Mack botched the landing on his exit strategy

Just when it looked like Mack Brown had pulled off a huge upset, he decided to stop fighting for his job. Brown managed to hang around long enough to ensure Nick Saban wouldn’t be his successor, but on Saturday the school announced that he would resign as head football coach after the Horns play in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Oregon.

I thought Texas was in position to land Saban. And I know some of the school’s top donors felt the same. Saban laughably said Saturday that he never considered leaving Tuscaloosa for Austin. That was certainly news to the boosters from UT who had been wooing him since last January.

Brown felt like he deserved to go out on his own terms, but that rarely happens for even the most successful head coaches. Brown was the perfect hire for the Longhorns in 1998. His folksy manner played well with both fans and recruits. In fact, his phenomenal string of success from 2001-09 is what eventually got him fired. Winning a BCS championship and then playing for another raised the bar as high as it had been since Darrell Royal wore a headset. When things came crashing down during an embarrassing 5-7 campaign in 2010, everyone was stunned. And while Brown at least got his team back in the bowl picture the following three seasons, the program wasn’t close to what it had been.

When Texas fell to 1-2 this season after losses to BYU and Ole Miss, everyone assumed Mack was gone. But the Horns rallied to win seven of their first eight Big 12 games and played Baylor with the conference title on the line. Baylor outscored the Horns 27-7 in the second half to earn a 30-10 win and a Big 12 title. And no matter how good the Bears (11-1) were this season, Texas fans still think it’s galling to lose to them. It seemed to seal Brown’s fate…until he and Bill Powers rolled out some impressive stall tactics this past week. I saw an ESPN report that said Brown became “enraged” when it was reported last week that he’d be stepping down as head coach. He apparently was so enraged that he decided to change course and fight for his job. You would hope that one of the most iconic coaches in the history of the state wouldn’t allow media reports to control his actions, but stranger things have happened. On Saturday, Brown released a statement regarding his resignation.

“It’s been a wonderful ride. Now, the program is again being pulled in different directions, and I think the time is right for a change,” Brown said. “I love the University of Texas, all of its supporters, the great fans and everyone that played and coached here … It is the best coaching job and the premier football program in America.

“I sincerely want to get back to the top and that’s why I’m stepping down after the bowl game. I hope with some new energy, we can get this thing rolling again.”

I don’t believe for a minute this was solely Brown’s decision. I believe someone, perhaps Powers, convinced him the program couldn’t endure another season in which everyone would speculate about his job status. I’ve always thought Brown would act in the best interest of the University of Texas, but that wasn’t the case this past week. If he truly was planning to walk away this whole time, then what he just did was incredibly selfish.

Will that tarnish his legacy in Austin? Well, maybe in the short-term. But if the Horns land a head coach who turns the program around, a lot of this petty stuff will eventually be forgotten. Brown should be honored for getting this program back to a point where going 8-4 isn’t acceptable. But it was time for him to go.

He had the support of Powers and close friend/attorney/booster Joe Jamail, but it’s borderline embarrassing for a man of Brown’s stature to rely on these men to strong-arm others to keep his job. As I’ve said before, history will be good to Brown.

But right now, the school needs a break from him. He truly loves the University of Texas. The problem this past week was that he seemed more interested in settling a score with his detractors.

Brown’s career should be celebrated. But I understand why it will take some Horns fans a little longer to have that feeling.