Longtime Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown announced on Friday that he would resign from his position following the team’s game against the Oregon Ducks in the Alamo Bowl, ending a tenure that lasted sixteen seasons and saw Texas win the 2005 national championship by beating the USC Trojans 41-38 in the Rose Bowl.
Brown’s stint in Austin saw a tremendous amount of success over the years (he had eleven seasons with three losses or fewer), but the program never recovered fully from the 2009 National Championship game against Alabama. Texas put up decent numbers in the last four seasons with an overall mark of 30-20, but it was far from the success Brown’s previous teams had routinely achieved.
There was hope in some circles that Brown would be back thanks to Texas defeating Oklahoma and staying competitive in the Big 12, but the pressure from the athletic department and fans appeared to finally force Brown’s hand. The end of the Mack Brown era at Texas signals the exit of one of the longest tenured and most well respected head coaches in all of college football, and although the vote was not unanimous, it was clear that the writing was on the wall for quite some time.
Now comes the part concerning who replaces Brown in 2014, but I must provide a precursor here: Nick Saban is definitely not going to Texas. Some Texas fans still think Saban may sneak out of Tuscaloosa after agreeing to a new deal that pays him over $7 million per season, but at this point it would make very little sense for him to do so. Longhorns fans’ hope and belief that Saban is still coming is a lot like hoping for a snow day in school; you ignore the practical and logical statements that say it most certainly will not snow, and instead hope your way through the night until you wake up to find the grass to be just as green as it was the day before. I have seen some crazy scenarios play out in college football, but Saban landing in Austin would definitely take the cake.
With Saban now out of the mix, let’s take a look at five coaches who may very well be called upon to replace Mack Brown:
Art Briles, Baylor HC – Briles has the Lone Star makeup that would make this hire a home run: he’s a native of Rule, played at Houston, coached high school football in the state for twenty-one years, and has spent the last eleven seasons as a head coach at Houston, where he went 34-28, and Baylor, where he has gone 44-31. Briles has taken a Baylor program that was all alone in the basement of the Big 12 and has pushed them up alongside the likes of Texas and Oklahoma and into the national spotlight (consider the fact Baylor now has as many Heisman winners as Alabama), something that surely no one ever thought would happen. While Briles is only four years younger than Brown, Texas would be lucky enough to lure him in because his arrival would practically guarantee the Longhorns success for the length of his stay.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State HC – Although the Big 12 ties are not present, Dantonio’s impressive résumé alone is enough to consider him for the job thanks to a career record of 81-46 (63-29 at Mich St), including an 12-1 record this season. Dantonio’s Spartans have been known to be among the best of the best in the Big Ten over the years and have always provided a tenacious defense, something that the Longhorns have been playing without for a considerable amount of time. The only catch that may prevent Dantonio’s arrival is his lucrative deal with Michigan State, which includes a rollover clause that basically makes him a “Spartan for life” and a clause that guarantees him a spot in the athletic department for two years following his retirement. Could Dantonio spurn Sparty and rid himself of the persona of being Michigan’s little brother (although Dantonio is 5-2 against the Wolverines) for all of the oil money in Texas? Stay tuned to find out.
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State HC – One of the most successful Big 12 coaches at this time is Gundy, the former Oklahoma State quarterback who holds a 77-37 in nine seasons as Cowboys head coach. Although it may seem unlikely that Gundy leaves his alma mater, especially after going 10-2 this season, the forty-six year old does not appear to be best friends with his athletic director, as he flirted with the Tennessee job last offseason. Gundy has done a great job with the Cowboys, but the Texas job is undoubtedly a step up from OK State, and if the Longhorns come calling he would be foolish not to listen.
Les Miles, LSU HC – Sure, he acts a little zany and has the clock management skills of an eight-year old playing Madden for the first time, but the guy wins more often than not, especially when it comes to interviews. Aside from his 122-94 career record and 2007 national championship, the Mad Hatter would be an absolute hit on the Longhorn Network in whatever capacity he is shown; giving him his own show would provide a countless number of unforgettable moments and would certainly provide great ratings. Miles had a considerable amount of success in the Big 12 during his run at Oklahoma State and may very well desire getting out of the SEC West now that it looks like Auburn will be a contender on a regular basis once again, making it two years in a row that Miles has shopped himself around. Plus, the man eats grass; you cannot convince me that there is another candidate more qualified to coach the Longhorns.
Charlie Strong, Louisville HC – One of the most sought-after assistant coaches for almost ten years, the Batesville, Arkansas native would make a great deal of sense for Texas, considering how he revived a Louisville program that had hit hard times. The Cardinals are 36-15 under the former Florida Gators defensive coordinator over the past four seasons, but this success may not be sustainable once Louisville moves to the ACC next season. If the Longhorns do indeed contact Strong, he would have to realize that he has hit the ceiling with the Cardinals and move on to the bigger and better job.