He Did It With Class

After 16 seasons, Mack Brown retired as head football coach of the Texas Longhorns. Beyond a 158-48 record at UT and a National Championship, Brown says he wants his coaching legacy to be that he did it all with integrity.

He Did It with Class

On Jan. 5, 2010, inside the confines of Pasadena’s famous Rose Bowl, Mack Brown paced the sidelines, less than 60 minutes away from college football immortality. It was four years earlier in that same stadium that Brown and Texas beat USC to win their first national championship in more than three decades. Already a legend, a second national championship would send Brown into the pantheon of all-time greats and, it was widely presumed, retirement. Then, with one seemingly innocuous quarterback sneak, everything went wrong. After a nerve injury sent All-American senior QB Colt McCoy out for the game, the Horns were no match for Alabama’s Crimson Tide.
mack_sally_s9804Over the next four seasons, the gleaming football edifice Brown had built at Texas began to show ugly cracks. The team suffered its first losing season in his time as head coach. He burned through coordinators trying to stabilize the program with limited success. The program inched back toward preeminence, but the pace was just too slow. A humiliating loss to Oklahoma in 2012, then an embarrassing shellacking against BYU in 2013, tried the patience of Texas fans, many beyond repair. With all the resources at Texas, why couldn’t the team get back among the nation’s elite?

Calls for Brown’s head grew from rumbles to shouts. In the fall, news broke that some regents had entertained an overture from Nick Saban’s agent in the spring of 2013 to talk about bringing Saban to Texas. In October 2013, athletics director DeLoss Dodds, who hired Mack and was his biggest protector, announced his retirement. Two months later, after failing to beat Baylor and win the Big 12, Brown, too, announced that he would hang it up as the Longhorns’ head coach.

In his retirement press conference, Brown thanked Texas fans for supporting him and his wife, Sally. He said his only regrets were the A&M bonfire tragedy and the untimely death of UT football player Cole Pittman, and that he hoped fans would remember him as a guy who brought the program back from mediocrity—and did it with class. Since resigning as head coach, Brown has taken to live-tweeting national sporting events, offering the unique commentary fans came to know and expect from the old coach, who, even if his team lost on the field, always seemed to win the press conferences. Brown’s contract allows him to stay on as a special advisor to UT president Bill Powers, and he has said he will help new coach Charlie Strong in whatever ways he can. We take a look at the significant moments in Brown’s career at Texas and give two players’ perspectives on the man who led the Longhorns for 16 years. —Tim Taliaferro

Read what UT Football alumni Chris Hall and Vince Young had to say about their coach.


Mack in Time: 16 Years at the Helm

In nearly two decades with the Longhorns, Coach Brown earned his share of accolades. His team saw impressive success, including a National Championship and one final win over Texas A&M. We look back at the triumphs and struggles of his time at Texas and commemorate the moments that made it special.

Dec. 4, 1997

Athletic director DeLoss Dodds hires Brown, then coach at North Carolina, to take over for former head coach John Mackovic. Brown hits the road, charming high school coaches across the state and getting to know Texas lettermen.

Dec. 5, 1997

Running back Ricky Williams considers leaving the team due to Brown’s strict policy on hairstyles. Brown eventually loosens the policy.

Jan. 1, 1999

The Horns ring in a new year with a renewed sense of energy—and a victory over Mississippi State in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Williams, who days before won the Heisman Trophy and the Doak Walker Award, earns 248 yards and two touchdowns.

Dec. 28, 2001

Texas, now rolling like they hadn’t in decades, finishes an 11-win, top-10 season with a barnburner in the Holiday Bowl against Washington. That season, Brown also signs a buzzed-about Madison High School quarterback named Vince Young.

Jan. 4, 2006

Carried by Young’s career-making performance, Brown and the Longhorns win the National Championship at the Rose Bowl, defeating USC in the waning moments. Brown, true to form, called it a “classy game.”

January 2006

Brown receives the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award for Coach of the Year. In his office, Brown hung a telegram from the awards namesake—in which Bryant offered Brown a football scholarship to the University of Alabama.

Nov. 27, 2008

Brown notches the 200th victory of his career as the Horns defeat Texas A&M, 49-9. “We wanted to leave it all out on the field and we did that,” Brown said after the game. “It’s been a great season.”

Jan. 7, 2010

The Longhorns return to the national championship game, this time against Alabama. Quarterback Colt McCoy is knocked out early with a shoulder injury. Despite McCoy’s request, Brown keeps him sidelined, and the Crimson Tide rolls over the Horns, 37-21.

Nov. 24, 2011

As the clock ticks down, a 40-yard field goal from Justin Tucker secures Brown’s—and perhaps UT’s—final football victory against the Aggies,
ending the 117-year rivalry on the field.

Dec. 15, 2013

After several seasons of criticism and conjecture, Brown steps down, saying it’s the right thing for Texas. UT president Bill Powers says, “Mack is just the best, and he will be missed.”


Top: Brown’s players hoist him onto their shoulders after defeating Nebraska (20-16) on Oct. 31, 1998; Mack and Sally.


Photos courtesy UT Athletics.


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