New University of Texas football coach Mack Brown is at his
leisure around a coffee table in his office, wearing jeans and being
expansive about what it's like to be in charge of one of the most
storied teams in the land.
A big plus, he says, is that many of the boosters and supporters
are "really smart, really powerful and very interested." A big
minus, he says, is that many of the boosters and supporters are
"really smart, really powerful and very interested."
Brown laughs a Texas-size laugh: "This is a great job and great
jobs are hard."
Plus, they are perilous, especially at this school which ranks
behind only Michigan and Notre Dame in total wins and has appeared
television more times than anybody. When you lose at Texas, watch
your back. Texans understand frontier justice and have no qualms
about its application.
Last year, Texas - figured at last to be a national championship
contender again - strutted onto its home field for its second game,
whereupon it was promptly thrashed by lightly regarded UCLA, 66-3.
It was the worst home defeat ever. The Eyes of Texas filled with
tears of remorse and regret - and anger.
By season's end, the Longhorns had collapsed to 4-7 and may not
have been that good. It has been 41 autumns since Texas had a worse
Yet, even worse, if possible, last year wasn't all that different
from too many other years over several decades. Texas football keeps
bumping along at nadirs and wondering if the zeniths will ever
Spring is the season of rebirth for college football, a 15-day
window of practice allowed under NCAA rules. It's a crucial time
when coaches get a chance to see how much improvement the players
have made since the end of last season - or, perish the thought, how
much they have digressed. Spring football sets the foundation for
the fall season and serves to revivify hope.
Here in Texas, football fans are consumed with the fact that it
has been 28 miserable years since their beloved albeit
Longhorns last won a national championship. They haven't been
genuinely happy since Darrell Royal coached the team to 11 Southwest
Conference championships between 1957 and '76 and brought them three
national championships in 1963, 1969, and 1970. They are desperate
in their support of Mack Brown, spirited away five months ago from
North Carolina. Says one athletic official, "If Mack can't do it, it
can't be done." The point is, defensive coordinator Carl Reese says,
"When you grow up in football, Texas is football."
Mack Brown's last stop
Brown understands: "We have a responsibility to this state because
it is a football culture. Whether that's right or wrong doesn't
matter. It is. I know I can do this job. If they let me stay long
enough, we'll win. This is my last stop. I have never been fired
and I'm not going to get fired here. I am going to enjoy all the
fans and those fans who get mad at me, well, I won't enjoy them as
much. I want Texas football to be what I remember."
Says Dusty Renfro, a linebacker, of Brown, "He has an air of
confidence about him second to none." Darrell Royal, one of the
three or four all-time best-ever football coaches, gave this piece
advice to Brown: "Smile."
Brown has that down. Asked if Texas will be any good this fall,
he says, "Probably not. We were 4-7 last year and all the guys are
back." He's right, 17 returning starters, 40 lettermen. Still,
given the schedule, 7-4 is doable, if UCLA and Kansas State don't
demoralize the 'Horns on back-to-back September Saturdays.
Brown - hired because he's the hottest coach in the game - dreams
the dreams of dreamers ("I'd like to win every football game with
nice kids and within the rules'') but he also understands reality as
he did when UT President Larry Faulkner told him, "You need to win."
Says Brown, "I wonder if he thought I hadn't thought of that."
Already, Brown, who seems to have it all - personality, talent,
drive, temperament - is wowing the populace. …