
Texas slimly avoided another losing season as Manny Diaz on defense and Bryan Harsin on offense were exposed as newbies. They were embarrassed again by the Sooners last week.
Mack's reclamation project isn't working.
Whether he's grown truly soft, or his kindly Tennessee demeanor has buffed out any killer instinct the players need to have, or he's simply misevaluating recruits, or he just made a couple of bad hires, who knows? It's probably all of that and more.
Maybe Brown will accept what looks inevitable to some and retire at the end of the season, settling into a fundraising role down the hall from athletic director DeLoss Dodds.
Dodds definitely doesn't want to be the one to tell Mack it's time to go, but this is a business, and these are lean times - even at a milk-and-honey oasis like Texas.
All those donors who have lined UT's pockets? They want to see more for their investment than just their name on a wall. They want to see wins. They want to see Bob Stoops and the Sooners humiliated for a change.
For now, this week at least, they'll settle for beating Baylor. Nowhere is pride worn on the sleeve more prominently than Texas, and smack talk at the country club has grown tiresome for the biggest of the big-money boosters.
Amid the smoldering rubble on Friday, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings said Big Tex will be rebuilt bigger and better for the 21st century.
Mack Brown or no Mack Brown, Texas fans are hoping for similar promises.
Texas head coach Mack Brown fires up his players. STEPHEN HOLMAN/Tulsa World