As of Saturday morning, Dec. 14, Mack Brown was going to be the Texas football coach in 2014. It had not been announced, but the decision had been made. Brown held a breakfast for recruits who were in town on official visits, and new athletic director Steve Patterson dropped by the breakfast to visit with the prospects.
Afterward, Brown and Patterson spent hours discussing the future of the program, potential improvements in the athletic department and other aspects of their working relationship going forward.
About an hour after that meeting ended, Brown got a call from Patterson, according to a source with intimate knowledge of the situation. The tone was completely different from the upbeat meeting that had just occurred.
"I've got to come over [to the football offices]," Patterson said.
The source told Yahoo Sports that Patterson arrived at the football building with a jarring change of heart for Brown: You need to resign. That was the decision of University of Texas president Bill Powers, and Patterson was the apologetic messenger. The source said Powers, a longtime friend and supporter of the football coach, abruptly yanked the rug out from beneath Brown after supporting his continued tenure the previous two days.
Thus the 16-year Mack Brown Era at Texas was terminated not by the coach himself, but at the insistence of an embattled school president. Although the school's official release and every public statement has said Brown decided on his own to step down, he was pushed – after being told the decision was his.
Patterson had just started his job in Austin on Dec. 1 and was supportive of Brown continuing as coach, according to the source – but the decision was out of his hands. Powers and Brown still had not talked as of late last week.
"Mack doesn't feel betrayed," the source said. "But I think [Powers] should have done it himself."
Through university spokesmen, Brown, Patterson and Powers all declined speak to Yahoo Sports. Nick Voinis, spokesman for Patterson, said the athletic director had nothing to add beyond his comment in a statement released by the university Dec. 14, when Brown stepped down.
That statement from Patterson said, "We appreciate everything Mack has done for The University of Texas. He's been a tremendous coach, mentor, leader and ambassador for our university and our student-athletes. He is truly a college football legend. I've had a number of talks with him recently, and he has always said he wanted what was best for The University of Texas. I know this decision weighed heavily on him, and today he told us he's ready to move forward."
In the same university release, Powers said, "This is a very difficult day for everyone in The University of Texas family. Mack Brown is one of the best football coaches in the country, a tremendous representative of our University, and, most importantly, a great friend. He has produced championship teams with tremendous student-athletes and has always done so with the utmost class and integrity. Mack is just the best and he will be missed. With that said, I'm excited for the future and the opportunity to work with him in a new capacity for the years to come and am thrilled that he and Sally will remain part of our family. He is an unbelievable resource for us and will always be a valuable member of the Longhorn community."
Powers' reversal led to the school's announcement Saturday evening that Brown would indeed be stepping down. And that ended a season of intrigue, drama, distrust and ultimately broken promises.
For months, Brown had been assured by his bosses that there was nothing to the rumors of a January 2013 discussion between Texas boosters and the agent for Alabama coach Nick Saban. Then, after the season started poorly for the Longhorns, it came out via media reports in September that those discussions had indeed taken place. In addition to the misinformation from within the school, the source said there was an element of disappointment for Brown that Saban – a professed friend – would have his agent discuss a job that wasn't open.
But the last week before Brown's resignation was probably the worst. After losing handily to Baylor to finish 8-4, speculation swirled intensely.
"He didn't win, and it's all about winning," a Texas source said. "If we'd beaten Baylor, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But we didn't."
In the wake of that loss, media reports began to erupt Dec. 10 that Brown was done.
But as the stampede of speculation gained strength, Brown never acted like it was over. He went to the National Football Foundation gala in New York. He went on the road recruiting in the South. He said the rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated.
On Dec. 12, when Brown was back in Austin, Powers won his own power struggle with the Texas Board of Regents. They gave him a vote of confidence, after factions had been hard at work to have him removed after a drawn-out power struggle.
That was seen as a victory for Brown, who needed all the allies he could get as boosters maneuvered to have him forced out. Last Friday, secure in who his bosses were, Brown met with Powers and Patterson.
According to the source, Brown asked them, "What do you want me to do? What is best for Texas?"
The answer was the same from both president and athletic director: Stay on the job. We will support you.
Powers, according to the source, then suggested Brown announce that he was staying on that night at the Texas football banquet. Brown balked, hesitant to take the spotlight off his team and turn the night into a story about his employment.
At the end of a banquet without any news, the source said that Powers told Brown: "I'm so glad you're staying."
Less than 24 hours later, Powers was forcing out Brown via proxy.
So what changed? The source speculated, "Some of the Regents called and said, 'If you don't change coaches, we're changing our votes on you.' "
That falls in line with what Orangebloods.com reported earlier in the week: Booster pressure on Powers forced him to relinquish his support of Brown. Literally overnight, the coach lost his biggest ally and lost his job.
It wasn't long after Brown's announced resignation Saturday night that the phone started ringing. The source confirmed an Austin American-Statesman report that a representative of Nebraska called to check on Brown's interest in coaching there.
He was counseled against it.
"They're doing the exact same thing to Bo Pelini that Texas did to you," Brown was told, according to the source. "Why do you want to go there?"
Army inquired as well. And although coaching at West Point had long been a dream of Brown's, it wasn't a move his family was ready to make.
So a year without coaching seems inevitable at this point. But first Brown is coaching out the string, trying to get the Longhorns ready as a decided underdog to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.
It will be a bittersweet game, but also a relief to have the drama over with.
"This year," said the source, "has been hell."
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