As Ohio State’s coach, Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player, was fired the next day and still has his name on the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year trophy.
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach was fired amidst claims of player abuse, but now at Washington State, he’s known far better for being the man with a legendary coaching tree that unleashed the spread offense on the Big 12.
Oregon’s Chip Kelly skipped town before NCAA sanctions came to Eugene, but he gets most of the credit for turning Oregon from a good program into a national power.
Mack Brown coincidentally passed Hayes on the all-time wins list this season and had logged 244 wins when he announced his resignation on Saturday night. He went 8-2 against Leach, and his final game as Texas coach will come against Oregon on Dec. 30.
History will treat Brown well. He’ll be remembered for his efforts as an ambassador for college football and charm that could have made any Capulet one of his fans, even if his name was Mack Montague.
In 2013, he became the first Texas coach to ever lose four games in four consecutive seasons. There’s plenty to blame for it: Questionable recruiting strategies and player development more than anything, but dumb luck didn’t help either. Any coach in the country would have loved to have Garrett Gilbert. Brown kept the nation’s No. 2 QB, an Austin native, home and in burnt orange. Colt McCoy filled the void behind Vince Young, but Brown found out how impossible it is to win the Big 12 without great quarterback play and now, Texas is looking for a new coach.
He won’t be remembered for those four forgettable seasons, just as Darrell Royal isn’t remembered for winning nine games just once in his final four seasons.
Brown will be remembered for rescuing Texas from average football and turning it back into a top 10 mainstay–and a national champion. He did it just in time, too, as college football’s following and television money boomed. Texas’ $163 million budget in 2012 is a small fraction of that number without Brown’s nine consecutive 10-win seasons from 2001-09.
The BCS title game loss to Alabama at the end of the 2009 season is the last time Texas was truly among the national elite. After going 5-7 in 2010, Brown was given a chance to reboot the program and hired six new members of the coaching staff to do it. An 8-4 season in 2013 meant that rebuilding effort was a failure, but Brown’s legacy is restoring Texas to greatness and handing over a program well-suited to return to greatness again–provided his successor finds a quarterback.
Brown had his chance, and staying around for 2014 was never an attractive option for anyone involved. Significant improvement was unlikely, and accomplishing anything in a program where much of the fan base is counting down the minutes until your exit is even more unlikely.
“Sally and I were brought to Texas 16 years ago to pull together a football program that was divided. With a lot of passion, hard work and determination from the kids, coaches and staff, we did that. We built a strong football family, reached great heights and accomplished a lot, and for that, I thank everyone. It’s been a wonderful ride. The program is again being pulled in different directions, and I think the time is right for a change,” Brown said in a release. “It is the best coaching job and the premier football program in America. I sincerely want it to get back to the top and that’s why I am stepping down after the bowl game. I hope with some new energy, we can get this thing rolling again.”
Mack didn’t go out in the blaze of infamy that many other coaches did. He simply stopped being as effective as he once was, and the time for a change came, just as it does for any legendary coach. It won’t take very long for the memory of three average seasons to fade and the memory of his four BCS appearances, two Big 12 titles, nationally runner-up and national title to shine through.
Texas football is better because of Mack Brown and his 158 wins. Royal is the only man who captured more wins for the burnt orange. College football is better because of Mack Brown, who consistently raised a voice of reason in the midst of a shifting rulebook and landscape.
It takes a lot more than four seasons below Texas’ sky-high expectations to change that.