Could Mack Brown step down at Texas?
Brown’s Longhorns visit Baylor on Saturday. Although the game could produce the Big 12 champion, Brown’s future as Texas coach will be one of the bigger storylines playing out.
A “high-ranking Texas official” told SI.com that no decision has been made on Brown’s future. Still, the season-long speculation, which has included rumors of Nick Saban replacing Brown, increases as the Longhorns cap their regular-season campaign against the ninth-ranked Bears.
“It’s up in the air,” a source told SI’s Pete Thamel regarding Brown’s future. “My thought is he’ll probably do the right thing for himself and Texas and step down. But coaches have something in their DNA that don’t normally let them do that. How many times have you seen it? With [Joe] Paterno or [Bobby] Bowden? People forget Darrell Royal was 5-5-1 in his last season.”
The late Royal, though, was a god at Texas. Brown hasn’t reached that rarefied air despite guiding the ‘Horns to the 2005 BCS national championship after stunning USC and the 2009 title game before falling to Alabama. Brown, who hasn’t made any public comments regarding his future, is under contract until 2020 at $5.4 million per season. When rumors about Nick Saban having interest in the Texas job arose, Brown’s agent threatened legal action against anyone trying to force out his client. But the years left on Brown’s contract mean little since the wealthy Longhorns’ program could provide him a generous buyout. Brown is expected to meet at some point to discuss his future with recently-hired athletic director Steve Patterson and school president Bill Powers.
A win over Baylor would put Patterson in an awkward position, particularly if Oklahoma State loses to Oklahoma on Saturday, giving the conference championship to the Longhorns. After opening the season 1-2, Brown has led Texas (8-3) to wins in seven of its past eight games, including a dominating 36-20 upset of Oklahoma on Oct. 12. He fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after losing to BYU in the second game of the season. The Longhorns bounced back, a Nov. 16 loss to Oklahoma State being the only blemish during their last eight games.
Still, as much as many Longhorn die-hards continue to call for Brown’s head, it would be a difficult scenario for Patterson to deliver it if the 62-year-old coach wins out and decides he wants to return. Brown also carries considerable weight with Powers, who probably would nix any attempt by Patterson to relieve the coach of his duties. But Brown also could be weary of critics calling for his dismissal or for him to step down. Or, as some have suggested, Brown should “do the right thing.”